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Archive for the ‘Jonathan Ball’ Category

“If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would probably never have begun.” Simone Haysom on writing The Last Words of Rowan du Preez

Published in the Sunday Times

The Last Words of Rowan du Preez: Murder and Conspiracy on the Cape Flats
Simone Haysom, Jonathan Ball Publishers
R275

Towards the end of 2013 a friend came to me and said: “I’ve just returned from Cape Town and the craziest things have been happening to a friend of mine.” I had recently moved back to SA after several years studying and working abroad and I was looking for a story, something that could help me understand the baffling, violent country I loved.

This turned out to be it.

The woman he was talking about was Angy Peter, and she was accused of necklacing a young man, Rowan du Preez, who she had been trying to rehabilitate from a life of crime. Angy, a criminal justice activist involved in a campaign to fix the dire state of policing in Khayelitsha, claimed she was innocent. She had been set up, she said, by a policeman she had accused of corruption, and a police force that considered her an enemy had gone along with it.

But the state had, on the face of things, a strong case: eyewitnesses to the assault, and a declaration supposedly made by Rowan himself – to three policemen – as he lay dying.

I spent the next five years researching and writing the story: attending the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry, Angy Peter’s trial, and asking questions in Mfuleni, where the murder took place, poring over transcripts and chasing leads that often didn’t work out.

The story turned out to be as much about the toll that impunity – at high levels and low – has taken on our society, as it was about these specific events.

Sometimes the degree to which the truth refused to be pinned down was so extreme it became absurd. At one point in the trial, during a cross-examination of a witness who was being infuriatingly evasive, the defence advocate asked him: “What do you think the motive for the murder was?”

So intent on dodging questions was he, he replied: “Which murder?”

“This one!” bellowed the advocate, and I thought for a second he might be about to commit another.

If I had known what I was getting myself into, I would probably never have begun. In a story like this, your head can get done in, both by what you don’t find out and what you do.

Working through hundreds of pages of eyewitness and medical testimony on a necklacing begins to take a toll. You tell yourself it’ll be worth it when you find the truth, but that’s elusive. Though I was able to find out far more than the official story, my limitations to getting to the heart of what happened caused me angst.

You can’t get all the access you need: the story is shaped by the gaps you get through. @simonehaysom

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“It was an opportunity to speak to the criminals, to tell their untold story.” Jonas Bonnier discusses his first true crime novel, The Helicopter Heist, with Mila de Villiers

Published in the Sunday Times

The Helicopter Heist is Swedish author Jonas Bonnier’s riveting first true crime novel. Author picture supplied.

 
The Helicopter Heist ****
Jonas Bonnier, Bonnier, R270

Nordic noir is all the rage nowadays – from Jo Nesbo to Henning Mankel to The Killing – yet Jonas Bonnier, author of the Scandi true crime thriller The Helicopter Heist, is “not at all interested in crime or crime novels”.

The Helicopter Heist is an exhilarating read based on the 2009 Västberga helicopter robbery; the heist was executed by four men and one spectacular helicopter roof-landing. The foursome broke into a Group 4 Securicor (G4S) cash depot in Stockholm, making off with 39-million kronor (about R88m). The criminals were caught. The money was never retrieved.

Marketed as “true crime fiction” (much to the affable Swede’s amusement), Bonnier states that he never considered writing a non-fiction account of the heist, reasoning that “I’m not a good non-fiction writer”.

Bonnier was approached by his agent to write the book; hesitant at first, he was persuaded when his agent asked him whether he would be interested in meeting the perpetrators.

“I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve never met any of the characters in my book before’,” he laughs. (The Helicopter Heist is his ninth book.)

“It was an opportunity to speak to the criminals, to tell their untold story. I can’t even imagine this novel written by me if I hadn’t met them.” Meeting with them convinced him to write the book.

The eccentric millionaire character known as Zoran in thenbook (Bonnier provided pseudonyms for the four perps) made a profound impression on Bonnier. He describes the man as a “larger than life character” who had “just stepped out of a novel”. This owing to the fact that “Zoran” ordered a glass of lukewarm water which he didn’t touch once (a trait shared with the fictionalised version of the criminal) and his wealth and extravagant lifestyle (think annual trips to the Cannes Film Festival and horse races in Monte Carlo.)

“I fell so in love with this character!” says Bonnier.

