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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Come see Modjaji’s Stellar Authors at the Franschhoek Literary Festival

Franshhoek Literary Festival

 
This year’s edition of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival is being held from the 19th to the 21st of May. Modjaji is proud to have some its authors among the ranks who will soon file into town to fill it with vibrant ambience and all the bookish conversation one could dream of.

Tickets are priced at R70 per event, and are on sale via Webtickets. A limited number of student tickets are available for R20 per event – verification will be required.

Don’t miss our authors discussing their work at these not-to-be-missed panel discussions:

Philippa Mamutebi Kabali-KagwaFlame and SongPhilippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa
 
FRIDAY 14h30-15h30
[25] Writing their continent (Old School Hall): Darrel Bristow-Bovey invites Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Flame and Song) and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Season of Crimson Blossoms) to share how they reveal their love and knowledge of Africa through fact and fiction.
 
SATURDAY 10h00-11h00
[45] The transformative power of reading (Council Chamber): Jacques Rousseau discusses the intellectual, social and personal impact of reading, with Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (The Printmaker) and Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Flame and Song).
 
SUNDAY 11h30 – 12h30
[95] Writing my family: (Council Chamber): Negotiating the path between family sensitivities and the author’s right to write the story as they choose is a skill that Daniel Browde, Neil Sonnekus and Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa have all developed. They tell Hagen Engler how they did it.
 

Jolyn PhillipsTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesJolyn Phillips

 
FRIDAY 13h00-14h00
[23] I write short stories because… (Elephant & Barrel): Are they easier than long fiction, more lucrative than nonfiction, more popular than Harry Potter? Jolyn Philips (Tjieng Tjang Tjerrie) asks fellow writers Harry Kalmer (A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg), Ken Barris (The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions) and Marita van der Vyver (You Lost Me) what it is about this form that appeals to them as they discuss the challenges of writing in the short form.
 
SUNDAY 10h00 – 12h00
[90] Workshop: Hide & Seek Poetry (The Hub) Sometimes the writing comes easily, but what do you do when the spring dries up or you have more sand than compost in your head? Come and learn to hunt and gather words at a two-hour poetry workshop with poets Jolyn Phillips and Karin Schimke. Tickets R120 through Webtickets.
 
SUNDAY 13h00 – 14h00
[104] The polylinguists (The Hub) Tom Dreyer asks Jennifer Friedman (English/Afrikaans) and Jolyn Phillips (English/Afrikaans/French) whether the ability to speak and write in different languages is a help or a hinderance?
 
Dawn GarischAccidentDawn Garisch
 
SATURDAY 13h00-14h00
[63] Dark things brought to light (Elephant & Barrel): Fred Strydom (Inside Out Man), Dawn Garisch (Accident) and Dale Halvorsen (Survivors’ Club with Lauren Beukes) discuss the darker side of human nature as reflected in their writing, and why readers feel the need to be disturbed.
 
Ishara MaharajNamaste LifeIshara Maharaj
 
FRIDAY 13h00-14h00
[22] The power to move us (Hospice Hall): Ishara Maharaj (Namaste Life) and Dennis Cruywagen (The Spiritual Mandela) discuss the joys and challenges of writing of spiritual matters in a contemporary world.
 
 
Colleen HiggsLooking for TroubleLava Lamp PoemsHalfborn WomenColleen Higgs
 
SUNDAY 13h00 – 14h00
[102] What publishers want (Council Chamber): In preparation for next year’s projected Porcupine’s Den event (think ‘Dragon’s Den’ for writers), would-be authors get to pick the brains of publishers Ester Levinrad (Jonathan Ball), Phehello Mofokeng (Geko Books) and Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books), led by Colleen Higgs (Modjaji Books). Other publishers are welcome to attend and weigh in on the discussion.
 
Karin SchimkeBare and BreakingKarin Schimke
 
SUNDAY 10h00 – 12h00
[90] Workshop: Hide & Seek Poetry (The Hub) Sometimes the writing comes easily, but what do you do when the spring dries up or you have more sand than compost in your head? Come and learn to hunt and gather words at a two-hour poetry workshop with poets Jolyn Phillips and Karin Schimke. Tickets R120 through Webtickets.
 
