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

Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

Franschhoek Literary Festival 2017: the podcasts

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek recently played host to the country’s literary greats for the eleventh annual Franschhoek Literary Festival.

In between dashing from shady spot to shady spot, consuming copious amounts of Porcupine Ridge wine and buying books, festival-goers attended panel discussions with a vast range of topics. If you couldn’t make it this year, or happened to miss a discussion, we’ve got you covered.

Click here to listen to the recordings of the 2017 discussions.

(To those of us who were there – do you now get why we had to turn our phones off…)

From victim to survivor (Old School Hall): Michelle Hattingh (I’m the Girl Who Was Raped) uncovers stories of courage, faith and perseverance in the face of opposition and adversity as told by Grizelda Grootboom (Exit), Lindiwe Hani (Being Chris Hani’s Daughter) and Shamim Meer (Memories of Love and Struggle).)


How powerful are Constitutions? (New School Hall): Tembeka Ngcukaitobi speaks to three human rights advocates – former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs, author Deborah Lipstadt and author and professor of law at University College London Philippe Sands – about the role of a country’s constitution in protecting human rights.


Rattling the cage of discrimination (Old School Hall): Sifiso Ndlovu (The Thabo Mbeki I Know), Anastacia Tomson (Always Anastacia), Griffin Shea and Marianne Thamm (Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me) interrogate the systems that divide South Africans, and how we can dismantle them.


Crossing the arts (Elephant & Barrel): ‘Polyartists’ Carol Mashigo (actor/writer), Rian Malan (writer/musician) and Sam Wilson (film producer /writer) tell Africa Melane about the crossover between their various artistic lives and what they mean to them.

» read article

Listen to John Conyngham discuss his latest book Hazara on SAfm Literature

John Conyngham was recently interviewed by Nancy Richards on SAfm Literature about his latest book Hazara.

You can listen to the podcast of the interview here:



Book details

» read article

Amabookabooka releases unaired episode to coincide with 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer

Amabookabooka, the quirky podcast devoted to interviewing local authors about their work, recently released a special edition episode.

This episode is from a previous podcast series produced by the Amabookabooka-duo, Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes, called Extraordinary Lives and has been released to coincide with the 109th anniversary of the birth of Bram Fischer – described by Ancer and Dewes as the South African prime minister we should have had.

Lord Joel Joffe, a human rights lawyer, who was on the legal team that defended the Rivonia Trialists in 1964 talks about Bram, whom he describes as his hero.

Fischer’s daughter, Ilse Wilson, also joins in the conversation revealing a different side to the Scarlet Pimpernel – that of Bram the father.

Listen to the podcast here.

Bram Fischer

Book details


The Bram Fischer Waltz


Fischer's Choice

» read article

The Magwood on Books podcast with John Boyne

John Boyne’s new novel The Heart’s Invisible Furies chronicles the life of a gay man in Dublin. Here he talks about the hypocrisy of the Catholic church, his determination to write strong female characters and how his deadpan humour serves the story.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Book details

» read article

Past imperfect: Michele Magwood talks to Marianne Thamm about her ‘memoir of sorts’, Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And Me

Marianne Thamm struggled to come to terms with her father’s Nazi history, writes Michele Magwood for the Sunday Times

Marianne ThammHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela And MeHitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me
Marianne Thamm (Tafelberg)

Marianne Thamm subtitles this book “A memoir of sorts” but it is less a memoir than an exorcism of some vexing ghosts. “I see it as a ritual slaughtering of a beast to my ancestors,” she laughs. “All of us require at some stage to go back and excavate a bit – to try and see who we are with the politics, the religion, the culture and everything else sloughed off, to try and find an essential self.”

Thamm is a towering figure on the intellectual landscape of the country, a ranging, incisive commentator with a quick wit and a gutsy mien. As the ghostwriter of such books as the bestselling I Have Life: Alison’s Journey she’s proved to be a fluent and sympathetic voice for harrowing stories. As a hard news reporter on the Cape Times in the ’80s she calmly covered appalling violence. She’s a one-woman fight club swinging at the bullies, the brainless, the venal.

It’s fascinating, then, to learn what forged this mettle. Thamm was born in the UK to parents who found refuge there after World War II. Her mother, Barbara, was a near-illiterate Portuguese woman who had fled the septic regime of the dictator Salazar to work “in service” in England. Her father, Georg, was a full-blown Nazi, first a member of the Hitler Youth, then a pilot in the Luftwaffe, who had been captured and interned in a POW camp in England. When the war ended he chose to stay in England, and met the gorgeous Barbara at a social club for immigrants and refugees. He proposed to her using a Portuguese-German dictionary. Like many who had walked out of the ruins of the war, they were eager to start a family, to live a “normal” life.