The other three perpetrators who, despite previous incarcerations, remain involved in Sweden’s underworld, were eager to meet Bonnier.

“There’s this hierarchy in prison in Sweden and if you’re a robber you’re the shit,” Bonnier explains.

“And if you’re a robber and you used a helicopter – to some extent,” Bonnier interrupts himself, “I hadn’t used this word yet – but to some extent I think they’re proud of what they actually did.”

Bonnier maintains that the characters’ back stories are “very accurate”.

Zoran aside, the character of Sami is a petty thief-turned-family-man who reverts to his old ways; Michal, a charming and savvy Lebanese criminal who grew up in the impoverished suburbs of Stockholm; and the reckless adrenaline junkie, Niklas, whose appetite for adventure makes him agree to participate in the heist before one can say “Bloukrans bungee!”

During the “hours and hours” that Bonnier sat down with the four men, he did not once ask them about past crimes they’d committed, but focused on character sketches.

“I asked them if they played Nintendo or Sega as kids. I asked them very specific questions that I needed to get out of them, like ‘if you walk up to a bar, what do you order?’”

Bonnier believes two members of the heist squad have read the book and knows for certain that the Michal character had “loved it”.

“I specifically asked him what his friends thought and he said ‘no, no – everybody on every end-station likes it’.”

“End-stations” refers to the final stop of a Swedish subway route and they’re usually in very rough neighbourhoods. “So, the criminals enjoy it!” Bonnier relays with unbridled mirth.

As The Helicopter Heist is based on true events, Bonnier had to maintain a balance between fact and fiction; he says it is “tricky”. Readers would regularly ask him if particular passages were true, and after delivering his first draft to his publishers, he was told that a certain scene was not believable. “Well, that scene was something true!” says Bonnier.

Bonnier used the age-old adage of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction to his advantage: “I realised that nobody would be able to tell the truth apart from fiction and if I had presented the book as ‘pages one to five are true and then there’s some fiction’, I would have skipped the fiction parts. So I tell them it’s all true!” he chortles.

That the criminals were able to pull off the heist was “almost unbelievable”, says Bonnier. He was fascinated by how the foursome went about planning the heist: “I mean, to blow up a roof is not just to blow up a roof! You have to use so many different techniques and find roofs in Stockholm that are constructed in the same way [as the roof of the GS4] and try it out.

“It’s amazing! I really enjoyed listening to them telling their stories. I also learned a lot about explosives,” he says, cracking up.

This is the first time Bonnier set out to write commercial fiction and he describes the experience as more time consuming than usual as he had less free rein with the content and was reliant on the advice of his publishers and crime-fiction writers. “I didn’t know how to write a crime novel.”

“I tried! I really tried!” is the exasperated response when asked whether he read any crime novels as preparation for writing The Helicopter Heist. “I watched maybe 40 movies – I love movies, and I generally like crime and thriller,” says the Oceans 11 fanatic.

Bonnier isn’t the only fan of heist movies – his gripping romp has been commissioned by Jake Gyllenhaal’s production company and will be released as a Netflix film. Bonnier is credited as a co-producer which, according to him, means that “I might be copied in one of the many e-mails that go around.”

Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders) will be responsible for the script.

“This is a large production, no way will they involve some amateur from Sweden,” Bonnier laughs. “But names are good. Big names are good, especially Jake Gyllenhaal.”

As for what’s next – if it doesn’t involve having to kill off a main character (“I get very, very attached to my characters, as long as they’re alive they’re interesting”), or a disillusioned, divorced drunkard of a detective as protagonist (this man really has it in for his fellow Scandi scribes!) – Bonnier’s definitely interested in trying his hand at a second true crime thriller. If only for the fact that the genre definition makes him snigger. Ja, tak! @mila_se_kind

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Kate Sidley on what new book lists tell you about the world

Published in the Sunday Times

Every month, publishers send out This Month’s Highlights e-mails to reviewers like me. The point of the mail is for us to select books to review, but I use it as a handy snapshot of the state of the world. It’s almost as effective as reading the newspaper, and a lot quicker. From recent months’ offerings, I have developed the following worldview:

We wuz robbed

Books about the pillage of the public purse are a thriving industry in SA. There’s at least one new one a month – Licence to Loot; How To Steal a City; Shadow State; Other titles with the words ‘plunder’ and ‘capture’ – and they barely even overlap, so rich is the seam to be mined. There’s enough meat for sequels – I imagine Licence to Loot More, How To Steal Another City and Even Shadowier State.

