Continue reading: the other side of hope
The second Open Book podcast features Mandla Langa, Joanne Joseph and Nick Mulgrew in conversation with Yewande Omotoso, talking about land, exile and belonging.
Celebrating the fabulous, multi-talented designers we work with:
Monique Cleghorn | Nick Mulgrew | Megan Ross | Stephen Symons
Not representing Karavan Press at the Awards this year, but hopefully next year again, is Megan Ross, who designed the stunning covers of Melissa A. Volker’s novels, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker (2019). Melissa’s third novel is on its way …
In the meantime, Megan’s SSDA Disruption cover features at the Awards in 2021:
A rare opportunity: Nick Mulgrew will be visiting Joburg and launching his debut novel, A Hibiscus Coast, at EB Melrose Arch on Thursday, 28 October, 6 for 6:30PM. Nick will be in conversation with Maneo Mohale. Don’t miss it!
The impact of emigration is a fractious topic for many, and Mulgrew’s finely developed, sometimes messy, characters have been deeply affected by life events, losses and prejudices. When the group of rugby-mad expats encroach on the dream of the local self-appointed Māori leader, Mulgrew deftly draws comparisons between two narratives of land ownership and dispossession.
With SA nineties culture as a backdrop, the novel reflects on what it takes to fit in. It is also a considerate portrayal of Maori culture and the challenges these First Nation people continue to face. This a beautifully written, carefully researched novel on a difficult subject.Business Day
‘Of course, the entirety of human history might be summed up in the two words – “Humans migrate” – but mine was not an experience I had ever encountered in literature. (A Hibiscus Coast isn’t autobiographical, but is based directly on experience, both mine and other people’s.)’Africa in Dialogue
Tracey Randle kindly shared with us this beautiful poem she was challenged to write. See which Karavan Press title is woven into the fabric of her ode to bookclubs, women and reading:
A circle of women A circle of women facing each other might look like: An embroidered cloth found in a forgotten museum store Their names pulled in and out in cotton As fingers and minds met each week To sew something of themselves into the collective cloth A circle of women facing each other might look like: towers of books piled up like small mountains the names of writers and poets pulled in and out As fingers quietly turned pages To read something of themselves in the collective stories A circle of women facing each other might look like: all the hopes and dreams and fears they carry of when breath becomes air sewn into a cloth or told through another book’s story As fingers and minds meet Taking notes on grief Daring greatly to speak something of their louding voices into the collective space A circle of women facing each other might look like: A starless sea of stories filled with empty champagne flutes and a stack of china plates smeared with crumbs washing up on a hibiscus coast A garden light flashing on and off in the night As the oak leaves and nighttime birds catch their laughter Recognising that on earth we are briefly gorgeous A circle of women facing each other might look like: All the embroidered cloths our grandmothers have ever made All the towers of books women have discussed together while thinking up a hurricane A line of tears caught in thread A seam of hope woven in a tapestry A string of words that prevents the great alone We are so much more than girl, women, other Where the pull of the stars shows us The wonder of acceptance
To read more about Tracey click here: Cape Herstorian
Thank you, Tracey, for reading and sharing ‘A circle of women’ with us.
Much of the novel takes place among a community of white South African expats in New Zealand. Was that the starting point of the story you wanted to tell and if so, what drew you to them as a subject?
I’ve always wanted to write about white South Africans living in New Zealand precisely because I was once a white South African who lived in New Zealand. It was as simple as that. I also loved the idea of writing something set in the late 90s. It was a terrifically strange time for South Africa and most South Africans; even as a young child I experienced a sort of cultural whiplash. Our media and politicians were telling us everything was New – as in New South Africa, you know – but if you peeled back the veneer, so much was still so old and rotten.
The importance (both symbolic and practical) of land is a key element of A Hibiscus Coast but the land under discussion in the novel is in New Zealand, not South Africa. Land ownership and the historical theft of land is obviously a huge issue in SA, but your novel encourages SA readers to remember that issues of access to land are pretty universal, albeit with very different politics and histories in different countries. Were you writing about land in New Zealand specifically with a SA readership in mind?
I was writing about land because land is our universal concern. For all their differences as modern nation states, It’s no co-incidence that South Africa and New Zealand both have significant populations of people who live in precarious and vulnerable situations: both countries have a history of dispossession by (predominantly) British settlers, and either imperfect or non-existent ways of addressing that dispossession today. As such, they’re countries in which colonialism isn’t historical; it’s a process that’s still very much in effect.
What gets lost in the “debate” about land — and I use scare quotes here because my belief is that many people who get involved in debates over land reform do so in bad faith — is that land is a predicate for human society, and for individuals’ security and comfort. And yet, the societies we live in continue to deny so many people access to land. What are the forces that continue to drive this ongoing dispossession, and why do societies continue to allow these forces to operate? It sounds very academic, but that question was something I kept on coming back to while I was writing this book — how do these forces act in our everyday lives, even in domestic settings?
Mary is a wonderful character at the heart of the novel. She’s not perfect – nobody is – but despite being sent from SA by her parents as a young almost-adult to join this community of expats in New Zealand, she manages to define herself to some extent outside of the group into which she’s been thrown. She is a very complex character, beautifully drawn, at the heart of the novel. She seems as a character to represent possibilities – the possibility to grow, to change and she adds a hopeful tone to the novel which would otherwise be missing. Tell us a little about the genesis of Mary and how difficult she was to write?
I wasn’t thinking about this while writing her, but Mary’s a bit like South Africa in the 1990s: full of potential, but too wracked by trauma to fully grasp the possibilities and opportunities in front of her. She was easy to write, though. Her world is the world I grew up in, and in such a world, growth and change is the only possibility of escape. Ultimately, privilege is a trap of ignorance, and I wanted to write about someone who wanted, and probably needed, to struggle free from it.
[…]The Book Lounge: Something Special
Read the entire interview:
But A Hibiscus Coast is not all satire. Mulgrew is a sensitive man, and he invokes and then banishes the wishes, regrets, dreams and frustrations that plague us. How difficult it is to write powerfully and meaningfully about feelings; our personal revelations are mostly boring to others. But Mulgrew’s technique is persuasive, at once chattily vernacular and then so lyrical he could name new palettes for Plascon.
This self-interrupting search is linked to his favourite theme, and one which he explores to its fullest in A Hibiscus Coast: the human responsibility to know ourselves in order to know others, and our obligation to tell the truth. We must face our old selves or be consigned to further continental drift.Sunday Times
A Hibiscus Coast retails for R290, but purchase the book at The Book Lounge before Wednesday 19th of May and receive a 15% discount – pay only R246.50! The Book Lounge is also offering free delivery on this, within 20km of the shop.
Click on the above image to purchase A Hibiscus Coast through their online store, or request an invoice (email@example.com) for EFT. Please include your delivery address and contact number if you would prefer delivery.
You can even get a ‘signed’ copy. Nick signed and sent us a few signature stickers from Edinburgh. Get them while stock lasts …
The Book Lounge Staff Recommendation
It takes so much skill to write a novel like A Hibiscus Coast that deals with so much trauma and grief, whilst still being warm, light-hearted, and at times even hilarious. Nick has woven these two vastly different places – Hibiscus Coast in KZN, and The Hibiscus Coast in New Zealand – together in such interesting ways, with metaphors around land, ownership, and dislocation. This novel does a beautiful job of illustrating how things can be both difficult and full of joy at the same time.