Helen MoffettStrange FruitStrayHelen Moffett
 
SATURDAY 14h30-15h30
[70] What is feminism, and who ‘owns’ it? (Ebony Gallery): Helen Moffett (Prunings) asks the questions of poet and singer Blaq Pearl and Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books).
 
SUNDAY 10h00-11h00
[87] A few good editors (Council Chamber): Alison Lowry and fellow editors Helen Moffett, Phehello Mofokeng and Thabiso Mahlape discuss the consistent criticism around the literary world of ‘poor editing’ and the state of the industry in South Africa.
 
Michelle HattinghI'm the Girl Who Was RapedMichelle Hattingh
 
SATURDAY 16h00-17h00
[73] 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).
 
Shirmoney RhodeNomme 20 Delphi StraatShirmoney Rhode
 
SUNDAY 11h30 – 12h30
[93] Playing with words (Hospice Hall): On knowing the rules of writing, and how to break them: Sue de Groot tests the boundaries of poets Blaq Pearl and Shirmoney Rhode (Nommer 20 Delphi Straat), and novelist Claire Robertson (The Magistrate of Gower).

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Book Launch: Accident by Dawn Garisch

AccidentThe Book Lounge and Modjaji Books are delighted to invite you to the launch of Dawn Garisch’s brilliant new novel, Accident. Janet Giddy, a medical doctor who is also interested in the humanities and medicine will be in conversation with Dawn about her dark, moving and controversial novel.

“Dawn Garisch is boldly imaginative and thought provoking in this riveting account of a performance artist whose shocking acts challenge us to question important social issues. The novel is also a story of a mother and son relationship that walks a tightrope of when to hold on and when to let go.” (Kate Gottgens, artist)

Carol Trehorne’s only child, Max, is in ICU with severe burns. Max, a performance artist, has set himself alight. He recovers but it becomes clear that he is planning further performances that will put him at risk of serious injury or death. Carol, a single parent and a GP in a busy suburban practice, is worried that her son is not the genius his friends think he is, but might be on drugs or going psychotic.

As she discusses her concerns with her son’s psychiatrist, she wonders if her past behaviour, in particular her relationship with the adventurous and anti-social Jack, has influenced Max’s determination to use his body as a site of violent art in the pursuit of revelation. Carol cannot accept that Max’s self-harm will have any effect other than to add to the meaningless violence in the world.

The novel Accident raises questions about what kind of life is worth living and what death is worth dying. It explores the different responses artists and scientists can have to violence and self-destructive behaviour, and throws into sharp relief the difficulties parents face when their children make decisions that appear incomprehensible.

Accident is Dawn Garisch’s sixth published novel, she has also had a collection of poetry, a non-fiction work and a memoir published. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines. She has had a short play and short film produced, and has written for television and newspapers. Three of her novels have been published in the UK.

In 2007 her poem “Blood Delta” was awarded the DALRO prize. In 2010 her novel, Trespass was short-listed for the Commonwealth prize for fiction in Africa, and in 2011 her poem Miracle won the EU Sol Plaatjie Poetry Award. In 2013 her short story “What To Do About Ricky” won the NAF funded Short.Sharp.Story competition.

She is interested in trans-disciplinary work in science and art, and between different art forms. She teaches life writing and creative method courses, is a practising medical doctor and lives in Cape Town.

Accident-invite_BL-2

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 09 May 2017
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge, Corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Streets, Cape Town
  • Guest Speaker: Janet Giddy
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge, booklounge@gmail.com, 021 462 2425
    www.modjajibooks.co.za

Book Details
Accident


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The Book Launch of Tess, and How Tracey Farren’s Novel was Adapted into an Award-winning Movie

Panel discussion at Tess launchTess

 
The launch of Tess was an both an opportunity to enjoy the success of Tracey Farren’s novel, originally published as Whiplash in 2008, and a chance to share in where the story is going over the next few months.