Her father’s past dogged Thamm from an early age, especially after watching The World At War series on TV. They argued about it constantly. She would ask him what his response had been to Kristallnacht. “I vas just a boy on a bicycle,” he replied. “I was very hard on him,” she says, “because for me he embodied Nazism. I was horrified that he was of me and I was of him.” But, she adds, “I see in retrospect that by casting him as the negative, the dark side, I could exonerate myself from exploring my own dark side, as a white South African.”

She could never understand why they chose to move to South Africa, and ultimately learned to her horror that he had been recruited by the Department of Defence in Pretoria to work on a “classified” project. Georg, a toolmaker, made the trigger for the first R1 rifle. Worse, he handed the first one to Verwoerd himself on the factory floor.

Thamm rages at this karma. “Not only six degrees of separation between me and Adolf Hitler. Now Hendrik Verwoerd had entered the orbit.”

Growing up in the depressing suburbs north of Pretoria, Thamm was wild, feral, running with a pack of children from the rough neighbourhood. “I became a tomboy because of the freedom boys had,” she says. “To move through the world without being harassed I figured I had to pass as a boy.” Not that it stopped the casual predation of adult men: when a neighbour felt her up her father refused to believe her. When a cafe owner did the same, she told her mother who accosted him furiously. Thamm would threaten men with a smashed bottle if they tried anything. “I abhor violence but you need to stand up for yourself at times.”

Barbara was an enigma to her daughter. She lived for Marianne and her brother Albert and was protective of them, but Thamm knew very little about her upbringing in Portugal. She had a stroke when Thamm was 21 and lived, speechless, for the next 14 years. “I lost all source of benevolent love and light. It’s interesting in terms of metaphor that when she could speak she was silent, and then she became silent.”

It was only when Thamm became a parent herself that she came to truly appreciate her mother. As a gay woman, she had never considered motherhood. “I didn’t long for it. It was something that I never thought I would be.” Settled in a long-term relationship, though, she and her partner adopted two black daughters. “It has profoundly shifted me. They’ve made me real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.” Like her mother, she protects them fiercely, especially against the racism and sexism that “comes at them” constantly.

She’s preoccupied with the question, “How do we learn to become decent, fair and just?”

We are shaped, she says, by historical forces, the personal is the political. Hence the title of the book. “Leaders bring out the best and the worst in us. Hitler and Verwoerd brought out the absolute worst in the people they led. But Mandela – while there’s much to fault about his first government – made people feel better about themselves at a very crucial time. He had moral authority.”

She’s come to terms with her father’s life and legacy. “We’d spoken through everything by the time he died. It was a blessed position to be in, to make peace with a parent. And I resolved that I was just going to try and be happy.”

•Listen to Marianne Thamm’s interview on the Magwood on Books Podcast:


Follow Michele Magwood on Twitter @michelemagwood

Book details

» read article

From Brooklyn to Chicago – News from Masande Ntshanga’s US book tour

The ReactiveThe ReactiveAward-winning novelist Masande Ntshanga is currently in the United States for the launch of the North American-edition of his explosive debut novel, The Reactive.

The tour, organised by Ntshanga’s US-publisher Columbus independent press Two Dollar Radio, started on Saturday, 17 September, in Brooklyn, New York, and ends in San Francisco on Wednesday, 12 October.

On Thursday, 29 September, the author will be in conversation with Toni Nealie, author of The Miles Between Me, at Curbside Books & Records in Chicago.

Last night, Ntshanga gave a reading from his book at the Village Theatre in Davenport and shared a few pictures of the event on Twitter:

Ntshanga has been a busy man. Earlier this week, he could be seen signing books at The Pygmalion Festival in Illinois and earlier this month he was spotted at the 2016 Brooklyn Book Festival where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Okey Ndibe and other prominent authors from all over the world. At the festival, he participated in a panel discussion entitled “Body Language – Heart, Eyes, Blood” with French writer Maylis de Kerangal and Chilean Lina Meruane.



Between all the book launches, signings and readings, Ntshanga has also been an excellent interviewee.

On Friday, 23 September, he was a guest on WOSU Radio in Columbus, Ohio, where he discussed The Reactive with host Christopher Purdy, WOSU book critic Kassie Rose and author Lina Maria Ferreira Castenga-Valdenas.

Ntshanga speaks about the title of the book and the special relationship between the characters. Rose says she was “greatly taken in by the voice” in The Reactive. “That voice took me through all of the book.”

Listen to the podcast:

During his visit to Columbus, the author was a visiting scholar at the Columbus College of Art & Design and he also chatted to Justin McIntosh for Columbus Alive.

