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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Zadie Smith Interviews Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie About Writing, Race, Fashion and Strong Female Characters

AmericanahWe Should All Be FeministsThe Thing Around Your NeckHalf of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus
NWChanging My MindOn BeautyThe Autograph ManWhite Teeth

The New York Public Library has shared the podcast of a witty and insightful conversation between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith that happened late last year.

The two authors discuss a wide variety of topics, from writing, to Mills and Boone; race and blackness; the differences between America, the UK and Nigeria; as well as Beyoncé, fashion, sexuality and feminism.

Adichie begins with a reading from Americanah, but not before expressing her admiration for Smith, both as a writer and as a “hot babe”.

“I have admired and followed Zadie’s work from the very beginning, from White Teeth,” she says, “and I’ve also really admired that she’s this brilliant woman who’s also a hot babe. I think it’s really important that brilliant women step out there and be hot babes.”

On writing

Smith says when she first read Adichie she was struck by the “psychological acuity” of her work, and she says anyone who has ever written will know how “unbelievably difficult that is to achieve”.

“I think everyone who reads you is amazed by how real these people seem,” Smith says. “It goes quite beyond a lot of the fiction you read these days.”

Adichie mentions the aphorism that “prose should be as clear as a window pane”, but says the truth is more mysterious than that.

“What I love about fiction writing is that there’s that moment when something magic happens,” she says. “You have moments when nothing’s happening, it’s not going well. Then there’s the moment when you just become transported, and you really forget how much time has past. When I’m sitting writing, that’s what I’m hoping will happen.

“But when I’m editing, clarity is important to me. It’s easy to confuse something that’s badly written as somehow deep. The sentences I admire are the sentences that are lucid.”

Smith says she feels Adichie’s characters move with extraordinary freedom: “They feel utterly genuine to me, as if these people have risen out of the ground, they exist, and you are just following them around.”

Adichie says she likes to think of Americanah as her “fuck you book”, adding that the moniker is addressed, in part, to another, more deferential, version of herself.

“With Half of a Yellow Sun I was very dutiful. I think for so long I’ve been a dutiful daughter of literature,” Adichie says. “I followed the rules. With Americanah I thought, ‘I’m going to write the book I want to write’.”

Women in fiction

Smith asks Adichie about her female characters, which she feels are of a type quite unusual in American fiction: “The women in your fiction are somehow always themselves. They’re always confident.”

Adichie agrees, saying: “I hear from people, ‘Your female characters are so strong, how do you do that?’

“For me, I’m writing about women who are familiar. Not to say that all the women I know are strong and have their shit together, they’re not. But to say that the idea of a woman being strong and simply being strong not to prove anything, or not to be unusual, is normal to me.”

On Mills & Boon and owning your sexuality

Smith turns the conversation to relationships, saying that the relationships in Adichie’s books are “not a light matter”, comparing her treatment of romantic and sexual relationships to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Adichie asks Smith if she read Mills and Boon growing up, but Smith says her mother banned the books from the house.

“When I was growing up, every girl read Mills and Boon,” Adichie says, “and I think I read maybe 200.”

“But in those books girls wait, no? Your girls don’t wait,” Smith says, to the delight of Adichie, and the audience.

Adichie replies that her books are in the grand tradition of Mills and Boon but are also anti-Mills and Boon.

“It took me a little while to realise that I really don’t like the Mills and Boon format, where the man decides,” Adichie says. “The destiny of the relationship is in the hands of the man, and it’s okay if they meet, they don’t like each other, and he grabs her at some point and she melts. You know that idea that a woman can’t own her sexuality, can’t own her choices? So my work is the anti-Mills and Boon in many ways. The women in my world don’t have to wait because they’re women.”

Smith says: “Maybe it’s that difference that Alice Walker pointed out so many years ago between ‘feminine’ and ‘womanist’: the idea of not being something that’s just passive, waiting to be taken, but something that acts in the world.”

On fashion and women’s magazines

After a fascinating discussion of race, tempered by the fact that both Smith and Adichie are non-Americans living in America, the conversation turned to fashion and whether black women should be more represented in women’s magazines, or whether they are boxed in by those aesthetics.

“I have a probably unpopular opinion,” Smith says, “but I grew up with a mother with no interest in any of that — makeup, magazines, anything — and I was really happy. So my feeling is, to be honest, I don’t really want to be in those magazines. I don’t really like those magazines. And I know it’s a matter of representation and it’s meant to be equality, but do you want to be equal with something that makes so many people miserable?

“I quite like the fact that we had our own aesthetic and we had our own way of being and it had nothing to do with weighing five pounds … I don’t care about those magazines. I know it’s important to be represented, but personally, if you’re asking me honestly, I don’t like that stuff and I don’t want to be a part of it anyway.”

