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Henrietta Rose-Innes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

20/20: A tiny story made of 50 first lines

20yrs-Logo_vekAnd they said it couldn’t be done! Behold: a gloomy tale made up of the first lines of each of the Twenty in 20 longlist: the Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy. (Some small liberties taken).






Once upon our time

8th of June 2004

Rokytnice nad Jizerou, Czech Republic

The time is 16H00. It is the beginning of autumn. By the time you read this letter, I will be dead.

It is annoying, to keep telling the story of a woman tormented by her husband. I guess you won’t believe me, either. But all these years I’ve watched quietly, listened silently, to one side of the story.

I came to South Africa to survive. When I was twenty-one I went down to the Cape – you were a fool not to join me. (Claremont Park on a late summer’s afternoon: now that is one helluva place to smoke dagga.) I told my family I was going to America.

It is always, as they say, by chance. When I was combating a bout of loneliness, a new neighbour moved in next door. Before, it had always been a good road.

Ernest Sibanda. The chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz. The baby-soft feel of the touch of his hand, the velvety sheen of the skin of his face … sunbrowned and outdoorsy. (My skin is sallow, almost grey, when I stand in the darkness, something I do often.)

“So what’s your secret?”

From the moment we touched, I was hooked. Like a veld fire, the fever swept through me. An earthquake; a celestial event. Apocalyptic warnings.

He was a devil, who taught me about wickedness. To tell the truth, when he hit me that time, in my face, I wasn’t surprised: just grateful for the map of the future he offered me. The morning after the argument, I woke early and knew I wouldn’t sleep again.

Sleep is already distant. The images burn and keep burning: run dry on the highway, lost in the dead of night.

Let’s hope being a bastard skips a generation. Beneath the Christmas tree that tilts in the empty fireplace lie four identically sized presents, covered in zebra-skin wrapping-paper and shiny plastic. Cyprian is a sickly boy; he likes the sheets tucked in, so that when he gets into bed, it’s like slipping into an envelope, tight. No swell.

I don’t want them to touch each other.

Wind tugs at the house and slams against the windows. My cell phone starts beeping. It’s time.

I’m a runner. That’s the role I’ve given myself. I run a bath for myself and for your memory in my head. It gets the blood going, my dear.

I hate this stuff.

I shoulder my chainsaw.

Forgive me.

Mary Whitaker

Work, life, terror: an interview with Aerodrome

careful Hans

 I talk about the daily grind,  chaos theory and my upcoming novel Green Lion for AERODROME’s “WORK/LIFE” series. Read the full interview here.


“Le salon africain” at the Geneva Book Fair

I’ll be appearing at the 28th Geneva Book and Press Fair, 30 April – 4 May, as part of the “Salon africain” programme:

“White and black, English- and French-speaking, insular and continental, from here, there and everywhere…  every facet of Africa will be converging on Geneva this spring. Including the Africa of the great classic texts … But also the Africa of unmissable new talent, first novels, essayists, polemicists and poets … there will be debates, discussions, readings and even dining. It will also be a chance to discover works that have not been published in Europe, whether on the bookshop shelves or on the stands of African publishers.”

Looking forward to my two panels:

Fri 2 May: 14:45 – 15:30   ”La fiction en noir et blanc”, with Léonora Mian

Sat 3 May: 14:45 – 15:30   ”Zoom sur les lettres anglophones”, with Helon Habila and Nii Ayikwei Parkes

The Salon coincides with the launch of my novel Ninive in French.


Nineveh / Ninive – in French!

I’m very happy to report that, in April, Swiss publisher Editions Zoé will publish my novel Nineveh in French translation: Ninive“.

I’ll be in excellent company at their “écrits d’ailleurs” imprint, which publishes Commonwealth authors – a list that includes some famous and familiar names (Imraan CoovadiaIvan Vladislavic and others).

Plus, I get a frog on the cover. I love it almost as much as my S African bug cover.

Nineveh and Homing now worldwide on Kindle

For people outside South Africa who might want to get hold of my books: I’m very pleased to report that my novel Nineveh and my short-story collection Homing are finally available as eBooks on Amazon and Amazon UK.

New Voices from SA at Edinburgh International Book Festival

I’m looking forward to my two events at the upcoming Edinburgh International Book Festival. Many exciting writers will be there, including familiar faces Achmat Dangor, Lauren Beukes, Patrick Flanery, Sifiso Mzobe, Deon Meyer, Marli Roode and Sindiwe Magona.

On 19 August, I’ll take part in the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series, 5.30 to 6.15pm in the Peppers Theatre. In this series, writers show solidarity with persecuted writers around the world by reading from their work. The theme for the day is Remembering Forgotten Prisoners, and I’ll read a piece by Chinese writer Nien Cheng.

On 26 August, I’ll be talking with Sifiso Mzobe on the panel New Voices from South Africa, with discussion led by Nick Barley.

Edinburgh Internat Book Festival

I’m excited to be appearing at the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival, 10-26 Aug. I’ll be talking with Sifiso Mzobe on a panel New Voices from South Africa. Other invited writers of particular interest to SA readers are Achmat Dangor, Lauren Beukes, Patrick Flanery, Deon Meyer, Marli Roode and Sindiwe Magona. (There may be some I’ve missed – it’s a massive programme with many wonderful writers on it.)

UCT Summer School: Writers Reading

I believe there are still places available for next week’s UCT Summer School course, “Writers Reading: Favourite Recent Books“, 28 Jan – 1 Feb, 11.15 am.
The line-up is:
1. Michiel Heyns on: “An absence of love: three journeys around the self: In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut”
2. Finuala Dowling on: “Poems to find your way home by: Other Signs by Ingrid de Kok”
3. Imraan Coovadia on: “Contemporary Russian satire and werewolves: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin”
4. Yewande Omotoso on: “The pains and solaces of twinhood: 26a by Diana Evans”
5. Henrietta Rose-Innes on: “Demanding ghosts: a psychic comedy: Beyond Black by Hilary

More info about Summer School here; download the brochure here.

Lost animals and a green lion at GIPCA

Next week, Tues 7th August, at GIPCA’s “5 Thoughts” event, I’ll be presenting a sample of the work I’ve been doing as a 2012 Fellow. I’ll be showing a series of wall-mounted texts on the topic of extinctions, touching on museums, zoos, lost animals and raising the dead. I’ll also be introducing my novel-in-progress, Green Lion.

Also presenting their exciting work – dance, photography, film and multi-media – will be GIPCA fellows Michael MacGarry, Richard Antrobus, Jared Thorne and Mamela Nyamza. See the full programme here. 5pm – 7pm, Hiddingh Hall, free entrance. The texts will be on display at the Michaelis Gallery.

Panthera leo melanochaitus © The Natural History Museum, London

Three recent interviews

I recently did three interviews on three excellent literary blogs. On Africa is a Country with Brett Davidson, and with Geoff Gyasi of Geosi Reads, I talked about Nineveh, writing, the Caine Prize, etc. And, here on Books LIVE, I submitted to the notorious “Proust Questionnaire”, administered by Alex Smith.