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January 11, 2012
October 30, 2011
From JM Coetzee to Nelson Mandela, the author chooses her favourite ‘performances of courage and honesty’ that have come out of the continent.
“The memoirs that have come out of Africa are sometimes startlingly beautiful, often urgent, and essentially life-affirming, but they are all performances of courage and honesty. Far from the tell-all confessionals more usual in western memoirs, the African memoir lays bare the bones of what it is to be a child, survivor, or perpetrator of oppression and conflict.
“What is often shocking, but very effective, is the humour evident in so many of these works, laughter being an essential survival technique for so many Africans (and of her writers). The act of writing is also a defiant way of asserting, “I was born. I am here. I will remain.” In places of chronic instability, the memoir is an anchor of words to an experience and place and a way to bear witness; to expose and perhaps even explain the atrocities of war, racism, tribalism and cronyism. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, my own memoirs of Africa, are written from a white African point of view, but explore the ways in which the land possesses all of us who love it – regardless of ethnicity – and the ways in which laughter can make palatable life’s unendurable losses.”
July 17, 2011
January 26, 2011
Africa’s best books of 2010 including Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself and a biography of Nigerian poet Christopher Okigbo, plus what books to look out for in 2011.
December 23, 2010
Selected by employees and critics at The Times, and compiled by Andrew Donaldson
The Times of London described it as “absolutely brilliant”. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Galgut’s intense and acclaimed triptych – a collection, if you will, of three novellas – has drawn the inevitable comparisons with JM Coetzee, but Galgut’s really is a unique and original voice in South African fiction. In the stories here, a young man embarks upon a series of journeys, through Greece, India and Africa, in a search for love, identity and home.
CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF, Nelson Mandela (Macmillan)
Gathered from unpublished writings, diary entries and correspondence in a seemingly raw and unmediated manner, Conversations gave us the most moving and intimate portrait of the former president. Certainly, it refreshed parts that A Long Walk to Freedom failed to reach. Though Mandela took great care to mask his emotions and feelings, his letters to his wife and children reveal a loneliness and isolation that is utterly heartbreaking.
TELLING TIMES: WRITING AND LIVING, 1950 – 2010, Nadine Gordimer (Bloomsbury)
A companion of sorts to Life Times, an anthology of her best short fiction, this hefty volume gathers up a half-century of non-fiction and reveals Gordimer’s life as a moral activist, political visionary and literary icon. The range of this book is staggering, and stretches back to the dying days of colonial rule to the present-day conflicts of HIV/Aids, xenophobia and globalisation. Throughout all this, of course, was the scourge of racism and apartheid, and it is Gordimer’s brave and commendable engagement with the Nationalist government and the order it sought to impose upon us that particularly enthrall.
SUMMERTIME, JM Coetzee (Vintage)
Completing the trilogy of “memoirs” that began with Boy and Youth, Summertime is a story about a young biographer working on a book about a dead writer, John Coetzee, by focusing on the 1970s when the awkward and bookish Coetzee was finding his feet as a writer. So the biographer interviews a married woman with whom he had an affair, a favourite cousin, a dancer whose daughter was taught English by Coetzee, as well as other colleagues and friends. Praised as edgy, black, remorselessly human, Summertime was also humorous and offbeat, even wacky a portrait of the artist as outsider….read more