Veg is the new Banting

The lists are littered with vegetarian and vegan recipe books like The Plant-Based Cookbook and Vegan Christmas. OK, so the titles lack the finger-licking allure of How To Be A Domestic Goddess, which made the full-creamy Nigella Lawson a welcome presence in our kitchens, but no animals were harmed in their making. South African restaurants still relying on pasta arrabiata and the “vegetarian platter” (aka, a plate of fried brown things) as their extensive vegetarian menu, could learn a thing or two.

#MenAreTrash

The number of stories about spousal abuse and gender-based violence is simply appalling. Famous names like Tracy Going (Brutal Legacy) and Vanessa Govender (Beaten But Not Broken) – and lesser-known but equally brave survivors – are telling their stories.

But people are pretty awesome

There they are, overcoming cancer, fighting apartheid (100 Mandela Moments), swimming long distances in very cold water, challenging injustice, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and climbing mountains on their one remaining leg – not at the same time, just to be clear. And we get to read about it. It’s properly inspiring.

Except for the ones that are psychos

There they are, murdering, abusing children, running apartheid death squads, mucking up the country (The Lost Boys of Bird Island being a case in point). And we get to read about it. It’s properly depressing.

We drink too much

The Craft Beer Dictionary, The Bourbon Bible, The Vodka Lover’s Guide to Cirrhosis, and wine, wine, wine. The world is all boozed up, and increasingly adventurously so – no longer does one simply add some T to one’s G – you toss in lavender and star anise and burnt orange peel.

We need help!

People, we are struggling! And there are books to help. From colour therapy to feng shui, to spiritual guidance, to diet secrets, to career advice, they make big promises – like Mr Bitcoin: How I Became a Bitcoin Millionaire at 21. I can’t vouch for the success of the methods, but the category is booming.

We need escape

Leave the predictable daily grind for the mystery of novels where people who are thought dead turn out not to be, or whether the assumed killer is but a red herring. Be transported to Tuscany, into the chiselled arms of a handsome stranger. Or to a Chicago speakeasy. Or to suburban London. Any place, really. Any place but where you are.

Book details
Licence to Loot
Licence to Loot by Stephan Hofstatter
EAN: 9781776093120
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How To Steal A City

How To Steal A City: The Battle For Nelson Mandela Bay by Crispian Oliver
EAN: 9781868428205
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Shadow State

Shadow State: The Politics of State Capture by Ivor Chipkin, Mark Swilling
EAN: 9781776142125
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The Plant-Based Cookbook

The Plant-Based Cookbook by Ella Mills
EAN: 9781473639218
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Vegan Christmas

Vegan Christmas by Gaz Oakley
EAN: 9781787132672
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Brutal Legacy

Brutal Legacy: A Memoir by Tracy Going
EAN: 9781928420125
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Beaten but not Broken

Beaten but not Broken by Vanessa Govender
EAN: 9781431426799
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100 Mandela Moments

100 Mandela Moments by Kate Sidley
EAN: 9781868429028
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The Lost Boys of Bird Island

The Lost Boys of Bird Island: A shocking exposé from within the heart of the NP government by Mark Minnie, Chris Steyn
EAN: 9780624081432
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The Craft Beer Dictionary

The Craft Beer Dictionary by Richard Croasdale
EAN: 9781784723880
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The Bourbon Bible

The Bourbon Bible by Eric Zandona
EAN: 9781784724573
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Mr Bitcoin

Mr Bitcoin: How I became a millionaire at 21 by Mpho Dagada
EAN: 9781431426720
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“Don’t listen to anyone. Just write for yourself” – Wilbur Smith on ‘writing advice’, his characters, favourite authors and more…

Published in the Sunday Times

Author Wilbur Smith’s latest release Courtney’s War was published in August 2018. Pic supplied.

 
Which of your novels has been your favourite to write? All of them. However, working “with” Taita (character from the The Egyptian novels) is very amusing.

What inspired you to start writing? I always had an urge to tell stories, so I just sat down and wrote them.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mother. She exposed me to the world of books and the wonder of storytelling.

What would you tell your younger self? Do it all again, and do it better.

The secret to your success? Tenacity, commitment and hard work.

A motto or mantra you live by? I thank the Lord for what I have, but for a little more I would be glad.

