Readersforum's Blog

September 12, 2011

Lightening up the fest

Where to from here? The audience at last weekend’s M&G LitFest looked a lot like it did when the Weekly Mail launched its original literary festival in 1988. (Oupa Nkosi)


In the darkened foyer of the Market Theatre last Sunday morning South Africa’s science fiction It Girl was forced to defend herself against rumours that had emanated from the main ­theatre just minutes before.

Standing in front of the Boekehuis Bookshop table, which was offering stacks of some of South Africa’s best current literature, Lauren Beukes explained to a fan that she had not actually said at a recent Cape Town book launch that she was sick and tired of “boring memoirs of old
white farts”.

She was, she exhaled with a tinge of exasperation, misquoted by a journalist from a Cape Town newspaper. Wearing a frilly black mini-dress and flats, her blonde hair loose around her freckled face, Beukes, who recently won the Arthur C Clarke award for her novel Zoo City, explained what she had said. It went something like this: there is a cliché that South African literature is about the white man’s journey into the interior of the country’s landscape and his own head, and that, she meant to make clear, it’s about much more than that and always has been.

Beukes, at a vibrant, wickedly smart 35, has obviously been busy turning those notions on their misguided heads with her own work.

But considering the circumstances from which the rumours had come — the M&G’s LitFest session eight, a discussion by three not-so-boring old white farts and their memoirs — it was an important point to get right. Especially since it was old white fart #1: former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, author of two not-so-boring struggle memoirs, who had brought the apparently misreported comments to the audience. He was responding to the importance of apartheid history told “for now, for the future and for the young people to know and understand”; for a populace that appears to be ­consumed entirely in the now.

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