Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Konstantin Sofianos: Franschhoek Literary Festival Offers Less a Literary Than a “Lifestyle” Experience

Konstantin Sofianos has written a critique of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF), which was held this year from 17 to 19 May, for The Sunday Independent Books. He quotes Ingrid Winterbach’s comment on the cultural chasm between English and Afrikaans writing, that “It seems that we are all trying to break into something, but we don’t know what that is”, and says that this is equally applicable to “the question of literary and cultural prestige, and of the institutions that are able to confer this in South Africa today”.

Sofianos writes that the “FLF offers less a literary than a ‘lifestyle’ experience” and later notes that “the FLF tends generally to underestimate the tastes of its audience”.

Die aanspraak van lewende wesensWolf, WolfShadowEndings and BeginningsRediscovery of the OrdinaryAdvocates for ChangeThe Great African SocietyA Bantu in My BathroomDinosaurs, Diamonds & DemocracyThe Accidental AmbassadorDrug MuledThe Second World WarShooting AngelsThomas Pringle

“What the FLF reflects in its featured selections is a shifting instability around the category of ‘literature’ itself,” he says. “What the festival instead most prominently showcased, as literature, was a sequence of events dedicated to pulp fictions, hipster graphic novels, fantasy and supernatural tales and blood-drenched crime yarns.”

Sofianos notes that, “The academic study of literature as practised in South African universities is perceived, as various festival participants freely observed, as a joy-crushing pursuit that addresses itself to esoteric questions in a near-incomprehensible jargon.” He says that this impression is largely correct and that readers and the FLF are right in turning their backs on it but that “in the absence of a broader culture of critical discussion, and with the social default of the English academy, it is increasingly the publishing industry itself that has assumed the function of issuing its own books with literary credentials, through its promotional networks and marketing platforms, and which now significantly determines the category of ‘literature’ as such”.

HHhHSnowdropsThe Garden of Evening MistsKhalil's JourneyFor the Mercy of WaterSkinnedOther SignsSlowly, As If

‘It seems that we are all trying to break into something, but we don’t know what that is.” Ingrid Winterbach, writer of adroit, searching novels in Afrikaans, is talking animatedly from her seat beside an intensely reflective Eben Venter, and next to the apparently detached figure of Carel van der Merwe, author of a string of similarly cool fictions of adult personal crisis.
The occasion is a panel on translation at this year’s Franschhoek literature f?te, but the immediate setting is the narrow hull of a white-washed church building in one of the Boland town’s back streets, the kind of place in which, as Philip Larkin wrote in his poem Church Going, “someone will forever be surprising a hunger in himself to be more serious”.

Book details

eBook options – Download now!

eBook options – Download now!

  • A Bantu in My Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics by Eusebius McKaiser
    EAN: 9781920434373
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

eBook options – Download now!

eBook options – Download now!


Please register or log in to comment