Do you plan out the plots to your books, or do you see where the story takes you? I know how the story will end, but my characters guide me there.

Who is your favourite character that you’ve written? Why? My old friend Taita. He is close to me and always talks to me.

How long do you spend researching your books? Each one is different. I use first-hand knowledge from the research trips I have done since 1950.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? Don’t listen to anyone … just write for yourself.

You’ve had many amazing experiences in your life. The most memorable? Every Facebook message I receive from my fans around the world is the best thing to come out of the hectic digital age for me. To be able to connect with so many people who care for my stories and my characters is something I cherish every day.

Where do you write? In my head and seated at my desk.

How do you structure your writing day? Just sit down and write.

Favourite authors writing today? Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden.

A favourite book from your childhood? King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain by H Rider Haggard and Biggles by WE Johns.

What is Courtney’s War about? It’s about a heroic spy, lover and adventuress named Saffron Courtney.

You’ve written about World War 2 in Power of the Sword. Were you excited to return to that period? I’m always excited to write about my characters in difficult times of human history. Saffron is a strong female lead.

Are there strong women who have inspired your writing? It starts with my mother and runs through to Margaret Thatcher and to my incredible wife Niso, who is the strongest woman I know.

What drew you to the idea of having the two leads on opposing sides of the war? There are always two sides to any war. Why can’t lovers be on different sides of a conflict, fighting to be together? It’s in my characters’ natures to fight for what they want.

What drew you to writing about a Special Ops Executive? There are not many things more exciting than seeing an attractive and intelligent spy at work.

What kind of research did you do for this book? My knowledge of World War 2 dates back decades and includes travels to France and many other places featured in the novel.

Do you enjoy writing real people (for example, fashion designer for Queen Elizabeth II, Hardy Amies) into your novels? Yes, it’s necessary to the plot and it’s fun to bring these characters back to life.

Will there be more from Saffron? Yes, she is restless and driven to the edge of survival by her circumstances.

Courtney’s War by Wilbur Smith is published by Bonnier, R320.

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Sefika Awards & Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award winners announced!

Issued on behalf of the SA Booksellers Association and Publishers Association of South Africa by Native Worx PR & Communications

29 August 2018

Last night the much-anticipated Grammy’s of the book industry were announced at a packed ceremony held at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg. The annual event forms part of the booksellers and publishers of South Africa co-joined Annual General Meetings (AGM) where topical issues in various sectors of the book industry are discussed. The Awards acknowledge and celebrate booksellers and the role they play in promoting literacy and a culture of reading.

The winners are:

• Academic bookseller of the year – Protea Books
• Education bookseller of the year – Books 24/7
• Library supplier of the year – Hargraves Library Services
• Trade bookseller of the year (chain stores) – Bargain Books
• Trade bookseller of the year (independent) – The Book Lounge
• Academic publisher of the year – Juta Books
• Education publisher of the year (large) – Best Education
• Education publisher of the year (small) – Berlut Book
• Trade publisher of the year – Jonathan Ball Publishers

Winners are selected through a voting process which enables publishers to select the best among booksellers and in turn booksellers choose the winners among publishers.

The evening culminated with the most coveted accolade, the Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award. The award is bestowed upon a local author for a South African published book that booksellers most enjoyed selling or that sold so well that it made a difference to the bottom line of booksellers across the country.

The award went to The President’s Keepers by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. Published by Tafelberg Publishers, the book exposes a secret at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s compromised government. To date the book has sold over 200 000 copies worldwide.

Mr. Pauw gave a riveting speech by sharing the journey of the book from the moment it hit shelves across South Africa.

“When criminal charges were instituted against me in an effort to ban the book, everyone went out and bought a copy of it and it sold out. In the midst of all the publicity it also become an international best seller on eBooks,” commented Pauw.

