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Menings | Opinion > Onderhoude | Interviews > English

Alan Paton Award shortlist: Q&A with Steeped in Blood co-author David Klatzow

Janet van Eeden - 2011-06-01

Untitled Document

What are the challenges of writing about something factual or “real” as opposed to writing a work of fiction?

The challenge of writing about something factual or “real” is that one has got to stay well within the bounds of reality and avoid being sued because many of the things that people do are not entirely to their credit and one always runs the risk of being factual with real people and attracting civil liability. 

Do you think that because of South Africa’s troubled political past, we have more interesting stories to tell than other countries?

South Africa certainly is a country which has many interesting stories because of the turmoil that we have had here which is not yet finished and provides a major backdrop against which one can tell the story. The turbulence of the 1980s and early 1990s made for very interesting investigation.

Are South African readers still keen to find out the truth behind the scandals reported in the daily media, or are they more interested in escapist fiction to immunise them against the chaos surrounding them daily?

I think that most South Africans are keen to find out what went on in those dark years. The youth, I am afraid, are not nearly as interested as the older members of their families, but once they start to read about them, they find the stories interesting.

Is there room for non-fiction writing that doesn’t encompass our apartheid past in this country?

I have no doubt that there is room for non-fiction writing which does not encompass our apartheid past, but in my case I think it is very important to deal with the atrocities of the past so that we do not recapitulate them in the future.

Do you think non-fiction, by its very nature, should have more prominence than fiction in the bookstores? In other words, is it more worthy of promotion than fiction? 

Books that deal with the historical facts of a country are extremely important and in many ways as important as novels which may generate the same degree of historical insight. I would not necessarily put one in a more prominent position than another.

What does this nomination mean to you and is it really good enough just to be nominated?   

I am unbelievably thrilled and excited to have been nominated and really it is, as far as I am concerned, fantastic just to be nominated. It leaves me the feeling of achievement which I have seldom had. 

Are you keen to keep writing in the genre of non-fiction or do you plan to write fiction soon? If so, what attractions does fiction offer you as a writer?

I do want to write another book to deal with the exposure of the difference between the reality and the fiction regarding the courts of law.

Does receiving recognition like this not make writing your next book a bit daunting? 

It is a little more daunting that one has something of a standard to measure up to and maybe one can or cannot do it, so it provides a bit of a challenge. 

Which authors have influenced your writing?

There are no authors who have influenced my writing.

What inspires you?

I am inspired to find the truth wherever I find it. Like Eddie Ricketts in the famous Cannery Row book of John Steinbeck, “I love the truth even if it hurts.”