Gené Gualdi launched her memoir Bollywood Blonde at The Book Lounge recently. Although she is now a brunette, she is every bit as bubbly as she was when she set out on her Bollywood adventure. In conversation with Janine van Assen, she told the audience about her dream job in the world’s biggest film industry turned into an unqualified nightmare.
When she was 23, Gualdi was offered an opportunity to work for a successful producer in Bollywood. It seemed like everything she had been waiting for and she jumped at the opportunity. When she arrived in Mumbai, she discovered that she was expected to act as The Producer’s girlfriend.
Gualdi says that living in India tested her every single day. In addition to the trial The Producer presented, she found things were extreme and very different to what she was accustomed to. She says at age 23, when she arrived in India, and she just wanted to party, but The Producer would not allow it. He kept her under lock and key, and treated her like his personal barbie doll: she had to lose weight, dye her hair and wear clothes he bought for her.
Gualdi worked for The Producer for six years. For the last two years, she was kept isolated in an apartment. When she eventually decided to leave The Producer for good, he reacted violently. The Italian embassy had to intervene, and he cracked her jaw in the altercation. The publication of the book was met with some controversy in India. She sent the book to an actor friend in Bollywood, who reacted badly and circulated the manuscript. She has been threatened with legal action, but decided to go ahead with the book anyway. The book has reached India, and she is waiting to see how The Producer will react to this tell-all.
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Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811) tweeted from the event using #livebooks:
Zelda la Grange says although she became extremely close to Nelson Mandela over the years, she believes his intentions in hiring her and involving her in his team were political.
“At first there was some strategy behind it,” La Grange says. “When he asked me to accompany him on a state visit to Japan, I was the Afrikaner in that delgation and he wanted to show the world that going forward South Africa was going to be inclusive of its people.
“After the publication of my book people now say ‘oh, so you were just a white token’ and I say to them, ‘wouldn’t you have wanted to be the white token?’ It’s a privilege.”
La Grange said she understood that the book would be met with some criticism, but it was important for her to share her experience.
Good Morning, Mr Mandela is also available in Afrikaans as Goeiemore, Mnr. Mandela.
Watch the video:
A remarkable book deserves a remarkable party, especially when the book is a re-issue by Fernwood Press of an earlier publication with a fascinating tale in its own right. Iziko’s Rust en Vreugd museum was the perfect spot for the launch of Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke by Elizabeth Rankin and Philippa Hobbs.
Originally published by Standard Bank, the 500 copies printed in support of a curated exhibition in May 2011 soon sold out. Art lovers eager to know more about the late Peter Clarke, one of South Africa’s foremost artists, clamoured to buy the book at the exhibition, although it was never available through book shops to a wider audience, until now.
Steve Connolly welcomed a terrific turnout comprising Clarke’s friends and family, the photographer George Hallett and poet James Matthews, as well as local art lovers and book lovers. He said it was a celebration of a great South African artist, poet, writer and teacher, who was also a gentle, sensitive man.
Connolly recalled returning to South Africa with his wife in 2011, after a stint of living in the UK. When he saw Clarke’s exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery (it appeared later at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg) he was greatly moved by the work. Publishing this book was a labour of love and a series of happy coincidences. He praised the authors for their fascinating text and the selection and layout of Clarke’s beautiful images.
“Our whole approach with this project is that we want Peter Clarke to be a secret no longer, his name known only in the Cape Peninsula, in small informed artistic elite. We hope that by bringing this book back to life we can increase his profile, bringing his stature and reputation into its rightful place in the broader community,” Connolly said.
The first item on the programme was a poetry performance by Clarke’s niece, Michelle October. She had composed “Still Life with Artificial Eye” in memory of her uncle. This somewhat irreverent take on the more personal details of his life was much enjoyed by those in the audience who knew and loved Clarke. Her second poem, “Population Explosion”, explored the harsher realities of his life, told with a keenly observed eye.
Rankin, who flew in from New Zealand to celebrate the launch, recalled the origins of her experience of the artist’s enormous talent. As a co-curator of an exhibition entitled “Printmaking in the Transforming South Africa”, which took place in 1997 for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, she came into contact with some of the lesser known printmakers working in the country – in particular black artists who had fallen below the radar.
“At that time we uncovered the consummate artistry of Clarke as we did the early research for the exhibition’s brochure. It was just amazing to find a man who had ploughed the furrow all on his own and produced such amazing work,” Ranking said. This was what led to the awareness that they really needed an artist’s biography dedicated to his life and work.