The short-listed books for Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award 2018 were:

90 Rules For Entrepreneurs by Marnus Broodryk, published by Tracey McDonald Publishers.
Khwezi by Redi Tlhabi, published by Jonathan Ball.
No Longer Whispering To Power by Thandeka Gqubule, published by Jonathan Ball.
I Write What I Like by Steve Biko, published by Pan Macmillan

The President's Keepers

Book details
The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and out of Prison by Jacques Pauw
EAN: 9780624083030
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90 Rules for Entrepreneurs

90 Rules for Entrepreneurs by Marnus Broodryk
EAN: 9780620758352
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Khwezi

Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi
EAN: 9781868427260
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No Longer Whispering to Power

No Longer Whispering to Power: The Story of Thuli Madonsela by Thandeka Gqubule
EAN: 9781868427314
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I Write What I Like

I Write What I Like: 40th Anniversary Edition by Steve Biko
EAN: 9781770105102
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“I decided to give my stories a bigger meaning than just LOLs and likes” – Melusi Tshabalala on writing Melusi’s Everyday Zulu

Nal’ibali column 21: term 3 (2018)

By Carla Lever

Melusi Tshabalala, author of Melusi’s Everyday Zulu. Photo provided.

 

What inspired you to write Melusi’s Everyday Zulu?

I’ve worked in advertising for the past 20 years and it broke my heart how the industry treats indigenous, (South) African languages with disrespect. I wanted to showcase the beauty and, because I am um’Zulu, I did it with isiZulu.

You have a background in advertising. How are different languages used in this industry? What do you think needs to change?

You can’t talk about how advertising uses languages without bringing marketing into it. African languages and the people who speak them are not given much respect. This is starkly evident in radio advertising, where the quality of African-language radio ads is often not the same as the English and Afrikaans because they are not given the same quality control. We need more marketers and advertising professionals who actually care to deliver a quality product to this majority audience.

Your book concept started with a Facebook page! Tell us about discovering the power of social media as a tool for activism.

A little while ago, I realised that people on Facebook enjoy my writing, so I decided to give my stories a bigger meaning than just LOLs and likes. We all have the responsibility to help build the country, using whatever skills we have. Mine is writing.

How did the momentum shift your idea from a social media platform to regular media, like your book deal and a radio slot?

I was approached by publishers and radio producers – I honestly didn’t see that coming. I now have features on Kaya FM and East Coast Radio, as well as a column in Finweek.

What was the public feedback to your Facebook posts?

The feedback has been very positive even though we’ve had some very tough conversations. The people on the page don’t always agree with me or each other, but we learn from each other. Well, most of us!

Has there been a learning curve in writing for such a huge public audience?

Yes, I’ve had to adjust to writing for a broader audience, with people from different walks of life. I’ve also learnt not to react to everything people say to me. I sometimes still react, though.

You literally tackle one of SA’s big problems one word at a time. Do you think we can chip away at our ingrained prejudices?

I’ve realised that we can! We just need to talk to each other. We exist in silos and make assumptions about “the other”. That said, some people really are just terrible.

I love your catchphrase – “There’s Um’Zulu in all of us!” What do you think SA would be like if we all made an effort to learn and use each others’ languages?

I believe we all have little bits of each other in us. We need to tap into them and become an unstoppable force in the world. That’s our nation’s uniqueness.

Children’s brains are incredibly good at picking up language – they learn through play and aren’t afraid to get words wrong. How can we keep this sense of play and fun in learning language as adults?

We need to interact with each other, make friends who are different from us. We need to laugh together and at ourselves, while always being aware of our colonial and apartheid history.

***

Melusi’s Everyday Zulu is published by Jonathan Ball and their giving away THREE copies! To enter, simply tell us what Melusi’s catchphrase is. Email your answer to Tiso Blackstar’s education consultant, Patti McDonald: Patti.McDonald@tisoblackstar.co.za before Monday, 27 August.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

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Author Q&A: Chris Carter

Published in the Sunday Times


Chris Carter, author of Gallery of the Dead.


 
If you could require our world leaders to read one book, what would it be?

Any book that could teach them to be humble, tolerant and understanding. It seems that most of the world has been lacking in those basic human attributes of late.

Which book changed your life?

To be honest, no book has really changed my life. I never read very much — as a child or as an adult. Writing became part of my life more by chance than by choice.

What music helps you write?

I can listen to just about anything, but if I have a choice then definitely rock music.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

I have done a lot of strange things while researching for a book. Mind you, I’ve done a lot of strange things while not researching for a book as well, but maybe lying inside a coffin to see how it feels would be top of the list. That was a little odd.

You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?

Can it be musicians? They are much more interesting than writers. In that case I would have Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Nikki Sixx. Can you imagine the party afterwards?

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

I would have to say I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Great story.

What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?

An article about Brexit in the UK. All of it is a joke.

What are you most proud of writing?

