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Jonathan Ball

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Archive for February, 2012

Lesley Lokko Illuminates the Similarities Between Novelist and Architect

A Private AffairIn an interview with Business Day‘s Lauren de Beer, Lesley Lokko, author of A Private Affair, takes a close look at her “seamless” career switch from architect to novelist. Lokko describes the similarities between her two professions, saying “I couldn’t have written [my novels] if I hadn’t studied architecture; they’re very structural.”

If Lesley Lokko was in the habit of judging books by their covers, she admits she’d be giving all six of her bestsellers a wide berth. Five of them have twee images depicting idyllic seaside scenes, complete with pink beach umbrellas, swaying palm trees and rambling holiday homes.

“I absolutely loathe them — the last cover had a beach and there isn’t a beach reference in the book!” she says, exasperated.

But beach scenes sell, according to the UK’s supermarket giants, who are the biggest buyers of the books — and it’s a brave publisher to change a winning formula.

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Margie Orford to Present GIPCA Talk on “The Simple Art of Murder”

Margie Orford

Gallows HillOn Thursday 1 March, acclaimed crime writer Margie Orford will be delivering a talk as part of the Gordon Institute of Performing Arts‘ Great Texts/Big Questions series.

Orford, most recently the author of Gallows Hill, will be discussing Raymond Chandler’s famous essay on the aesthetics of crime writing, “The Simple Art of Murder”, while examining the films of Hitchock, HBO’s The Wire, Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe and of course, the “new wave” of South African crime fiction.

The event will take place at the University of Cape Town‘s Hiddingh Campus at 5.30 PM. Entrance is free, but booking is necessary. See you there!

Award-winning journalist and internationally acclaimed writer Margie Orford will present an analysis of The Simple Art of Murder.

Written in 1944, Raymond Chandler’s famous and enduring essay on the ethics and the aesthetics of writing crime and fiction frames so much about the perception of crime and its representations – both fictional and real. Discussing the hardboiled detective novel – from Hitchcock’s films to The Wire, from Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe to the heroes of the new wave of South African crime fiction – the questions implicit in Chandler’s essay remain, and provide useful illumination towards some South African answers.

Event details

  • Time: 5:00 PM for 5:30 PM
  • Date: Thursday, 1 March 2012
  • Venue: Hiddingh Hall,
    University of Cape Town Hiddingh Campus,
    Orange Street,
    Cape Town | Map
  • Queries: 021 480 7156 or

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Photo courtesy Times LIVE

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Introducing Michael Morris’ Portrait of Transition: Apartheid: An Illustrated History

ApartheidThis March from Jonathan Ball Publishers, Apartheid: An Illustrated History by Michael Morris:

“South Africa is still living an apartheid narrative, and even, in perverse ways, recreating it.”

The one thing that looms largest in South Africa’s future is South Africa’s past – most especially the nearly five decades of division and conflict at the heart of one of the twentieth century’s most infamous social experiments.

Apartheid: An Illustrated History is a portrait of the defining experience of modern South Africa’s transition from colonial state to democracy. What began in May 1948 as a vague, grimly ambitious project to interrupt history and engineer white supremacy at the expense of the country’s black majority spawned forty-six years of repressive authoritarianism and bitter resistance which claimed the lives of thousands and pushed the country to the brink of civil conflict.

A provocative postscript examines apartheid’s stubborn afterlife in the years since 1994, suggesting that the optimism and democratic vitality of the constitutional state hinge on South Africans avoiding simplistic views of the past that might lend themselves to demagoguery. For all its catastrophic and lingering effects, the book concludes, apartheid was disarmed, ultimately, by the society’s much longer history of inseparability.

Journalist Michael Morris draws on the work of scholars and historians as well as contemporary reporting in an unsentimental and highly readable account, vividly complemented by photographs and cartoons.

About the author

Michael Morris began his career in journalism in 1979. He spent three years in London in the 1980s as a foreign correspondent for the Argus group of newspapers, returning to a posting in Parliament that spanned the last days of PW Botha and the first year of Nelson Mandela’s post-1994 government. He is an assistant editor on the Cape Argus.

Morris is the author of a history of South Africa, Every Step of the Way, commissioned by the South African History Project to commemorate the 10th anniversary of democracy in 2004, as well as Paging Through History: 150 years with the Cape Argus 1857-2007.

