The whole point of the book is contained in the title. All sorts of draconian measures and violations of decency are carried out in the name of emergency. Needless to say, it ends unhappily. Especially if you know that African security police loved wearing sunglasses. Coetzee approaches apartheid through allegory. What message does this allegory carry for white South Africans?
My sense is that white South African identity is something John sees as so damaged that he wanted to destroy it. And in some ways his literary career is about destroying it. He did tell me one thing that was useful.
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He said that he wrote four hours a day. I tried that for a couple of years and almost killed myself. Now I try to write two to three hours a day. What role does humour play in South African literature?
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But your question was about humour in South Africa. We have a number of funny writers. Herman Charles Bosman is quite entertaining. So is Pieter-Dirk Uys. Humour is a way of being racist without being responsible. Hillbrow is a notorious suburb of Johannesburg. Johannesburg, as far as I can tell, is the most notorious city in the world. People in Johannesburg are scared to go to Hillbrow, even those that live there. This book was one of the first looks at what it meant to be young and black and relatively hip in the post-apartheid period.
They just died — as Phaswane did, too young — of some unknown illness. There are several wonderful black writers. One is my friend Zuki Wanner.
There are some others. But South Africa is not a country conducive to serious writing. Can you talk about the impact of Aids in South Africa and its literature? But in the late s and all the way through the 90s people were dying at a rate of something like 1, a day. We have so many people and such high unemployment and such little care for each life that we lost this huge number of people, about 2. Now we have a vast orphan problem. But the key thing about South Africa is, if you are a member of the middle class, you can live here and have almost no contact with its problems.
In our country, even the white writers have unpronounceable names. People in South Africa, particularly white South Africans, love these schools.
They get rid of their children as soon as possible, in my case at the age of nine, to send them to these schools. Spud is about an underdog white kid who gets up to the usual tricks at one of these schools. Spud is funny but I think its popularity demonstrates nostalgia for the old order that these schools represented. Does it merit that comparison?
Like Catcher in the Rye , it is a bestseller. Spud is the largest-selling novel in South African history. It sold something like 80, or , copies. Another unpronounceable name. His dad may have been from Croatia or something. But Ivan is the most interesting writer on modern urban South Africa. Portrait with Keys is a fictionalised set of little stories.
I thought it was a memoir at first but in the book he has conversations with a nonexistent brother. So I decided to classify it as a novel. When you stay overnight in a house, they lock all the exterior doors and set the alarm, then go upstairs and lock interior doors just in case somebody breaks in downstairs. So those are the keys. The tone is very different. Dubliners is elegiac, Portrait with Keys is eccentric. But both are really good books. What can we learn about crime and poverty in urban South Africa by reading this book?
Have you ever played the video game Doom? I always thought of Johannesburg as like the world in Doom. The moment you are out in a passageway, someone is trying to kill you; the moment you go through a door, there are shots. Ivan does a great job of exploring how human life can continue in those circumstances.
The tourist bureau will not be happy with you. My next novel is about what we call taxis. The central vehicles of South African transport are these little vans that pick people up. The owners get together, divide up territory, and wage war on rival companies. They constantly have shootouts. With the exception of the author of Spud , no South African writer has ever become rich, except by marrying rich.
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