Every single one of my novels. For someone who never even considered writing a short story, writing nine novels so far is quite an achievement. I am very proud of that.

What keeps you awake at night?

My cat. He keeps jumping on and off the bed.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to start earlier. I started writing when I was 42 years old.

What did you edit out of this book?

A lot. My editing process is very thorough. With every book I write, I end up editing a hell of a lot out of it. I can’t remember exactly what I cut, but it amounted to about 15000 words.

How do you select the names of your characters?

At complete random, but I do use a rule. I only use names that are easy to pronounce no matter in which country the reader is. I once stopped reading a book because I could not pronounce many of the characters’ names. It was annoying. All my characters have easy names no matter which country you’re in — Mark, John, Jennifer, Carlos, Barbara, etc.

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“I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector.” Thandeka Gqubule talks about No Longer Whispering to Power, shortlisted for the 2018 Alan Paton Award

Published in the Sunday Times

Thandeka Gqubule has practiced as a journalist and worked in the media for nearly three decades. She has followed the story of former public protector Thuli Madonsela with great dedication and passion.

What prompted you to write the book?

I deeply admired the work of Thuli Madonsela as our public protector. I felt strongly that her choices and values were instructive and could provide a navigational tool for us to approach the choppy political and social waters of our land. I was passionate about the need to share this example, and the trials and tribulations of being South African – nonracialism, corruption, active citizenship, a rocky political transition and much more. As I was thinking about this, seated in the lobby of Johannesburg’s Hyatt Hotel, I spotted Jeremy Boraine from Jonathan Ball Publishers. I thought this must be a gift from the angels! I approached and told him that I wanted to do the Thuli book. He was interested and the rest is history.

Where did the title came from?

Thuli gave the idea of the title. It was in one of her iconic speeches. She was attempting to give a non-legal explanation of the role of the public protector in our society. She said it was like that of the makhadzi — a traditional female Venda leader — normally the sister or the aunt of the king. The makhadzi had to be above reproach and above suspicion, much like Caesar’s wife. She was to be exemplary in her conduct, so she quietly led by example. The makhadzi would lean over and counsel the king by whispering, so she wielded her influence surreptitiously and her power was to be known but not seen or heard. She was to make supplications to the king on behalf of the wounded, marginalised and weak in society — even plead for clemency on behalf of those whom the king had treated unfairly. The king ignored the makhadzi at his peril. When the makhadzi was just, the king was thought to be fair-minded. But when the makhadzi raised her voice to the king it means she was “no longer whispering to power” — thus all was not well in the kingdom. I thought this explains the Thuli/Jacob dynamic beautifully.

Who should read your book?

I think all South Africans should – all those who grapple with ethics-centred leadership should study the example of Thuli Madonsela.

What would people be most surprised to learn about Thuli Madonsela?

Thuli was not always self-assured. She was shy and socially awkward when she was a teenager. She also has an elegant sense of humour!

You write about the many rivers South Africans have to cross for a just and equitable society. Where do we stand now?

We still have many rivers to cross. We need to find our common humanity and bond as a people … out of the practical reality that we need to provide a peaceful and meaningful future for our children. We must cross the river of hope or our hearts will slowly die. To do this we must build a bridge over the sea of poverty and inequality. Problems have solutions and we must find them. As Tata said: we have many mountains to climb.

How important was it to situate Thuli in reference to our history?

I think Thuli Madonsela is one of the most significant South African historical figures of the post-apartheid period. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to write this book.

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“I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile.” Sisonke Msimang discusses her Alan Paton Award shortlisted memoir, Always Another Country

Published in the Sunday Times

Sisonke Msimang lives in Perth, Australia, where she is programme director for the Centre for Stories. She regularly visits South Africa, where she speaks on current affairs. She has degrees from Macalester College, Minnesota, and the University of Cape Town, is a Yale World Fellow, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, and was a Ruth First Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. She contributes to The Guardian, The Daily Maverick and The New York Times and has given a popular TED Talk which touches on events that appear in Always Another Country.

Why did you decide to write this memoir?

I wanted to give voice to a story I felt hadn’t been fully explored yet in South Africa – that of children who grew up in exile. While we have had many amazing freedom fighters, I wanted to also demonstrate to young people and women especially that you don’t have to have a long CV and a long list of accomplishments for your life to be worthy of examination. All of us have stories – big and small. In South Africa we have tended to be interested in the big men of our history – black and white. As a contrast I wanted to look at my small little stories, set against the backdrop of South Africa’s much larger story.

