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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Menings | Opinion > Onderhoude | Interviews > English

Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist: Q&A with Not a Fairytale author Shaida Kazie Ali

Janet van Eeden - 2011-06-02

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

It’s alarming. I now have the opportunity to inflict my opinions on others (thank you, LitNet), in “foot-in-mouth” manner. This is a virus affecting people like me who mostly live in cocoons, quietly, reading and napping. Occasionally writing. When we leave our crypts we tend to make comments to actual people, that should be reserved for our fictional friends. This bug is highly contagious, as was recently observed on the streets of Franschhoek.

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

I doubt my dysfunctional relationship with writing will be altered by the nomination. Besides, my family has assured me that Not A Fairytale was chosen out of a hat.

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

I love that we have a greater diversity from which to choose than in previous decades, but these are still limited and not representative enough of our society.

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

No. Not only does it need to be more representative, but there should be new books that hold a greater appeal to a wider local audience, to get adults and children reading local books. To quote a publishing fundi who would rather remain anonymous than have to move to a safe house: “Does every book have to have a nice PC range of cultural backgrounds and issues? Can’t we just have shallow books about alien prostitutes?”

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

Perhaps, but why should we? Remembering our past by writing about it is a way of honouring our personal and political histories.

What can we do to develop a stronger local readership?

We have to ensure that our children are enchanted by stories, we have to put money in education, offer reading programmes, make books affordable and market them.

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

It does seem that local books need international acclaim first, before they get noticed on home soil.

Is it really good enough just to be nominated?

It’s certainly surreal enough.

Which authors inspire you?

This is hard. Jane Gardam, Gabeba Baderoon, Anne Schuster, Fay Weldon, Ruth Rendell, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Kate Atkinson, Mary Watson, Alice Munro and several others that I’ll remember tomorrow.

Why do you write?

I’m very stupid.

Which is not necessarily a negative.

Flannery O’Connor wrote: "There's a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it; and it's well to remember that the serious fiction writer always writes about the whole world."