Adichie disagrees, saying she believes “it really does matter”, and that despite appearances the argument has nothing to do with men.

“It’s one think to have our own verified, wonderful little bubbles and to be happy in them,” she says, “but there’s a wider world out there. And so you’re raising a daughter; you’re not going to be able to keep her away from those things, it’s not going to happen. My mother was the exact opposite of yours, she was very interested in all of those things.

“It’s not even about the male gaze. Men don’t get female fashion. I don’t even think about men when I make my choices, because they’re irrelevant. I love men but they just don’t get it. It’s about me. And I don’t want to live in a world where I have to apologise for liking what I like.”

Smith says the black women that are featured in those kinds of magazines are not familiar anyway: “They don’t look like black women that I know. They’re under a different aesthetic.”

Adichie assents that the images are “unattainable”, but argues that they don’t have to be, adding: “Even for me that’s progress. It’s still better to have black faces that weigh five pounds than not to have any faces that are black.”

Related stories:

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David Evans Reviews Chaka by Thomas Mofolo

ChakaVerdict: carrot

In this early example of Lesotho’s literature, written in Sesotho in 1910, published in 1925, and translated to English in 1931, Mofolo weaves a fantastical tale, based loosely on the life of the great Zulu king Chaka (or Shaka), who lived from 1787 to 1828. I read a later translation, by Daniel Kunene in 1981. While the language of the book took me a bit of work to get through, it wasn’t for lack of action. Chaka has an insatiable thirst for power. Mofolo shows the origin and the price of that thirst.

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Marietie Louw-Carstens resenseer Bloed op haar hande: Vroue agter tralies deur Carla van der Spuy

Bloed op haar hande: Vroue agter traliesUitspraak: wortel

Van die interessantste verhale is van ’n polisievrou wat haar man doodgeskiet het en nou teologie studeer sodat sy ná haar vrylating ’n pastoor kan wees.

Die veralgemening dat al die vroue agter tralies verslons is, word verkeerd bewys met beskrywings van vroue met “lang, pienk naels”, “pienk lippe” en “silwerblink-en-turkoois oogskadu”.


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Jean Meiring resenseer Soos familie: Stedelike huiswerkers in Suid-Afrikaanse tekste deur Ena Jansen

Soos familie: Stedelike huiswerkers in Suid-Afrikaanse teksteUitspraak: wortel

Ena Jansen se meditasie oor huiswerkers, Soos familie, is meesleurend en monumentaal.

Dit spreek tot alle Suid-Afrikaners, maar veral dringend tot daardie generasie wit Suid-Afrikaners vir wie die nederige blikbord en dikwels gekraakte beker onder die opwasbak gemeenplaas was.


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All the Poetica Events to Look Forward at the 2015 Open Book Festival (9 – 13 September)

The 2015 Open Book Festival is less than a week away and we cannot wait for all the exciting book events that will be hitting Cape Town from 9 to 13 September.

Poetry lovers will have plenty to look forward to on this year’s Poetica programme. The Poetica workshops will take place from Wednesday, 9 September, to Friday, 11 September and discussions, readings and performances will happen from Saturday, 12 September, to Sunday, 13 September. All poetry events will take place at the Fugard Theatre in District 6.

There are 22 poets on this years Poetica programme, including Antjie Krog (Synapse), Mathews Phosa (Chants of Freedom: Poems Written in Exile), Croc e Moses (Driftword), Helen Moffett (Strange Fruit), Andrew Miller (Dub Steps) and many more.

The first Poetica workshop will kick off on Wednesday at 10 AM with Reliquaria author RA Villanueva talking about collaboration and experimentation. On Thursday at 2 PM, Moffett will show you how great editing can transform your poetry and Dawn Garisch (Dance with Suitcase: A Memoir Resting on Movement) will teach you how to craft your own story on Friday at the same time.

There will be a range of performance poetry events with Adrian van Wyk, Croc e Moses, Emile XY?, Genna Gardini, Koleka Putuma and Shirmoney Rhode, to name but a few, with open mic nights, poetry slams, a discussion on geography and so much more.

Check out the Open Book programme for all the poetry events (marked in blue):


Dub StepsMede-weteSynapseDriftwordDance with SuitcaseStrange FruitInvisible Earthquake
Chants of FreedomDeur die oog van 'n naaldReliquarianull

See also:


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Don’t Miss the Bloggers’ Social Evening Network at Exclusive Books Dainfern Square in Midrand

Invitation to Bloggers Social Evening Network

You are invited to join the Bloggers’ Social Evening being hosted by Exclusive Books Dainfern Square.