Did writing your story give you new insights into your experiences growing up?

The process of writing always helps to clarify your experiences, but a lot of these experiences I had already worked through, so I was ready to share them.

It is an intensely personal and revealing book. Was it painful to write?

Not at all. There is a wonderful quote I use when I teach storytelling – “Tell your stories from your scars, not from your wounds”. I only shared experiences that I had felt I had fully dealt with at a personal level so that by the time I was sitting down to write, I wasn’t treating my readers like therapists. For me there is a very clear line between catharsis and publishing a book. Your diary is for catharsis; a memoir should be about what you hope people might be able to take away from the experiences you’ve had in your life.

What does the word “identity” mean to you?

Your identity is who you are; the component parts that make you a unique individual.

You became disillusioned after your return to a free South Africa. Why?

I didn’t become any more disillusioned with South Africa than other South Africans did during the end of the Mbeki years and the Zuma years. I had high hopes for our political leaders – as we all did. I think the last decade has taught us that anyone can let you down but only you as a person can take responsibility for addressing the challenges you see around you.

Now that you live in Australia, does the distance from South Africa help to focus your views on the country?

Not really. I am here a lot, so there really isn’t much distance. I see myself as being incredibly lucky; someone who is able to make a home anywhere, but who is fundamentally connected to her country – South Africa. It’s as though there is an umbilical cord tying me to this place. Exile made that bond very strong and I have come to realise that no matter what happens or where I live or go, that cord will never be broken. It makes me who I am.

After writing the book, do you feel more at peace with the past?

Ha! Well, the truth is I am a very balanced person because my parents tried hard to make sure that we were okay, in spite of all the moving. So I’ve been at peace with my past for a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for the journey I have travelled.

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Lowveld Book Festival 2018: Save the date!

Via Allison Cooper

The Lowveld Book Festival is fast-becoming a not-to-be-missed event on literary calendars across South Africa!

It’s time to save the dates in your diary as this year’s festival will take place at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre, in White River, on 18 and 19 August 2018, whilst the business breakfast and outreach activities will take place on Friday 17 August.

This year visitors can look forward to a host of interesting authors, including two of the youngest authors Stacey Fru (11- years-old) and Michelle Nkamankeng (10-years-old),Tony Park, Dudu Busani-Dube, Mercy Dube, Tracy Going, Amy Heydenrych, Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, Mike Mills, Gus Mills, Maruping Phepheng, James Styan, Richard Steyn, Fred Khumalo, Rehana Rossouw, Steven Sidley, Kate Sidley, Ronnie Kasrils, Dr Gerrit Haarhoff, Prof Peter Delius, Peter Harris, Menzi Mkhonza, Sandy and Tony Ferrar, Sahm Venter, Vimla Naidoo, Dr Salomon Joubert, Walter Thornhill, Adam Cruise and we are very honoured to have Archbishop Thabo Makgoba as well.

Adam Cruise will also be one of the facilitators and will be joined by Lowveld Living’s Nicky Manson and renowned local author Jayne Bauling as well as Bobo Lukhele, news editor at the SABC in Mpumalanga and Alison Lowry who is the ex-CEO of Penguin Publishers and an independent editor.

A balanced programme is on the cards, including poetry, workshops, kids’ corner and story-time for youngsters, panel discussions, historical Lowveld literature, nature lovers’ presentations, interviews with authors, youth literature, a book club segment, a cooking demonstration, a locally written and produced movie as well as the South African Music Show put on by the CMDA which will include well-known songs by some of our best loved local musicians.

South African authors will be selling and autographing their latest publications and authors will be slotted into events to ensure interesting discussions that grapple with the issues confronting South African literature and reading.

The Lowveld Book Festival is a multi-cultural event that encourages a love of reading and acknowledges the role played by writers and poets in society. The 2018 Lowveld Book Festival will again reach out to surrounding rural schools to expose children to the joy of stories and reading; encourage teenagers to read more, whether electronic or printed books; and to support local writers and illustrators through workshops hosted by published authors.

The full programme is being finalised and information about ticket sales will be available from the end of June at www.lowveldbookfestival.co.za. For more information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or email lowveldbookfestival@gmail.com.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tracy Going and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele are two authors festival goers can look forward to!


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