Geschrieben am 12. Februar 2011 von für Crimemag, Kolumnen und Themen

Andrew Brown: A Lightness Of Writing

Andrew Brown denkt ab heute unregelmäßig regelmäßig für CrimeMag über Themen aus Südafrika nach, die mit Kriminalität und Kriminalliteratur, mit Realitäten und Fiktionen zu tun haben. Wir freuen uns sehr, Andrew Brown zu den Autoren des CrimeMag zählen zu dürfen.

A Lightness Of Writing

(South African writing in 2011)

We are seventeen years into our new democracy and much has changed in my beautiful country. A free press, an accountable police force, a Bill of Rights, poverty relief programmes, international sport, these were all unimaginable in the brutal place that was South Africa under apartheid. And with a freeing of rights comes a freeing of spirit, a lighter way of being that is reflected in our relationships, in our theatre and in our writing.

South African writing in the 1980’s was characterised by serious works by authors who wrote with gravity of the dire condition of the country. Criticism of government was necessarily muted and expressed in layered innuendo or the books would face the danger of being banned and the authors persecuted. Fiction writing was dominated by a few big names – writers like J M Coetzee, Gordimer, Brink – and the publishing of new novels was not something undertaken lightly. Non-fiction was even more strangled, for fear of being labelled subversive. All of this has changed, and while we continue to revere our clique of world-famous and established writers, there are new trends that are sweeping through the literary world. There are, to my mind, at least three fascinating trends that have developed.

The first is the exciting rise of young black writers who do not carry the baggage of the past and are able to write with lightness and cutting wit about the ordinary things that go on around us. Like Niq Mhlongo’s novel “Dog Eat Dog” – an irreverent story about township romance – or Ndumiso Ngcobo (“Is it Coz I’m Black ?”), a streetwise ‘Zulu warrior’ who prides himself on being politically incorrect. These and other new black writers are like a fresh breeze over a stagnant pond.

Secondly, we have witnessed an explosion of crime thriller writers. While many of these have successfully taken their stories beyond the borders of the country (I think here of writers such as Deon Meyer, Margie Orford and Roger Smith), there are countless other new writers who have had the pleasure of seeing their works printed and put out into the local bookstores for sale. Some have suggested that the new wave of crime writing is linked somehow to the problems with rising crime rates that we are experiencing in South Africa. I do not believe that this is so – crime is hardly an issue in Sweden, and yet that country produces a huge amount of crime thriller literature. I believe that advent of crime thrillers is simply an indicator of a healthy and normal society where writers feel free to write stories that will entertain and engage their readers. The need to write works that analyse the angst of the country’s citizens has passed and we are free to write what we will, and how we wish.

Thirdly, non-fiction has gone through an interesting transformation. While we still have traditional non-fiction writing (usually about sport or politicians, sadly), there is a new form of reportage writing that has developed. The content is often controversial and in many instances critical of its subject, be it the police force, the judicial system, education or environmental issues. Several books have placed the writer him/herself at the centre of the narration, as a participant in the subject being disclosed. Thus, for example, in a recent book about a high-profile murder trial in our Courts, the author records his own reactions and thoughts during the course of following the dramatic trial. It makes the writing more accountable and acknowledges that all non-fiction is ultimately portrayed through the subjective perspective of the writer.

All three of these trends are to be welcomed, I think. They make for an exciting display of talent and are allowing new writers to come through all the time. Hopefully these are trends that we can sustain and that will promote and extend the joy that comes from reading a book that is well written, but isn’t trying too hard.

Andrew Brown

Informationen zu Andrew Brown gibt es hier und hier. CULTurMAG über südafrikanische Kriminalliteratur.
Bücher von Andrew Brown:
Würde (Refuge,2009). Aus dem Englischen von Mechthild Barth. btb, Juni 2010. Gebundene Ausgabe. 384 Seiten. 19,95 Euro.
Schlaf ein, mein Kind (Coldsleep Lullaby, 2005). Aus dem Englischen von Mechthild Barth. btb, Juli 2009. Taschenbuch. 384 Seiten. 9,00 Euro. Zur CULTurMAG-Rezension von „Schlaf ein, mein Kind“ gehts hier.

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