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Menings | Opinion > Onderhoude | Interviews > English

Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist: Q&A with Double Negative author Ivan Vladislavic

Ivan Vladislavic - 2011-06-01

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What does it mean to you to be nominated for this particular award?

I’m delighted. 

Do you think it will change your approach to writing in any way? If so, how?


What do you think about the state of fiction in South Africa at the moment?

It’s encouraging to see so many new names on the shelves. But publishing a book generally doesn’t change your life and many writers seem to give up when they realise this fact. To go on writing, you need to be obstinate and a little mad. It also helps to find loyal publishers and readers. I hope the current publishing boom is sustained.

Do you think South African fiction writing has come of age at last?

At last? I wish I knew what decisive turning point is being suggested. I would measure the maturity of a literature by the energy of its writers, the courage and intelligence with which they confront and express the stuff of their immediate experience, and the confidence with which they engage the wider world. By this measure, our fiction writing grew up a long time ago.

Do you think we will ever be able to write fiction without an awareness of our past?

Writing fiction is a solitary, subjective activity. It doesn’t so much depend on a common sense of the past as help to construct that past by weaving a small story into a larger picture.

What can we do to develop a stronger local readership?

It would be nice if more South African children actually learned to read at school. Imagine if the education system could fulfil this quixotic function! In ten or twelve years we would have crowds of matriculants able to read more than the labels on their clothing.

Do South Africans appreciate home-grown literature as much as they seem to revere the work of writers from other countries?

There is a small but passionate readership for local books. These readers make the publishing of local books viable and allow writers like me to carry on. 

Is it really good enough just to be nominated?

It’s easy for me to say, as a previous winner, but I think it is good enough to be nominated. While the writer who wins is entitled to take the award seriously and enjoy it, it remains true that writing is not a simple competition in which there are winners and losers.

Which authors inspire you?

Franz Kafka, Danilo Kiš, Antjie Krog, Milan Kundera (to mention four whose surnames start with a K).

Why do you write?

I can’t stop.