Interviews

In the following interviews all the authors discuss and read excerpts from their works. The interviews, which appear here by permission of the authors, have all been released under Creative Commons.

Interview with Antjie Krog (June 2013):

Interview with Arvind Krishna Mehrotra (April 2013):

Interview with Amit Chaudhuri (June 2013):

For other related interviews and podcasts, click here.


Email exchange with J. M. Coetzee (21-23 October 2011):

PMcD: Do you recall ever reading F. A. Venter’s Swart Pelgrim (1952, rev. ed. 1958); if so, when, and do you remember what you thought of it at the time?

JMC:  I read Swart Pelgrim in 1955. It was recommended to me as proof that Afrikaners did indeed care about Africans. I don’t recall what I thought of it at the time, but looking back it now seems to me a very simple-minded book.

PMcD: Do you recall ever reading Elsa Joubert’s Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978); if so, when, and do you remember what you thought of it at the time?

JMC: I read Poppie when it came out and was moved by it. I knew Elsa and her husband quite well – used to play billiards with them in their cellar in Oranjezicht – and remember thinking how wonderful it was that such an ordinary-seeming person as Elsa could write such a good book. Elsa spoke to me about some of the letters she received, including letters from people who said the book had changed their lives. I can believe it.

PMcD: There is plenty of evidence in the parts of your ‘archive’ that are currently accessible of your engagement with black African and South African writers. When it comes to Afrikaans literary culture, however, the traces are less obvious, once, that is, we look beyond your responses to Brink, Breytenbach and the plaasroman [farm novel]. Did you have any interest in ‘keeping up’ with the wider world of Afrikaans writing, especially in the years from the late 1950s up to, say, 2000, and did you have any sense of yourself as being in dialogue with it as a writer in works other than In the Heart of the Country?

JMC: From the time of my return to South Africa in 1971 I consciously kept up with what was being written in Afrikaans – I thought it was more interesting than what was coming out in English. I also had more to do with Western Cape Afrikaans literary circles than with English (which never went in for literary circles), partly through the Skrywersgilde [Afrikaans Writer’s Guild formed in 1975], partly through people like Danie Goosen, Amanda Botha, Elsa Joubert and Klaas Steytler (who worked for Tafelberg [a leading Afrikaans publishing house]), and – through Die Suid-Afrikaan – with people at Stellenbosch like Andre du Toit and Hermann Giliomee. I was not (I think) in dialogue with any of them in my writing, but I certainly spent a lot of time talking to them.

PMcD: Finally, is there a particular Afrikaans book and/or author from which/whom you felt you gained something important as a writer?

JMC: The answer is no, but don’t take that as a judgment on Afrikaans writing.


Beyond the book: further interviews and links

The writer Dubravka Ugrešić raises many questions directly relevant to this site in her interview with Verbivorcacious Press, 2016.