Rankin spoke of the heartbreaking news of Clarke’s death, which was mercifully peaceful. It posed a substantial challenge to them as writers. She reflected on the need to rewrite the book: “Changing the narrative from the present to the past tense was a most painful process,” she said.
Hobbs shared her recollections of working with the artist, and in particular the acrylic painting, “Anxiety”, that started her own research and writing process. “I was so drawn to a work done in 1966, that I decided to start there. It was done when he was still living in Simon’s Town, in the era just before forced removals. We’re looking at 1963 to 1970, that encapsulates the mood of the time. Peter said that people knew there was a distant rumble of disaster and trauma on the horizon. There was a lot of contestation and argument with authorities and people were horrified at the prospect of forced removals from Simon’s Town. Peter said there was a listlessness and passivity about the people,” she said.
Hobbs spent many hours in the Simon’s Town Museum, trying to work out the history of this traumatic era. She said that Clarke had depicted the time with irony and humour. “Those who knew him remember him as a man who reflected deeply on the time. He was also a man to see the human side, even the comical side. When he spoke of the trauma, he also told funny stories. He remembered a policeman, Tarzan Jacobs, who had a lot of henchmen. When they got hold of Peter, he knew he was a ‘gonner’ as the police van screeched to a halt.
“Tarzan started to rough Peter up. They picked through his pockets and saw his address book. He saw so many names he recognised, famous artists. He asked Peter about it and Tarzan then explained that he was also an artist. They started talking about art. In that moment, they were able to meet as artists. This was the power of Peter Clarke’s life and work. He humanised the people he met.”
Following the engaging talk by both the authors, Clarke’s lifelong friend George Hallett took the microphone. He recalled their invitation to the home of Jan Rabie and Marjorie Wallace which was interrupted by a visit from the police. Wallace hid them under the bed as one of her friends removed her clothes, except for her knickers. “We saw the boots from under the bed and the policeman suddenly departed saying, ‘O jammer‘ at the sight of a half-naked lady.”
Hallett, recalling the ambience in which they were brought up, said Clarke’s house in Sondersteen was our Harlem Renaissance. We listened to Abdullah Ibrahim and Beethoven. One of our friends picked up Mozart’s flute concerto. Peter said, ‘Be careful! That’s my entire record collection!’ He paid tribute to his friend in glowing terms, as did poet, James Matthews with a performance of his own poetry.
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Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:
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Darrel Bristow-Bovey has written an article about the aftermath of publishing a book, sharing his thoughts and feelings relating to his recently launched memoir, One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo.
“I have just published a book, and while this part of the process is preferable to the earlier part of writing the damn thing, it’s no moustache-twirling holiday in the sun, dabbing clam juice from your chin with wadded up 100-franc notes. The modern writer who has written has many responsibilities,” Bristow-Bovey writes.
These responsibilities include getting people to attend your book launches, making sure your book is not hidden in the “loamy corners” of bookstores and nagging people, friends and family included, to buy your book.
Read the article:
Next comes the long bombardment of social media, where you reward people for following you by subjecting them to waves of naggy, ingratiating urgings to come to your book launch. It’s humiliating: entire generations of writers who in former times would have been misty, distant figures of mystery are reduced to side-show hucksters or timeshare salesmen. “Just come to the launch! Have a free glass of wine! No obligation!”
When the rains are especially scarce, some writers might post copies of favourable reviews, or perform a sad practice called “retweeting compliments”, which is like being a crazed villager roaming the cobbled streets shouting, “John Brown can’t wait to spend the weekend curled up with my book, three exclamation marks!” or “Sipho V. says he likes my style lol!”
Published in the Sunday Times
The Sunday Times books team asked an array of notable South Africans which books they will be taking with them on holiday.
THE COLUMNIST – Darrel Bristow-Bovey
I’ll be reading Luke Alfred’s When the Lions Came to Town (Zebra Press), about the 1974 British Lions’ tour of South Africa, because Luke is a sportswriter with heart and flair and tells a good story. I also have Paradise by Greg Lazarus (Kwela Books), a smart, funny and cosmopolitan local pair of novelists. Each year for the past two years has seen the release of a new volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (Volume 2, 1923-1925 – Cambridge University Press). Last year’s volume 2 took us to 1925, and I’m desperately hoping volume 3 is about to be released. I’ll also be obsessively re-reading my own book, One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo (Zebra Press), to check for spelling errors and typos.
THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR – Thuli Madonsela
I intend reading these books during the holidays: The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Pax Librorum, R80), Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky (Celestial Arts), Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones(Hyperion) and The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven K Scott (Broadway Books).
THE TRAVEL WRITER – Bridget Hilton-Barber
First up is Stoep Zen: A Zen Life in South Africa by Antony Osler (Jacana), whose blurb says it’s Lao Tzu meets Oom Schalk Lourens. The question Osler poses is how do we reach down through swirling emotions into a quieter space where we can see a little further and love a little deeper? The other little gem that awaits on my bedside table is an illustrated book called Yoga for Chickens by Lynn Brunelle (Chronicle Books). “Feeling fried? Feathers ruffled? The birdbrained wisdom in this little book will have you clucking like a spring chicken in no time.” And finally, I am going to get stuck into Lost and Found in Johannesburg by Mark Gevisser (Jonathan Ball Publishers).
THE INTELLECTUAL – Eusebius McKaiser
I have already started on my holiday reading because, well, why wait?! I’m halfway through Jacob Dlamini’s Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle (Jacana). It is narrative writing at its lyrical best, and the moral philosophy student in me is intrigued by the complexity of black people who betrayed black communities during apartheid. I will also read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time (Vintage Books), a classic on race relations in America. In the wake of Ferguson, revisiting this masterpiece is compulsory.
THE FESTIVAL DIRECTOR – Ann Donald
My summer reading will be a continuation of my reading all year: the books of authors who’ll be attending the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, including The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press), Esther’s House by Carol Campbell (Umuzi), Tales of the Metric System by Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi), Askari by Jacob Dlamini, Unimportance by Thando Mgqolozana (Jacana), and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Little, Brown).
THE HISTORIAN – Tim Couzens
For me Christmas starts very early, so I have just read Ray Hartley’s Ragged Glory (Jonathan Ball Publishers), an overview of the last 20 years of South Africa political history, which is characteristically sane and balanced. I am now reading – recommended to me by Corina van der Spoel who ran the Boekehuis before it was closed in act of barbarity not seen since the ransacking of the churches during the Reformation – WG Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (Vintage Books) which, from the depths of his erudition and his appreciation of the complexities of history, moves seamlessly from the very local to the exciting diversity of the human and natural world.
THE CELEBRITY – Gareth Cliff
Surprisingly, despite starting CliffCentral.com this year, I have found some time to read. From Barry Bateman and Mandy Wiener to Pamela Stephenson to Jerm the cartoonist, there is so much great stuff being published that it’s hard to narrow things down to just one book. But to be really self-indulgent, I have to admit that my current obsession is a book by Sir Hugh Roberts, Director of the Royal Collection, about the furnishing and decoration of King George IV’s private apartments at Windsor Castle. It’s called For The King’s Pleasure (Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd).
THE GONZO ESSAYIST – Bongani Madondo
I will be reading a lot! Ok, maybe I will be lucky to finish at least three of the following: Mandla Langa’s latest novel The Texture of Shadows (Picador Africa); The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown); You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town by Zoë Wicomb (Umuzi); I Would Die 4U: Why Prince Became An Icon by Touré (Free Press), and Stokely: A Life by Peniel E. Joseph (Basic Civitas Books), which is the latest biography of the revolutionary Stokely Carmichael (Miriam Makeba’s one time husband … one of the five exes). I don’t think I will get halfway through the list though. There’s just so much to do, especially with family demanding its pound of flesh of your time.
THE INDIE BOOKSELLER – Kate Rogan (Owner of Love Books)
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Jonathan Cape). I cannot wait to get my teeth into this. It’s just won the Samuel Johnson prize, which is the biggest thing in non-fiction awards – and it’s the first ever memoir to do so. In a nutshell, Helen Macdonald loses her father, and in her grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. My ears pricked when someone said it was the next The Hare with Amber Eyes (Chatto & Windus,). Whatever it turns out to be, it’s the kind of book that needs the time I can only give it while on holiday.
THE EXCLUSIVE BOOKS CEO – Benjamin Trisk
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher Browning (HarperCollins). For students of the Holocaust there is a fascinating debate between Browning and Daniel Goldhagen about the culpability of ordinary Germans caught up in the implementation of the Holocaust. Also in a historical vein is Max Hastings’ Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War (Alfred A Knopf). Hastings concentrates on the accidents of timing and long-held simmering nationalisms that coalesced in that fateful year. I am an adequate amateur cook, love cookbooks, and the best local cookbook that I have seen for a long time is Kobus van der Merwe’s Strandveldfood (Jonathan Ball Publishers). I think it is sensational.
