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Kurt (a writer): "The most authentic character"

Prof Nigel Thomas (Laval University) kindly provided a most engaging reader’s response re my post-apartheid novel The Afrikaner:

“Hello Arianna. I promised you when I bought your book at Paragraphe Bookstore in Montréal to give you my opinion of it. It certainly held my interest, and in that respect it works as any good work of art ought to. Keep the reader wanting to turn the page has been with us from The Arabian Nights to Margaret Atwood. I saw however that you were struggling to deal with the aftermath of apartheid. If you had succeeded in fusing the family curse with the curse of apartheid, the novel might have been more satisfying. I found Kurt to be the most interesting, most authentic character. His life alone would have made for an interesting novel. He carries within him the curse of apartheid as well as its wounds.

Just before reading The Afrikaner, I read a different South African novel by Kagiso Lesego Molope, a much different novel from yours, a novel that is firmly rooted culturally, although that culture works to the detriment of the two main characters. It does, however, helps to unify the novel. The closest you come to this is with the rituals in the Kalahari. I guess the challenge for post-apartheid writers is how to present post-apartheid reality. Maybe it’s too soon to try. None of what I’ve written here is to imply that your novel isn’t good but rather to let you know that I understand how challenging it is to transmute post-apartheid reality into fiction.” (Nigel Thomas, Laval University).

I have also provided my writer’s answer to Nigel’s comments:

“Dear Nigel, thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback and for your kind words of appreciation. You are right, I think it’s extremely challenging to try to address the complexities of post-apartheid South Africa. For this reason, in my novel I only deal with that very brief moment of South African society caught in a major transition, where everything is extremely fluid and all people are lost trying to find their place (& cultural/identity anchor) in a fast-changing reality. And yes, I agree with you; Kurt is the most interesting character, freely inspired by the life of well renowned South African writer and anti-apartheid activist Breyten Breytenbach. Even more challenging for me was the fact that I am not South African (I am Italian and was in South Africa between 1996 and 2000 working as an international reporter for the Italian press). Through all the many interviews I had with South African people across its multifarious social, racial and ethnic spectrum, I tried to get a glimpse of that complex reality and incorporated the lessons I learned into my fiction. So, you see, Zoe’s story is just one among the many stories that wanted to be told ­for the pure sake of honest, engaged – and hopefully engaging – storytelling. Your feedback means a lot to me, thanks for having provided it.” (Arianna Dagnino).

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