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Jani Allan’s Jani Confidential Launched with Darrel Bristow-Bovey and Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Jani Allan

There was a full house at Kalk Bay Books recently for the launch of Jani Allan’s Jani Confidential – and the crowd waited patiently for the arrival of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Buthelezi had flown to Cape Town to show his support for Allan, who rose to fame as a Sunday Times columnist in the 1980s and now works as a waitress in New Jersey in the US. The wait was well rewarded, with an evening of sparkling banter between Allan and Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

Buthelezi was warmly welcomed at the event, which prompted Bristow-Bovey’s observation: “It’s like a small political rally in here.” He introduced the author and thanked the guests who had braved the massive roadworks on the way to Kalk Bay. “It’s a little-known fact,” he quipped, “that they began the same month that Jani started writing her column.”

Jani Allan and Darrel Bristow-BoveyJani ConfidentialBristow-Bovey quizzed Allan about the writing journey as well as her trip back to South Africa. “It’s a little like being in a Magimix,” she said, “coming from my gruelling life in New Jersey to my gruelling author tour, but I’m deeply grateful and rather surprised that people even remember me.” She said that South Africans had remarkable memories: “Elephants probably consult you!”

The author spoke candidly about her anxiety prior to her return, saying that there was a time she thought it was perhaps the “worst idea” she’d ever had. She was pleasantly surprised by the kindness she has encountered here, but Bristow-Bovey and Allan exchanged knowing looks when she recalled the haters who “never die …”

Jani Confidential tells your story in anecdotes and cinematic flashes starting from childhood, covering the main events and leading to now. Was the impulse to settle scores or to give your version of events?” Bristow-Bovey asked. “It was all about the money!” she chirped. In fact, Jacana publisher Bridget Impey suggested she write the book and it paved the way for Allan to return to South Africa. She expressed enormous gratitude for the support, editing, and possibilities that the publication had brought her.

After Bristow-Bovey asked, “Are you planning to interview Julius Malema any time soon?” it came out that Allan and Andile Mxithama have been exchanging tweets on this very topic. “I said, ‘Comrade, buy the book, otherwise we don’t talk!” said Allan.

Irreverent, self-deprecating and hilarious as the conversation between these two livewires was, it also touched on the searing experience of her friends’ betrayal and the troubling phenomena of social media shaming and the dreadful consequences of public humiliation. Bristow-Bovey reflected on Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk which addresses the topic of “slut-shaming” and the price of shame.
Jani Allan and Prince Buthelezi
He said, “Scientific studies show that humiliation is the thing people feel more intensely than anger or sorrow or even happiness.” Allan testified to this, saying that once you’ve been shamed publicly, it feels as though your genetic structure is changed at a cellular level.

Allan said the experience was profoundly dehumanising, and that she still feels the ramifications down the years. “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will certainly harm you. Journalists are terribly irresponsible,” she said. “It destroyed me.”

Recently, an open letter Allan wrote to Oscar Pistorius had people reminding her once again that she was “Eugène Terre’Blanche’s whore”.

Recovery after the traumatic libel trial in London in the late 1980s has been a very slow process. Allan recalled the searing encounter as she exited the court, and says she believes she was in a state of dissociation. “If I look at photos of that day, I can see I was not ‘there’,” she said.

Gradually, her inner strength returned through prayer, her faith, and the love of her Pomeranian dogs, and she said writing Jani Confidential had been a blessing, a way of fleshing out the cartoon strip character that everybody held of her.

The evening was remarkable in so many ways, and Allan spoke strongly about her refusal to be bitter. Those who missed it will find much inspiration for surviving the vicissitudes of their own lives in the book.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:


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Jani Allen launched her memoir in conversation with Darrel Bristow Bovey

Posted by Jacana Media on Monday, 11 May 2015


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