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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Alex Lichtenstein Commends Marikana for Giving the Miners a Voice

MarikanaAlex Lichtenstein has reviewed Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer for the Los Angeles Review of Books. He calls the book a “courageous independent investigation of Marikana” and says that it is extraordinary for many reasons, one of which is its demonstration of what academics and activists can achieve when they work together.

Lichtenstein talks about the importance of capturing the oral histories of the miners in a timely fashion, before the official statements from various parties are used to form a dominating narrative of the events. He says that the book “offers the most detailed reconstruction to date of the events leading up to and including the massacre of August 16″ and that it “speaks directly to a longstanding debate in South Africa about the nature and exercise of working-class power”.

Less than five months after South African police shot down 34 striking miners at Marikana, North West Province, on August 16, 2012, life goes on in South Africa, although perhaps it would be an overstatement to say that things have returned to normal. As Peter Alexander and his colleagues note in their stunning and timely postmortem investigation of the massacre, in South Africa “one has to go back to the Soweto Uprising of 1976 to find an example of government security forces murdering more protestors than at Marikana.”

Book details

  • Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell, Bongani Xezwi
    EAN: 9781431407330
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James Whyle Explains How Cormac McCarthy Influenced The Book of War

The Book of WarLitnet’s Janet van Eeden interviewed James Whyle, author of The Book of War, and reviewed the book, calling it “a masterpiece of exquisite prose”.

Whyle explains how Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian inspired him to look up first hand accounts of South African wars that had occurred over a hundred years ago:

James, you give full credit to Cormac McCarthy for inspiring your harrowing novel, The Book of War. What made you decide to pay tribute to him in this novel, and how did the marriage of your “kid’s” journey coincide with the Eastern Cape Frontier Wars? What made you choose this era in particular?

The point was not to pay tribute to McCarthy. A homage to Blood Meridian without a Judge Holden figure would be a bit like a homage to the Mona Lisa without a smiling woman in it. The point was to try and understand and bring alive South Africa and its history. McCarthy opened a door on to a way of doing that. The era is/was a hundred years before I was born.

When I learnt that Blood Meridian was based on first-hand accounts of events occurring a hundred years before McCarthy was born, I wondered what a parallel search would throw up in South Africa. I came upon two accounts of what has been variously called – as South Africa contorts itself about its history – The Eighth Kaffir War, The War of the Prophet, The Eighth Frontier War, The Eighth War of Freedom and The Eighth War of Dispossession. The books I discovered were: What I Saw in Kaffirland by Stephen Bartlett Lakeman and Campaigning in Kaffirland: or Scenes and Adventures in the Kaffir War of 1851–2 by William Ross King. (It must be noted that both titles contain the Arabic word for “heathen”, the word that Osama bin Laden used about George Bush, a word as toxic in present-day South Africa as the Latin word for “black” is poisonous in America.)

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Janet van Eeden “Intereview”: Lauren Beukes and Zoo City

Zoo CitycarrotJanet van Eeden chatted with Lauren Beukes about Zoo City, which van Eeden calls “a parallel reality on speed”. Beukes talks about keeping her word-muscles flexed, precognition and writing dystopian South Africa. Van Eeden also reviews the book, giving it a straight up carrot:

Your writing is exceptionally descriptive. You create images which drip with cool street-smarts. For example, your description of Vuyo when Zinzi first meets him is that he is wearing “pointy shoes like shiny leather sharks”. We know immediately that this is a man not to be trusted. I deliberately don’t read other reviews or interviews about a writer or the book I’m reviewing so I don’t pick up things by osmosis, as it were. I know you were a journalist and write for an animated series which I’ve seen, but your acutely accurate use of words makes me think you have a background in advertising. Maybe the best way to frame this question is to ask you how you got into writing in the first place and what made you decide to write novels set in a dystopian South Africa?

Advertising?!? You cut me deep. I’ve never worked in advertising. (Apologies – it’s just that you make every word earn its keep, as advertisers do. JvE) It’s more the case that I’ve been writing professionally, practically every day, for the past 13 years. Those word muscles have had a lot of flexing (and I type like a dervish on amphetamines).

With Zoo City I was very much influenced by noir’s president-for-life, Raymond Chandler, who packs a ton of information into a couple of words of character description.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, since I was five, and I found out it was a viable career, that you could get paid to make stuff up. I took a detour along the way into journalism and I still juggle script-writing with novels, but I think that’s only helped my fiction, both in terms of journalism exposing me to strange and interesting things and developing an ear for dialogue (nothing like transcribing hours and hours and hours of interviews) and trying to keep my scenes short and punchy and filmic.

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