Read the interview:

Violence buzzes in the background, though it’s mostly unnoticed by the characters, in the same way that, over time, you can learn to ignore the train that passes behind your house. Seen from above, Ntshanga notes, South African fields look like honeycombs because they’re dotted with so many empty graves. Cecilia, for one, isn’t disturbed by the gunshots so much as the lack of sirens that follow. Nathi tries to justify the brutality around him.

“This isn’t so much killing as it is cleaning up a mess,” he says. “These kids, all of them, they’re already dead.”

Today, Ntshanga will attend the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City and tomorrow he’ll visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s creative writing students.

Next week, the author will do a reading at an event hosted by the University of Georgia Creative Writing Program and the Avid Poetry Series. He will also visit the Emory College Department of Arts and Sciences.

We have our Google alerts set and our ears on the ground, so watch this space for more exciting news on Ntshanga’s US book tour. You can also follow him on Twitter @mntshanga or see the complete tour schedule on Two Dollar Radio’s website.
Related stories:

Book details

» read article

Long Story Short’s first African language podcast – Presley Chweneyagae reads Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Ga Ke Modisa

Ga Ke ModisaThe Story of Sol T. Plaatje

The Long Story Short initiative, launched by arts and culture entrepreneur Kgauhelo Dube, has reached yet another literary milestone – their first podcast in an African language!

In this podcast, well-known actor Presley Chweneyagae of Tsotsi fame reads an extract from Sabata-Mpho Mokae’s Setswana novel Ga Ke Modisa. In 2013, Mokae’s novel won an M-Net Literary Award in the African languages and film categories.

Listen to the reading, which was recorded earlier this year at the inaugural Rutanang Book Fair in Tlokwe, North West Province. At the time, Dube exclaimed: “We are also very excited as the talented performer Presley Chweneyagae will be reading the first Setswana story in the Long Story Short series!”

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

Related stories:


Book details

» read article

Listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading her short story ‘Olikoye’

AmericanahHalf of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus


For this week’s Fiction Friday, treat your ears to the enchanting voice of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reading her short story “Olikoye”.

The story was written as part of The Art of Saving a Life Project, which aims to increase awareness around the value of vaccines for children.

More than 30 artists took part in the project, which was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, resulting is a collection of stories about how vaccines can change the course of history.

“I hope the story humanises the importance of healthcare, in addition to paying tribute to a great Nigerian,” Adichie says. “I was happy to be involved because I admire the work being done, and because I believe that access to basic healthcare is a human right.”

“Olikoye” tells the story of Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a former paediatrician, activist, and Nigerian health minister who passed away in 2003. Ransome-Kuti’s brother was the famous musician Fela Kuti.

Adichie read the story for the BBC:

Book details

Image courtesy of Kisua

» read article

Sunday Read: Read and Listen to Excerpts from Stephen King’s New Short Story Collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsStephen King’s latest book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has just been released.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories, some brand new and some previously published in magazines and all with an introduction by King explaining when, why and how he crafted each story. It offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a master storyteller.

Watch the book trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

The unabridged audiobook edition of the The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is read by Stephen King himself, as well as a talented collection of voice artists.

King has shared audio excerpts from his book on his website. Listen to King reading his introduction to “Premium Harmony”, followed by a reading of the story by Will Patton:

Scribner Magazine has shared the text version of King’s introduction to the story:

My mother had a saying for every occasion. (“And Steve remembers them all,” I can hear my wife, Tabitha, say, with an accompanying roll of her eyes.)

One of her favorites was “Milk always takes the flavor of what it sits next to in the icebox.” I don’t know if that’s true about milk, but it’s certainly true when it comes to the stylistic development of young writers. When I was a young man, I wrote like H. P. Lovecraft when I was reading Lovecraft, and like Ross Macdonald when I was reading the adventures of PI Lew Archer.

Stylistic copying eventually wanes. Little by little, writers develop their own styles, each as unique as a €ngerprint. Traces of the writers one reads in one’s formative years remain, but the rhythm of each writer’s thoughts—an expression of his or her very brainwaves, I think—eventually becomes dominant.

The New Yorker featured “Premium Harmony” in 2011. Read the story:

“And pull in at the Quik-Pik,” she says. “I want to get a kickball for Tallie’s birthday.” Tallie is her brother’s little girl. Ray supposes that makes her his niece, although he’s not sure that’s right, since all the blood is on Mary’s side.

“They have balls at Wal-Mart,” Ray says. “And everything’s cheaper at Wally World.”

“The ones at Quik-Pik are purple. Purple is her favorite color. I can’t be sure there’ll be purple at Wal-Mart.”

“If there aren’t, we’ll stop at the Quik-Pik on the way back.” He feels a great weight pressing down on his head. She’ll get her way. She always does on things like this. He sometimes thinks marriage is like a football game and he’s quarterbacking the underdog team. He has to pick his spots. Make short passes.