The room was filled with longstanding supporters of the women responsible for bringing the story of Tess to life in print and on screen, as well as new fans who have yet to experience Whiplash/Tess. The buzz of excitement and joy at what the story has achieved made for a warm and meaningful event filled with very interesting conversation.

Colleen Higgs, publisher at Modjaji, began by speaking about the electrifying manuscript Tracey Farren delivered to her via Ron Irwin a decade ago. The history of Modjaji Books is intertwined with the novel, as it was the first work of fiction to come out of the young company and is a continuing inspiration for Colleen. Whiplash being made into a movie was always her dream, but it took a long time to come to fruition.
Tracey Farren at Tess launch
Tracey Farren described how she came to write Whiplash in the first place. She was intrigued by the prostitutes she encountered near her home daily and, like many of us, she wondered “Why do they do this? And how did this come to be the life they live?” Delving deep into the issues and heartbreaking realities of our society eventually gave birth to Tess, a young prostitute surviving on pain medication in Muizenberg. Tracey says Tess is a character she was deeply in love with, and translating her into a film script was a magical process.
Meg Rickards at Tess launch
Meg Rickards told us she was given Tracey’s novel by a friend. She did not expect to be as bowled over by itas she was, but she couldn’t put it down and read through the night until she finished it. Meg’s empathy for Tess, a character so removed and different from her, was so thorough that her pillow was sodden when she got to the end of Whiplash. She immediately got in contact with the publisher, but found that the film had already been optioned. After a year of waiting, she got the news that the previous deal had expired, and film rights were hers if she wanted them. So the whirlwind of funding campaigns, script rewrites and making a masterpiece on a shoestring budget began. In the end, she had enough budget for 24 days of filming, and was constantly thinking about how to do more with less.
Christia Visser at book launch
A little way into the discussion Christia Visser, the lead actress in Tess, arrived and joined the discussion. She initially wanted to say no to the role of Tess, because she was intimidated by what she would have to feel as she acted out the life of the young prostitute. Colleen says in her early fantasies about the movie she hoped to see Charlize Theron play Tess, but said that in fact Christia was perfect for the movie and even better she had imagined. Tracey commented whatever acting Christia does after Tess will be easy compared with her nuanced and complex portrayal of Tess.

The panel wrapped up their discussion by talking about the process of adapting the novel into a screenplay. Tracey was the screen writer and began the process by refining and focusing the story as she rewrote. Meg said that she could not hope to improve upon the novel as she translated to film; as director she could only be inspired by Whiplash and try to pay homage to it with her adaptation. Christia Visser’s interpretation of the character of Tess was another layer of adaptation, and the final step in bringing the story to life.

Meg and Tracey also both spoke of how the screenplay was changed due to constraints while filming – like service delivery protests in Masiphumelele and the weather changing to rain. Also in the process of editing, scenes that were shot had to be cut.

* * * * *

Here are some photos from the event:

Ladies at the launchGroup at the launch

 
 
Here are some highlights from the event on Twitter:

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Related posts:

 
 
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Join Us for Our Muizenberg in the Movies Party to Celebrate the Launch of Tess

Tess book cover

 
Come and celebrate the launch of Tess the movie and Tess the book, both set in Muizenberg, and 10 years of Modjaji Books at The Striped Horse in York Road, Muizenberg, on Wednesday, 1 March.

Meet the author Tracey Farren, Director Meg Rickards, and the star of the movie Christia Visser.
Meg will talk about making the movie and show clips of the movie, Tracey will read a scene that was filmed, and Christia will talk about what it was like playing Tess.

Books will be on sale and available for signing, and there will be free movie tickets up for grabs!

Meg Rickards workingTrain MuizenbergTracey Farren
Tess hair in windTess on the road

 
 
Don’t miss this!

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Tess


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The Film Tess has been Picked Up for International Distribution – Don’t Miss the Book and Film Launches!

Tracey FarrenTess Film PosterMeg Rickards

 
The movie Tess, based on Tracey Farren’s debut novel, has been picked up for international distribution by The Little Film Company.

The film was directed by Meg Rickards and produced by Paul Egan and Kim Williams. It has already won awards and hearts at film festivals, and it will be released on the local circuit on Friday, 24 February.