THE TREND-SPOTTER – Dion Chang
I have earmarked the following for my festive break: The latest Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage (Harvill Secker). I am a huge fan and will read anything that he writes. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. I’m fascinated by Japanese culture (hence Murakami being on my list) and this biography also explores the exquisite art of “Netsuke” – tiny but intricate wood or ivory carvings. Ai Weiwei Speaks (Penguin Special) – a collection of interviews by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist that follows Weiwei’s incredible installation “S.A.C.R.E.D” at the Venice biennial, depicting scenes from his 81-day incarceration by the Chinese government. Finally, for much needed escapism, I’ll also be tackling The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling, Little Brown).
THE NOVELIST – Imraan Coovadia
I’m reading The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (Tor Books), a great Chinese science fiction writer, the Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson (Copper Canyon Press), translated by WS Merwin, Microcosms by Claudio Magris (Gallimard Education), Plenty More by Ottolenghi (Ebury Press) and Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi (Canongate, R180). Five books which promise to be miraculous. I just finished Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Boyhood Island (Alfred A Knopf). Great.
THE MAVERICK – Marianne Thamm
I have quite a neglected stack next to my bed, including Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa: A 5 000-year History of Wealth, Greed and Endeavour (Jonathan Ball Publishers). This “vast and vivid panorama of history” offers a renewed opportunity to engage with the backdrop to contemporary political developments. I’m halfway through Jonny Steinberg’s extraordinary A Man Of Good Hope (Jonathan Ball Publishers), which charts the journey of refugee Asad Abdullah from Somalia to Cape Town. And in a further attempt at understanding the physical, political and intellectual geography of South Africa, there is Imraan Coovadia’s novel, Tales of the Metric System, Mandla Langa’s The Texture of Shadows and Jacob Dlamini’s Askari.
THE LIT MAG EDITORS
Alex Matthews, editor of Aerodrome
I’m a huge fan of both lighthouses and Marguerite Poland, so The Keeper (Penguin) is therefore an irresistible prospect. I also can’t wait to finish Mark Gevisser’s Lost and Found in Johannesburg, which is an eloquent, vivid merging of maps and memories.
Helen Sullivan, editor of Prufrock
One of the best things about summer for me is magazines. Thick Christmas issues full of beautiful things, and stories and articles that seem to be more moving when it’s the end of a year. I’ll also be looking out for South African literary mags like Prufrock – uHlanga (an anthology of poetry from KZN – R50 on uhlangapress.co.za), Aerodrome (R140 from aerodrome.co.za) and New Contrast (R90 on newcontrast.net).
Charlene Smith, journalist, author and authorised biographer of former president Nelson Mandela, has written a very funny article on the differences between British (or South African) and American English.
Smith relocated to the USA some years ago, and has had some amusing and confusing encounters resulting from crossed language lines.
In the post she recalls how she had to stop using the word “bugger” as an exclamation of displeasure, how her small daughter had to learn to say “pacifier” instead of “dummy” – “because here a dummy is an idiot and would never be put in an infant’s mouth”. She also reveals the hilarity that was brought on by her daughter’s use of the word “earbud”, which in America would be interpreted as “ear friend”.
In West Virginia, while researching a book, I found a diner that had said signs that said, “Proud to be a Hillbilly.” What great souvenirs, I thought. I took one to the cashier.
“How much is this?”
She spoke as though a huge wad of gum was gluing her tongue to the roof of her mouth, or so it sounded to me, something like, “dorrornawnahn.” It sounded a bit like a motor turning over but not quite catching.
“Excuse me?” I politely asked, a mild sweat spreading across my face. She did it again, she tried to churn up the engine but it stalled in the roof of her mouth. I stared at her horror-stricken and embarrassed, how could I get out of this without being rude. She looked at me, and then wrote it down, $1,99. I gratefully paid up.
It wasn’t as bad as during my first trip to the United States, I stayed with acquaintances in San Francisco. They asked where my suitcases were, ‘oh, in the boot,’ I said. They looked astounded, “the boot? What boot?”
I took them out to the car, “The boot,” I indicated; “oh,” they exclaimed with relief, “the trunk.”
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