It will be an evening of wine, snacks and socialising. Lood du Plessis will chair a discussion between Joan de la Haye, Monique Snyman and Monique Bernic about blogging. There are also fantastic goodie bags for the first 20 bloggers to reply.

The event is on Saturday, 5 September at 5:30 for 7 PM at Exclusive Books Dainfern Square.

Don’t miss out!

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, 5 September 2015
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 7 PM
  • Venue: Exclusive Books Dainfern Square
    Dainfern Square
    Corner Broadacres Drive and William Nicol Drive
    Midrand, Johannesburg | Map
  • Panel: Lood du Plessis (chair), Joan de la Haye, Monique Snyman and Monique Bernic
  • Refreshments: Wine and snacks
  • RSVP:, 011 469 0169 or on Facebook


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Eugene Ashton Appointed CEO of Jonathan Ball Publishers as Jonathan Ball Retires

Eugene Ashton and Jonathan Ball

Jonathan Ball Publishers has announced the appointment of a new CEO, Eugene Ashton, following the retirement of founder Jonathan Ball.

Books LIVE wishes Jonathan Ball well in his new part-time role; and we look forward to working with Ashton as a new era for one of South Africa’s most important publishing businesses opens.

Press release

Media24’s board of directors has approved the appointment of Eugene Ashton (37) as chief executive officer of Jonathan Ball Publishers. He steps into his new role on 1 October 2015 following the retirement of publisher extraordinaire Jonathan Ball at the end of September after 40 years at the helm of the publishing business he founded.

Esmaré Weideman, chief executive of Media24, said Eugene was the natural successor to Jonathan and the ideal candidate for the position. “Jonathan Ball Publishers will be in very good hands with Eugene at the helm. He has a unique understanding of the complex requirements of the British and American publishers that JBP represents in South Africa and has built excellent relationships with them over the years.”

Eugene joined Jonathan Ball Publishers in 1998, after working for Exclusive Books, and has been with the publishing house for the past 17 years. He is currently sales and marketing director and has extensive experience in not only book publishing, but also financial management and eBook commerce. He has been chairman of the trade sector of the Publishers’ Association of South Africa, serves on the executive management team and is the association’s treasurer.

Eugene holds a master’s degree in Historical and Cultural Studies from the University of Pretoria. He has also completed various management and financial management courses. Jonathan Ball will continue to play a role at the publishing house as publishing consultant. “I am delighted that Eugene will succeed me, he has a developed understanding of our business and our industry and we have worked closely together for many years,” Jonathan says.

Eugene said that it has been an honour working with Jonathan and a privilege to be mentored by him. “In some respects it is always tough being appointed CEO following the founder, but I am proud of our legacy and look forward to continuing in the spirit that so defines JBP.”


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Tarah Childes Reviews Wasted by Mark Winkler

WastedVerdict: carrot

Time and events bend and blur under Winkler’s adept hand, the plot driven by the immediacy the terse sentence structure (free from conjunctions) creates. When the key revelations unfold, they are genuinely shocking in a forehead slapping kind of way, as we realise our noses were too closely pressed against the action to see the allusive pointers cleverly fragmented throughout the novel.

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The Sunday Times Bestseller List for August 2015

The Sunday Times has released the monthly bestseller list for August, revealing South Africa’s top selling fiction and non-fiction books.

The three top selling fiction books remain unchanged, with Country, the new novel from fan favourite Danielle Steel, coming in at number four and the new movie-tie-in edition of John Green’s 2008 novel Paper Towns making an appearance at number five.

South African titles stand firm at the top of the non-fiction list, in the form of RW Johnson’s How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis and Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future.

Anemari Jansen’s Eugene de Kock: Assassin for the State has been knocked out of the top five, with the controversial Agent 407: A South African Spy Breaks Her Silence by Olivia Forsyth jumping in at number three.

View the South African bestsellers for August:

The information on the list comes from SAPnet/Nielsen bookseller data and publisher data.

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Grey: 50 Shades of Grey as Told by Christian


Go Set a Watchman


The Girl on the Train




Paper Towns



How Long Will South Africa Survive?


Elon Musk


Agent 407

Rich Dad Poor Dad - What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad – What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not by Robert T Kiyosaki
    EAN: 9781612680019
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!


Switch on Your Brain


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The Witness Reviews From Around the World in Eighty Days, Tales from the Cross and More

From Around the World in Eighty Days: The Indian SectionTales from the CrossThe Cross, The Sword and Mammon

Verdict: carrots

Academic, writer, poet, playwright and activist Ari Sitas awakens our senses with this seven-day journey to India, a reconstruction of Jules Verne’s journey of 1872.

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