Read more about the international distribution deal here:

The Little Film Company, a motion picture sales and marketing company founded by Robbie and Ellen Little, is no stranger to the South African film industry, the company previously distributed the 2005 Academy Award Best Foreign Picture winner Tsotsi.  “Tess is a very moving and provocative film and we are all incredibly excited to be bringing it to the world”, said Robbie Little.

Watch the trailer for Tess here:

 

 
Director Meg Rickards wrote an article for Mail & Guardian about why she was committed to making this film. She believes it is crucial that women say “No – systemic sexism can never be tolerated,” and keep on saying that as long and as loudly as necessary.

The story of Tess, a young sex-worker, is one that offers a barometer of how dire sexual violence is in our society. It is not intended to be a general representation, but one story about about one woman, and one voice joining the shout to say “No!”

Read the article

Given that I’m a filmmaker — not a nurse, educator or social worker, who would have infinitely more practical responses — this is what I could do about the things that keep me awake at night: make a movie. I have this mad hope in the power of cinema, not to change the world (if only!) but to nudge it. Cinema’s punch, I believe, comes from its capacity to create empathy and on this basis I challenge viewers to take 88 minutes to walk in Tess’s battered boots.

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Tess

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear the author, the director and the publisher of Tess discuss the story at one of these events:

Colleen Higgs, publisher, will be in conversation with author Tracey Farren and Meg Rickards, director of the movie. Entrance is free. Please RSVP to The Book Lounge: booklounge@gmail.com or 021 462 2425.

  • A screening and panel discussion with the WITS African Centre for Migration & Society in Johannesburg on Friday, 24 February at Wits University.

Details to follow.

  • The Nonceba Family Counselling Centre’s fundraising screening of Tess at the V&A Nu Metro on Sunday, 26 February at 7 pm

Author and screenwriter Tracey Farren, director Meg Rickards and lead actress Christia Visser will join Pauline Perez from the Centre for a Q&A after the screening. Tickets cost R150 and include popcorn and a soft drink – please email noncebafcc@gmail.com to book.

* * * * *

Here is a list of cinemas that will screen Tess on release day, 24 February:

STER KINEKOR:

  • Bridge
  • Brooklyn Commercial
  • Cresta
  • East Rand Mall
  • Garden Route Mall
  • Gateway Commercial
  • Irene Mall
  • Colonnade
  • Rosebank Mall Nouveau
  • Somerset Mall
  • Tiger Valley
  • Vaal Mall

NU METRO:

  • Menlyn Park
  • V&A Waterfront

INDEPENDENT:

 
Don’t miss out!

Book details

 
Image of Meg Rickards courtesy of PinkVilla


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Book to movie: Tess by Tracey Farren

Black & White_ Low Res-7Tess book coverModjaji Books and The Book Lounge are very excited to invite you to the launch of TESS by Tracey Farren. TESS is the movie tie-in version of Tracey’s first novel that we originally published as Whiplash back in 2008. For the Cape Town launch of the novel, we are hosting a discussion between Tracey Farren (the author) and Meg Rickards (the director of the movie) about the process of turning the novel Whiplash into the movie Tess. Colleen Higgs the publisher will host the discussion. We’d love to see you there.

The movie opens in South Africa at Ster Kinekor cinemas on the 24th February. The movie has already won several awards and received high praise from reviewers.

‘[Tess] digs its nails into you from the word go … raw, tender, and laugh-out-loud funny – a kickarse gem of a book. Told with startling poetry in the grittiest of emotional landscapes, [it] puts Farren on the map as a wordsmith of astonishing talent.’ – Joanne Fedler

‘Farren shows that she has a true gift for getting into the hearts of very ordinary people while astutely setting the South African sociopolitical context.’ Jane Rosenthal, Mail & Guardian

When the book was published as Whiplash by an unknown debut author in 2008, it was short listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2009, and the author received A White Ribbon Award from the Women Demand Dignity Advocacy Group.