Book details

Image of Stephen King courtesy of

» read article

Sunday Read: Meet the Real Lady in the Van and Listen to an Excerpt from Maggie Smith: A Biography

Maggie SmithThe Lady in the Van: The Complete EditionIn 1974 an elderly and eccentric Miss Mary Shepherd parked her van in writer Alan Bennett’s driveway in Camden Town, where she remained until her death 15 years later.

Bennett and Miss Shepherd had a peculiar bond. In his diary in the London Review of Books, Bennett writes of their first encounter when she coaxed him into pushing her van to Albany Street. The experience left him with the unsettling feeling that “one seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation”.

Yet Bennett invited Miss Shepherd to stay, another “good turn” she would not admit to being grateful for. “To have allowed herself to feel in the least bit grateful would have been a chink in her necessary armour, braced as she always was against the world,” Bennett writes in his definitive work on Miss Shepherd, The Lady in the Van: The Complete Edition.

During their 15 years together the writer observed Miss Shepherd, and in 1999 Dame Maggie Smith portrayed her in the hit West End play, The Lady in the Van. The film by the same name, and with Smith in the lead once again, was released in the United Kingdom on 13 November, and will come to South Africa in December this year.

Read an excerpt from Bennett’s diary, in which he remembers their first encounters:

She must have prevailed on me to push the van as far as Albany Street, though I recall nothing of the exchange. What I do remember as I trundled the van across Gloucester Bridge was being overtaken by two policemen in a panda car and thinking that, as the van was certainly holding up the traffic, they might have leant a hand. They were wiser than I knew. The other feature of this first run-in with Miss Shepherd was her driving technique. Scarcely had I put my shoulder to the back of the van, an old Bedford, than a long arm was stretched elegantly out of the driver’s window to indicate in textbook fashion that she (or rather I) was moving off. A few yards further on, as we were about to turn into Albany Street, the arm emerged again, twirling elaborately in the air to indicate that we were branching left, the movement done with such boneless grace that this section of the Highway Code might have been choreographed by Petipa with Ulanova at the wheel. Her ‘I am coming to a halt’ was less poised as she had plainly not expected me to give up pushing and shouted angrily back that it was the other end of Albany Street she wanted, a mile further on. But I had had enough by this time and left her there with no thanks for my trouble. Far from it. She even climbed out of the van and came running after me, shouting that I had no business abandoning her, so that passers-by looked at me as if I had done some injury to this pathetic scarecrow. ‘Some people!’ I suppose I thought, feeling foolish that I’d been taken for a ride (or taken her for one) and cross that I’d fared worse than if I’d never lifted a finger, these mixed feelings to be the invariable aftermath of any transaction involving Miss Shepherd. One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.

The Guardian has selected extracts from Bennett’s The Lady in the Van: The Complete Edition, with touching illustrations by David Gentleman.

In the article, Bennett reflects on why he invited Miss Shepherd to park her van in his driveway that day, the making of the film and the fine line between the two Alan Bennetts as both observing writer and participating character.

Read the extract:

It’s now over a quarter of a century since Miss Shepherd died, but hearing a van door slide shut will still take me back to the time when she was in the garden. For Marcel, the narrator in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, the sound that took him back was that of the gate of his aunt’s idyllic garden; with me it’s the door of a broken down Commer van. The discrepancy is depressing, but then most writers discover quite early on that they’re not going to be Proust. Besides, I couldn’t have heard my own garden gate because in order to deaden the (to her) irritating noise, Miss Shepherd had insisted on me putting a piece of chewing gum on the latch.

Watch the trailer for The Lady in the Van:

YouTube Preview Image


* * * * * * * *


Smith is captivating in her poignant portrayal of a vagrant woman who’s touched the life and imagination of a brilliant but self-deprecating writer.

Bennett and Smith were both born in 1934 and have walked a long road together on stage and off, as readers will note in Michael Coveney’s Maggie Smith: A Biography.

In an interview with The Telegraph for his 80th birthday, Bennett recalls attending another 80th back in 1997 with Smith:

In a diary entry for February 1997, published in his memoir collection Untold Stories, Alan Bennett describes an 80th birthday party for the stage designer Jocelyn Herbert at the Royal College of Art. The place is packed.
“I sit on a sofa with Alan Bates and Maggie Smith,” he writes, “thinking that no one would ever arrange such a do for me or get so many people to come. I turn to Maggie and she says: ‘Don’t say it. I know. I don’t think I could even fill the kitchen.’”

Bennett sets the scene, Smith steals it.

Listen to an audio extract from Maggie Smith: A Biography, read by Welsh actress Siân Thomas (Amelia Bones in Harry Potter:


Book details

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

» read article