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Fiona Snyckers interviews Zukiswa Wanner


Bea Reader: Welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. For the next hour, author, Fiona Snyckers will be interviewing Zukiswa Wanner here live, on her latest novel, London, Cape Town, Joburg. Over to you Fiona…

‪Fiona Snyckers Morning Zuki and morning everyone. First of all, congratulations on your new book ‪Zukiswa. I was interested to see whether you could top Men of the South and you have. This book impressed my socks off. It deals with the experience of a returning exile. I’ve heard you describe yourself as an ‘exile baby’ before. Did your own experience feed into this book? And do you think this was a neglected area of South African fiction – the experience of the child of exile parents returning to his (virtually unknown) homeland and struggling to negotiate post-democracy South Africa?

‪Zukiswa Wanner Why, thank you re topping up Men of the South. With LCTJ, I certainly did dig into my own experiences as an exile child but more than that, I had to do that with a penis a la Martin:-)

‪Fiona Snyckers Just like in Men of the South, you use multiple narrative
voices in LCTJ. And one of them, as you say, has a penis. Once again, you
carry the male voice off to perfection. How do you prepare yourself for writing
in the first person as a man (and as a boy too in the sections of Zuko’s

‪Zukiswa Wanner But Martin being an exile child fed into the narrative I was trying to write so I wasn’t exactly writing from a perspective of it being a neglected area of SA fiction. Who knows? My next novel may have a former Special Branch man who returned from the Angolan border as the main character.

I think of a woman and take away reason and accountability. ..hahaha. That’s just me paraphrasing Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets. I tend to listen to people’s conversations quite a lot and that’s how I often get voices (be they male) hopefully correct. With Zuko, I had my son read the entries (except the last one) so I could get the child-like voice just right.

‪Fiona Snyckers Hahaha! The prologue of this book was incredibly gruelling to read. I kept having to put it down and walk around a bit before I felt strong enough to carry on! Was it also gruelling to write? How hard was it for you to write about a woman who has just lost her only son?

‪Zukiswa Wanner I’m a mother to a son as you know Fiona, so it was incredibly difficult to deal with. But there’s a growing number of teen suicides in the world and it’s a subject we tend to shy away from because in addition to being writers, we are parents so I wanted to address that. I remember telling ‪Jacqui L’Ange (who edited this book and The Madams) not to send me back the final script after I’d done changes because I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. After writing, I spent a good month suffocating my son by asking him to tell me what he was feeling. ..

‪Fiona Snyckers Germaine, your female protagonist, wonders whether Zuko’s suicide could be connected to concerns about his own identity. She worries about labels – ‘black’, ‘coloured’, ‘biracial’. How important do you think such labels are in determining our sense of identity? (I have a theory that this book is primarily about identity)

To read the rest of the interview, friend Bea Reader on Facebook, or email

And join us next week when author and journalist Kate Sidley will be interviewing James Whyle, author of The Book of War.



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