The tremors through South African literature

MqombothiHenrietta Rose-Innes at the Times Literary Supplement:

The South African writer Mike Nicol once expressed the thought that, after apartheid fell, the country needed a decade or so to process its violence culturally. He was talking about crime writing – and saw its popular emergence, ten years after the democratic elections, as a result of this digestion. It’s true that things on the ground change pretty fast in South Africa, and literature can take its own sweet time to catch up.

The past twenty years have been an interesting time to come of age as a novelist in South Africa. In 1994, there were many confident predictions that the fall of apartheid would usher in an age of unprecedented creative freedom – an artistic blossoming. When I first entered the publishing world, we were well into the post-apartheid era, but it seemed like local literature was only just beginning to reflect, and reflect on, the changes we’d been through.

In 1998 I’d been one of the first students enrolled in the first Creative Writing masters course in the country, at the University of Cape Town. This felt like a fairly eccentric choice at the time; there was no precedent, and I wasn’t entirely sure of my motivations, other than wanting the rare opportunity to be taught by J. M. Coetzee. It was a bare-bones curriculum back then – my fellow students were wraith-like beings whom I never saw. When I began writing I knew no other local authors, certainly not ones of my own age (then twenty-eight).

more here.