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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

TIME OF THE WRITER (article first published : 2000-03-8)

Last night’s launch of Time of the Writer festival introduced the 13 writers who are to take part in the programme for the rest of the week. Presented by Professor Kole Omotoso, their individual self-introductions offered a taste of much lively humour, critical analysis and challenging literature to come.

Maryse Condé from Guadelope reminded us that although her country was not large, the impetus for her writing was to introduce other people to her “small space”. From the Ivory Coast, Ahmadou Kourouma, a victim of exile and censorship, talked about how his prison experiences have affected his work. Acclaimed British novelist Margaret Drabble revealed that she used to tell herself a story in serial form each night to help her sleep and that loneliness and a feeling of inadequacy had prompted her to embark on her successful writing career. Sylvie Germain from France bemoaned the fact that Christianity often preached peace but bred conflict, touching on the dilemma that faces writers on how to cope with the forces of evil within the confines of a novel.

Removing the microphone from the stand, poet, novelist, movie scriptwriter and wannabee rock star Einar Már Gudmundsson from Iceland presented some delightful translations of his short poems. Charming novelist and literary activist Goretti Kyomuhendo posed the question of what to do with certain characters in a novel - does one kill them off or allow them to live?

Acclaimed travel writer from Belgium, Lieve Joris explained that she chose her particular genre because she wanted to capture the adventurous spirit of her missionary great-uncle. Novelist Lazarus Miti from Zambia recounted the days of his childhood when in his village all men had two wives except one who was a drunk. Admitting that he liked to write short stories but never knew when to stop, he focused on the concept between traditional and modern ways of life.

South African writer and political activist Gomolemo Mokae, a medical doctor by profession, stated that his mission was to ensure that the voiceless majority had a voice and that unsung heroes achieved their place in history. Following him was novelist, short story writer and playwright Ruth Schweikert from Switzerland who said that she came from a diametrically opposed background. She wasn’t driven to write by poverty or other depressed reasons and her home country was rich – in chocolate, cheese and banks!

Highly successful novelist, the elegant and articulate Joanna Trollope from the United Kingdom said how delighted she was to attend a festival which wasn't celebrity-driven but focused on the discipline of writing and she was looking forward to visiting the various schools in the programme.

Literary all-rounder and former TV presenter Adriaan van Dis from the Netherlands recounted that he originally wanted to go on the stage but his first experience as a stand-in in a Wagner opera changed his mind. Producing a very credible rendering of an aria from The Flying Dutchman he told how his first appearance found him placed on the stage, with only the lower part of his body visible! Ivan Vladislavic recounted when he saw his first publication in print in the Durban coffee shop, The Three Monkeys, a title that could have appeared at the time as an amusing prediction for the future!

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