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Tymon Smith Interviews Ronnie Kasrils About The Unlikely Secret Agent

The Unlikely Secret AgentFormer Minister of Intelligence Services Ronnie Kasrils was interviewed by Tymon Smith about his book The Unlikely Secret Agent, which is dedicated to his late wife Eleanor with whom Kasrils worked underground for the ANC during Operation Vula. Kasrils began writing the book shortly after his wife died and says that the process made him feel, like Tchaikovsky, “demented with this composition”.

Kasrils left his position as Minister of Intelligence following Thabo Mbeki’s resignation from the presidency in 2008. This is a period which Kasrils says may serve as inspiration for a new book: “My publisher wants me to write about it – the e-mails, treachery and the role of Jacob Zuma, Billy Masetla etc. For me to do it now – there are still aspects of what happened and the plot goes on. In another five years there will be a lot more that can be said and I need to do more research”.

When did you decide to write the book?

Soon after my wife died. I felt I had to do it because there had been a bit of a project between Eleanor and me. She wasn’t really confident of her writing skills so I said, “let’s do it together”. And that was something we began talking about after I resigned from government at the end of 2008. Things were going very well, we were very much in love and having quality time and she suddenly just collapsed, getting out of bed one morning, with a massive stroke. Totally out of the blue. After the initial grieving, I felt like I had to write the story and I wrote it in three months during this awful Cape winter, where I was now in this house of our dreams on my own, with the south-easter and the wind and the gales and the grey skies, quite spooky actually, and I just wrote it, feeling like Tchaikovsky or something, demented with this composition. It was a fantastic thing to write and it made me feel so close to her.

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