A gut wrenching story of a Muizenberg sex worker, Tess who pops painkillers by the handful and sells her body to strangers. When a condom breaks, Tess’s life swings one eighty degrees. She gives up her drugs until she can get to an abortion clinic. Her cold turkey opens up a window in her mind, whipping Tess into a shattering understanding of how she got here. Tess’s quirky humour, raw honesty and deep love of beauty lead her to find redemption in astonishing places. This book has a huge heart, like Tess, revealing that there is something in everyone that cannot be touched. Not by human hands. Not ever.

Tracey Farren lives a stone’s throw from the Cape Point with some children, a luthier and a pack of dogs. She has a psychology honours degree and worked as a freelance journalist for several years before her muse called her to fiction. Tess is a new edition of her first acclaimed, award-winning novel, Whiplash. Her second novel, Snake was published in to critical acclaim and she has just finished writing her third novel, The Rig.

Event Details

Tess
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German rights sold for Ameera Patel’s Outside the Lines

Ameera PatelOutside the LinesThanks to Bieke van Aggelen’s agenting we have sold the German rights for Ameera Patel’s debut novel, Outside the Lines. The novel came out on March 29th of this year. Patel is a talented actor and writer, she wrote her debut novel while doing her MFA at Wits University.

Outside the Lines has been very well received, Patel has participated in several book festivals this year, Open Book, Kingsmead, and Essence Festival, and more to come next year. The novel has had great reviews. And now this! Before the book is even a year old. We at Modjaji Books are thrilled!

‘Ameera Patel’s first novel is edgy, witty, fresh, engaging, moving, memorable. This is an important new voice in the emerging movement of new South African fiction, taking us to places at once familiar and defamiliarised by the sensitivity of the writing. A vivid portrait of contemporary Johannesburg, wide-ranging, passionately engaged and acerbic.’
Craig Higginson

More about Ameera Patel – she is an actor who has worked on stage and in television (best known for her role as Dr Chetty in Generations). She is also an award winning playwright. She received a distinction for her MA in Creative Writing in 2013 (University of the Witwatersrand).

Here’s an interview with Ameera Patel on SABC TV
YouTube Preview Image

Outside the Lines

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Futhi Ntshingila on a book tour in Brazil

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Dublinense has bought the rights to publish Do Not Go Gentle by Futhi Ntshingila, which has now been translated into Portuguese, as Sem Gentileza. And this November saw Futhi on a three city book tour to Brazil. What an exciting trip for her, but as her publisher, huge vicarious pleasure for me too. Modjaji has become a publisher that has made this possible for one of our authors. I can see from the snippets on Facebook and Instagram that Futhi has been well received in Brazil, Sem Gentileza has gone into a second print run. There are pictures of long lines of people waiting to have Futhi sign their copy of Sem Gentileza So in South African terms it has become a best seller there.

I met Gustavo Faraon in 2012 at the Frankfurt Invitation Programme and it was through this meeting that the Brazilian publication became possible. We are also in the process of selling North American rights, and an Italian publisher is considering Do Not Go Gentle after meeting with Gustavo at Frankfurt this year.

I’m hoping we can sell the Dublinense edition back into Lusophone Africa. May be we will see Futhi on a book tour in Angola and Mozambique before too long.

Having a house that resembles a book warehouse, and all the shlepping and hassling becomes really worth for moments like these. I can’t wait to hear more from Futhi when she gets back.

Futhi in Brazil 1

Do Not Go Gentle

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Book Lounge launch interview with Ishara Maharaj

Ishara Maharaj’s debut novel, Namaste Life, tells the story of a pair of Hindu twins who leave their home in Durban to study in Grahamstown, only to encounter the kind of tragedy that makes parents want to keep their daughters close. The novel launched at the Book Lounge in Cape Town on 20 July 2016 with a discussion that tapped into the novel’s many facets, such as the dark themes of rape, victim-blaming, and the clash between contemporary life and religious belief. Ishara also shared her thoughts about portraying the Durban Hindu community, the role of Hindu mysticism, and the balance of tragedy and celebration that the story maintains. For those who missed the launch, she has written up her responses to the discussion questions.

