Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Good Book Appreciation Society

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Sophy Kohler interviews Diane Awerbuck on GBAS

It’s time for another Sunday Flash Festival. A big bookie welcome to intrepid journalist Sophy Kohler, interviewing award-winning author, Diane Awerbuck. Diane’s short story ‘Phosphorescence’ was recently shortlisted for the prestigious 2014 Caine Prize. She also won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for her novel Gardening at Night, and she’s penned an incredible collection of short stories, entitled ‘Cabin Fever’, as well as her latest novel, ‘Home Remedies’. Over to you Sophy…

all to use

‪Sophy Kohler Just pouring myself a glass of wine and Googling the author…

Diane – I want to begin by asking you for your street address and cellphone number.

‪Diane Awerbuck Actually, Efemia Chela just asked me that too.

We writers are frequently stalked. True Story.

‪Sophy Kohler Right, ‪Diane. Have you ever had any seriously enthusiastic fans ( ‪Paige Nick aside)?

‪Diane Awerbuck It’s how I met my current husband.

‪Sophy Kohler Hmm, interesting….there was also a rumour going around about two men fighting over you in a parking lot. Was that for your Good Looks or your Good Books?

‪Diane Awerbuck I started that rumour. Good doeks.

‪Sophy Kohler A mixture of the two, then. On the subject of rumours…

‪Diane Awerbuck A sense of rumour?

‪Sophy Kohler Better than nothing. You did your MA in Creative Writing at UCT (waaaay back), and the examiners were reluctant to award you a distinction. They later apologised (much later), saying that you definitely deserved it, but only in relation to the stuff that came after you (the post-Awerbuck, if you will). Can you comment on the state of SA lit briefly, but with more than a one-liner?

‪Diane Awerbuck Does “off the record” mean nothing to you? Jeez. If it is a state, it’s not exactly Orania. Lots of krimis (which I was totes shocked to learn was not a word invented here), a bit of sexytime, and LOTS of soul-searching yawniness. I use the technical terms here: let me know if you need definitions.

‪Sophy Kohler It’s all the ammo I have. I read your books in 1999.
18 mins

‪Diane Awerbuck Impossible. You weren’t born yet.

‪Sophy Kohler Being shortlisted for the Caine Prize … random or systematic?


‪Diane Awerbuck The Caine has a marvellous catchment area, and so on. I think it’s pretty random. Somebody Down There likes me.

‪Sophy Kohler Let us turn, then, to your shortlisted story, Phosphorescence…

‪Diane Awerbuck Ooh! This is like the beginning of a T.S. Eliot poem! 

‪Sophy Kohler Why did your publishers choose this story out of all the ones in your collection, Cabin Fever, to enter? Is it because it is the last one in the book, and therefore the only one they remembered reading?

‪Diane Awerbuck

It’s the only one that’s really had any traction with the English. It gets longlisted for things, but it’s always the bridesmaid. As it were.

‪Sophy Kohler Why so prolix?

‪Diane Awerbuck It’s the wine.
 Wait. Was that our safe word?

‪Sophy Kohler Wine? No, we’d just be interrupting ourselves continuously.

‪Diane Awerbuck That’s what writing is, really: people getting the voices in their heads to speak in chorus.

‪Sophy Kohler The Caine Prize is increasingly criticised for its representations of Africa (the stories often writing a version Binyavanga Wainaina tells us not to, oh yes). Phosphorescence (thank goodness for auto-correct) doesn’t conform (you wouldn’t, would you), do you think they shortlisted your story for this very reason; to make themselves look good?

‪Sophy Kohler *Disclaimer: the Caine Prize big time.

‪Diane Awerbuck What – I’m a token white? Sign me right up.

‪Sophy Kohler [Our voices in chorus would be screams, ‪Diane]

‪Sophy Kohler No, just general minority.

‪Sophy Kohler Because I can’t cope with the verbosity, I’m going to interrupt you here, and ask if you agree with the criticisms levelled at the Caine Prize?

To read the rest of the interview join the club by friending ‘Bea Reader’ on Facebook, or emailing

Sophy Kohler is a freelance writer and editor, she is also the former editor of Books LIVE and Contributing Editor of Aerodrome

And if you don’t read Diane’s work, you are missing out on one of the sublime pleasures of being a human being, like never tasting chocolate or missing out on having your head ruffled by someone you like. You can and really should pick up her books over here:…

See you at The Good Book Appreciation Society.


Please register or log in to comment