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Tom Stevenson Elaborates on the “Extraordinary” Career of Andrew Feinstein

The Shadow WorldWriting for the London Student, Tom Stevenson remarks on the incredible career of MP-turned-activist Andrew Feinstein, who released his latest book, The Shadow World, in November last year.

Stevenson, who interviewed Feinstein for the paper, describes the author’s “imperishable passion” for the subjects he writes and speaks about – particularly the global arms trade, on which he is considered something of an expert:

Andrew Feinstein’s career is nothing short of extraordinary. Born in South Africa, then educated in some of the finest Anglo-American Universities in the world, he joined Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) at just 30 years old. Within two years he was advising Tokyo Sexwale – the then Premier of South Africa’s key Gauteng province – on economic policy, and within three he was elected (with the ANC) to the South African National Assembly. He was truly, in the words of an American diplomat in Atlanta, “one of Mandela’s people”.

Like many in the ANC, he went through a disillusionment with the party that ended Apartheid following the end of Mandela’s leadership in 1999, and resigned in 2001. But Feinstein’s resignation came under very specific conditions. In 1998/9 Tony Blair travelled to South Africa on a diplomatic mission linked to a highly controversial arms deal between BAE systems and Saab, and the South African government. Feinstein began investigating the arms deal, the biggest in South Africa’s history, and soon concluded that an official investigation was needed. He was, as he puts it, “effectively thrown out of parliament”. But this was by no means the end. He is now one of the ANC’s foremost critics, and his books are blurbed by the likes of Desmond Tutu and Arundhati Roy.

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Podcast: Simon Mann Discusses the Justification of Military Intervention in Foreign Countries

Cry HavocSimon Mann, the famous mercenary whose failed coup attempt is described in his memoir, Cry Havoc, gave an in-depth account of his military intervention in Equatorial Guinea in a discussion panel hosted by Chatham House.

In a talk with Alex Vines, chaired by Professor Nana Poku, Mann spoke about his military beginnings in Northern Ireland and the justifications behind intervention.

If it is justified for people to use violence to defend themselves against assault, as in the case of a revolution against tyranny, Mann argues that intervention is equally justified if it aims to end tyranny in the same manner.

Listen to a podcast of the discussion followed by the audience Q&A, or read a transcript:


Simon Mann:

My virginity was lost at a women’s bra and panty works, the old Knicker Factory in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, but that loss was of my virginity as a soldier not anything else and was thanks to the Provisional IRA, not to any lady.

That was in 1973. We, the British Army, were intervening, an intervention in Northern Ireland that was clear enough – the Catholics were fighting back against discrimination, the Protestants wanted to burn them out – our intervention in aid of the civil power, the minimum use of force. But that Northern Ireland intervention was a screw-up, even if it was a necessary one, even if it was by the British Army. At the time of my first tour, the loss of my virginity, we were disarming the police, the RUC, sometimes having to use force to do so.

Intervention is messy. By my next tour, North Howard Street Mill, Falls Road, we had that fatuous document to deal with, The Way Ahead. The way backwards was how it read. Who here remembers that?Having disarmed the police we were now to re-empower them and do what they asked despite the fact they wouldn’t move out of their police station to serve a summons, not without a platoon of guardsmen to look after them.

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How to Write About Sex: Interview with Richard Mason on History of a Pleasure Seeker

History of a Pleasure SeekerRichard Mason, the precocious author who made his literary début at the tender age of 19 with The Drowning People, spoke to Jane Ciabattari of The Daily Beast about his latest novel, The History of a Pleasure Seeker.

In the interview, Mason talks about the difficulties of writing about sex, saying that most writers of literary fiction (with a few exceptions) avoid writing about the details of sex. He says the difference between pornography and an erotic literary scene is psychology. Emotions have to be involved.

Mason revealed that he is currently working on a literary app to accompany the novel. It will provide the “sights and sounds” of the story, including narration by Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens. Mason also mentioned that he is currently writing a sequel to The History of a Pleasure Seeker, which sees the main character, Piet Barol, continue his sexual adventures, beginning in Johannesburg 1913:

When I sat down with novelist Richard Mason at Aroma Espresso Bar on the Upper West Side to talk about his fourth novel, History of a Pleasure Seeker, we talked first about the digital age—he’s been developing a literary app to accompany the new novel—and organic farming.

“I’ve been living on a hillside with some twenty to thirty Xhosas,” he said about the tent in the rural Eastern Cape of South Africa, his homeland, where he lives and works on a permaculture farming project funded with profits from his writing.