Namaste Life Book Lounge launch

Image by Leanne Brady

Part of the novel is set in Durban, where you’re originally from, and the twins go to university at Grahamstown, where you studied. Can you tell us a bit about how those influences emerge in the novel?

One of the initial sparks for writing this novel was reading fiction by other local authors. Rayda Jacobs’ Confessions of a Gambler tackled deeply held beliefs within the Cape Muslim community and got me thinking about how very little has been written about the Durban Hindu community in modern-day terms. While the Hindu community remains strong in terms of its Indian roots, many young people like myself left Durban for better employment prospects, and our lives have changed. I wanted to write about those everyday struggles that young people from this community face, and to express that, as South Africans, we all experience similar struggles irrespective of our cultural or religious backgrounds.

Are you at all similar to your protagonists?

The twin girls in Namaste Life represent different aspects of my personality in some sense. Surya is the rebellious party girl; Anjani is gentle, studious and generally curious about the world. Both are confident in their own ways. Surya has the spontaneity most people wish they had, and Anjani grapples with her connection to the universe while living her life on this planet. I like to think of myself as spontaneous at times, but deeply curious about our subconscious and dreams, as well as the mysteries of the universe! Both Surya and Anjani display resilience and authenticity, two traits I certainly value in myself and in others.

Surya is the quintessential party girl: she’s obsessed with her appearance, wears lots of sexy clothing, has quite a reputation for partying and drinking, flirts with lots of guys, etc. Anjani, is the complete opposite: she’s studious, dresses modestly, has no interest in partying, and is quite devout. As a result it almost seems like Surya’s being set up for victim-blaming when she gets raped. She’s the ‘bad girl’ some people picture when they assume that women must somehow be asking for it. In fact, that’s the exact reaction her mother and grandmother have – they believe the rape is Surya’s fault because she was ‘misbehaving’ as usual. How does the novel tackle this issue? How would you like readers to approach it?

When I wrote these scenes in the novel, it was never my intention to set Surya up for victim-blaming. As we know, the notion that the way a woman dresses makes her more prone to be raped is a complete myth, and a ridiculous one at that, given the fact that all kinds of women are raped under varied circumstances. My intention for including a rape in this novel was to get readers to talk about the subject from a healing perspective i.e. what happens to women and their families after a rape? How do we heal? And if a rape occurred in our family circles, how would we deal with it? The reactions from Surya’s mother and grandmother are extremes to create emotional turmoil in readers’ minds. But if Namaste Life can be discussed among just one group of women in South Africa, I would be happy. More specifically, if our young girls in high schools can talk to their mothers and families about rape and sexual assault and how it affects our lives, my aim would have been achieved.

The dialogue captures the nuances of the Durban Indian dialect; if you’re familiar with it, you can really hear the voices as you read. Was it quite a challenge to capture that dialect on the page, or does writing it come naturally to you?

I think my years growing up in Durban has ingrained that dialect in my head, so I definitely heard it as I wrote, but my studies in linguistics and the mechanics of language really helped me to understand it in terms of social register and spelling. It gave me new appreciation for the slang as well. And there was no way to avoid using the dialect – it just makes for a more believable setting and more authentic characters.

In the Durban Hindu community, the women’s lives are characterised by intense scrutiny: the neighbours are always watching and gossiping. Initially there’s an element of humour to it, but after Surya is raped, her mother and grandmother’s reactions are defined, not only by their religious beliefs, but by their concerns about what the neighbours are going to say if they find out that Surya lost her virginity. Much of the tension in the story comes from this problem. Can you tell us about articulating that difficult mother–daughter relationship? Nirmala wants very much to protect her daughters, but her care ends up manifesting as cruelty.

This kind of scrutiny among women is not endemic to the Indian community. We have all heard the phrase ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. In this case, it’s keeping up with the Harsinghs! Saving face in the community is a traditional facet that is particularly important for the older generations. It comes from a sense of pride in what has been achieved by families, and some women take it to the extreme when they show off about their husbands’ or children’s achievements. The twins’ mother Nirmala is proud of her family’s status within the community and she wants to uphold that at all costs – even to the point of being cruel to her own daughter. We see the complete insignificance of that community status in Surya and Anjani’s lives and belief systems and this produced the tension to stir the emotional pot between mother and daughters.

It’s interesting to compare Nirmala and the grandmother, Nanima, to the twins’ father, Ashok. He’s unfailingly kind and supportive, which makes his character so much more likeable, but it’s worth noting that, as a man in this community, he doesn’t have to worry about the neighbours and the gossip. In fact he only talks about it in relation to how it affects his wife’s health. Would you say he’s the better parent, or does he just have the freedom to be more loving?

I wouldn’t say he’s a better parent, but he certainly has a different parenting style. It goes back to the way mothers are with their sons and the special bonds between fathers and their daughters. In the Indian community, mothers tend to be harder on their daughters to prepare them for the world outside their childhood homes. But fathers want to shield their daughters at all costs and so they tend to be more loving. Ashok represents a slightly different take in this case, as he allows his daughters to go away to Grahamstown for university. This isn’t usually an option in more traditional Indian homes where sons are typically given more freedom than daughters.

Ashok’s a wealthy, successful businessman, but he’s also quite inept as an adult; his wife and mother-in-law do all the work of looking after him at home. There’s a funny scene where he’s packing for a trip, but he and Nirmala aren’t talking to each other, so he can’t ask her where his underwear is kept and has to look through all the drawers until he finds it. Is that typical of the gender dynamics in the community? 

Surprisingly, it is the case within the Indian community and it goes back to the way mothers traditionally raise their sons and daughters. Sons are taken care of to the point where some of them have never cleared the table or washed a plate in their youth. They get married and their wives – those daughters raised to care for the men-folk – take over from their mothers as caregivers rather than partners. Of course, this has changed over the years with modern family dynamic and more women having full-time careers, but I personally know of men in my own generation who have their wives packing and even buying their clothes!

The Hindu gods Ganesh and Parvati are in the background watching the whole story play out and tweaking things here and there, helping the characters out with symbolic dreams. Can you tell us a bit more about the role of Hinduism and the gods in the story?

I did not want the novel to be too preachy, but I wanted readers to get a feel for some Hindu concepts, particularly the connection to dreams as well as the concepts of karma and the cyclical nature of life. I have personally been fascinated by dreams, the subconscious and the connection to higher powers that dreams provide. For example, there is a certain time on the Hindu calendar dedicated to the worship of ancestors, and many Hindus find themselves dreaming of loved ones who have passed on, even without them knowing that it is the time for ancestral remembrance. I also really do feel that life is cyclical in nature – we simply cannot appreciate the good things and good times in our lives without going through some struggles. We also have the power to influence our futures by the actions we take in this time. Karma is not all set in stone! Hinduism and all its mysticism is an inherent part of the Hindu community so I had to refer to it in Namaste Life for a more authentic read. Dreams and the connection to ancestors are part of other cultures in South Africa as well, so this is a great point of conversation between different cultures.

Although the story deals with rape, victim-blaming and religion, it also has a light side with a Bollywood-style romance for Anjani. Why did you choose to juxtapose those two plots?

I suppose I felt that this novel needed to balance out with a great romance. Life is seasonal and we can never suffer forever. Anjani is seen as the supportive sister throughout the novel, but she needed to have her own story. Her romance with Himal and the wedding isn’t actually all Bollywood! Hindu weddings in South Africa do have ceremonies that span three days (I think it can span five days in India!). And the traditional Indian dress is bright with amazing fabrics and costume jewellery, so if you ever attend a wedding in Durban or Joburg, you may feel that you are in a Bollywood movie, but the dress and the celebrations are very much standard practice!

Interview by book blogger and editor Lauren Smith.

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Every day is Women’s Day at Modjaji Books – huge website sale

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Every day is Women’s Day at Modjaji Books, and so is every month.

We are having a huge website sale to clear stock from my home warehouse (i.e. lounge and dining room and bedroom and garage). Thanks to those of you who have helped me with this already.

Even if you don’t want to buy – do have a browse on the Modjaji website to see what we’ve published in the last 9 years!

I’m a bit proud of all those beautiful books out in the world because of this work. (Actually more than a bit).


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