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Photo courtesy The Booksmith

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Coming Soon: Michael Brett’s Getaway Guide Eastern Cape and Wild Coast

Getaway Guide Eastern Cape and Wild CoastComing soon from Sunbird Publishers, Getaway Guide Eastern Cape and Wild Coast by Michael Brett:

The Eastern Cape province has something to offer every visitor, whether you are looking for a relaxed beach holiday or a close encounter with wildlife, a cultural experience or a trip back into history.

The province contains areas of almost unrivalled natural beauty and the range of landscape and vegetation types is simply incredible, from the snowy mountains of the Drakensberg, the wide open arid plains and rugged mountains of the Karoo, gently rolling grassy hills with forest patches tucked into their valleys, and deeply incised, thicket-crowded river valleys, not to forget the finest sandy beaches set on a pristine coastline.

This authoritative and comprehensive guide contains up-to-date information that will help you to make the most of your visit to this region.

  • Background information on the province’s geography, climate, people and culture
  • Ten regional chapters from Tsitsikamma to the mountainous interior
  • Over 50 maps, including a map of each region, all the major towns and most of the smaller towns
  • The latest info on national parks and provincial reserves
  • Accommodation options from camping sites and backpackers’ lodges to guesthouses and hotels that will suit all budgets
  • Where to eat and where to shop

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Leila Aboulela’s Lyrics Alley Now in Paperback

Lyrics AlleyLeila Aboulela’s Orange Prize longlisted novel, Lyrics Alley, is now available in paperback:

Set in 1950s Sudan, Lyrics Alley is the story of the powerful and sprawling Abuzeid dynasty.

With Mahmoud Bey at its helm, the family can do no wrong. But when Mahmoud’s son, Nur – the brilliant, charming heir to his business empire – suffers a near-fatal accident, his hopes of university and a glittering future are dashed. Subsequently, his betrothal to his cousin and sweetheart, Soraya is broken off.

As British rule is coming to an end, and the country is torn between modernising influences and the call of traditions past, the family is divided. Mahmoud’s second wife, Nabilah, longs to return to Egypt and leave behind the dust of ‘backward-looking’ Sudan. His first wife, Waheeba, is confined to her open-air kitchen and resents Nabilah’s influence on Mahmoud. Meanwhile, Nur must find a way to live again in the world and find peace.

Moving from the villages of Sudan to cosmopolitan Cairo and a decimated post-colonial Britain, this is a sweeping tale of love, loss, faith and reconciliation.

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Jonny Steinberg: Race Relations Have an Influence on Science and Technology in SA

Little LiberiaIn his latest column for the Sunday Times, Jonny Steinberg, author of Three Letter Plague and Little Liberia, investigates the post-apartheid government’s precarious relationship with science and technology, of which “the most dramatic manifestation” is Thabo Mbeki’s position on HIV/Aids.

Steinberg attributes this to a distrust of the institutions in which scientific knowledge is located, seeing as the apartheid government viewed scientific expertise as “one of the things that they believed distinguished white from black civilisation”.

Do science and technology mean different things to black and white South Africans?

At first blush, the question may seem race-obsessed and silly. After all, a person’s attitude to science surely does not depend only on his or her race. But looked at over the broad sweep of our recent history, it is in fact a vital question, for democratic and apartheid South Africa have both understood science through race, with important consequences for us all.

What science meant to whites during the years of minority rule was complicated. Generations of white leaders were uncomfortably aware that they lived on the periphery of Western civilisation; the greatest achievements of their culture were always hatched by people an ocean away.

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Tracking in the Urban Jungle: Deon Meyer Discusses the Inspiration Behind Trackers

TrackersBill Selnes, from the Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan blog, interviewed Deon Meyer about the inspiration and research that went into the novel Trackers:

1.) In my review I set out 26 different types of tracking that take place in Trackers. Did you plan to feature so many different ways of tracking in the book? If you did I would appreciate knowing how many methods of tracking you inserted as I am curious as to how close I came to finding all of them. (Maxine from the book blog Petrona inspired this question through a comment on my review of the book.)

I wish I was clever enough to do that much detailed planning. My intention was much more modest: to simply draw an analogy between animal tracking and habits, and the human equivalents. My source (Louis Liebenberg’s ‘The Art of Tracking’) was so rich in material that it did the rest on its own.

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