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NON-FICTION

Monday, 11 November 2013 10:48

Q&A with Helena S. Paige

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A little over a year ago, three friends walked into a restaurant as Sarah Lotz, Nick Paige and Helen Moffett, and walked out as Helena S. Paige, the author of the "Girl" series that is making waves in the literary world. Over lunch, the three successful writers conceived of a series of "choose your own erotic destiny" books which made international literary headlines by scooping up almost two dozen publishing deals within a few weeks of being pitched to an agent. The first title in the series, A Girl Walks into a Bar: Choose Your Own Erotic Destiny, has been available…
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 15:44

Untitled by Kgebetli Moele

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Kgebetli Moele knows no fear when it comes to picking the most challenging narrators for his novels. His debut, Room 207 (2006), was straightforward enough, telling the story from the perspective of a young man trying to survive the highs and lows of Hillbrow. However, the follow-up, The Book of the Dead (2009), began as an ordinary third-person narrative, and then, in the middle switched to the most unusual first-person narrator. Quite shockingly, the storyteller who took over was no other than HIV personified. It was a stroke of genius on the author’s part that drove home the ruthlessness with…
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 15:30

Kosblik

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Uit Afrikaans sal ’n kosblik vertaal word as ‘lunchbox’, maar die titel van die boek is Kos Blik. Kyk na kos; m.a.w. ‘views on food’.Opvallend is die verskeidenheid in die kossoorte. Etes rondom ’n vuur; potjiekos in allerhande vorme (selfs poedings) is volop, maar ook skaapkoppe, varkvet en kaiings. In teenstelling daarmee garnale en waterblombredie. Brood kom by verskeie skrywers ter sprake, onthou hoe dit geknie en opgedis is.Gerrit Rautenbach besing selfs die gewone toebroodjie.Dis ’n wye versameling van skrywers wat ’n storie aan kos koppel. Van uiters gesofistikeerd tot gewone mense se kyk na kos. Van platteland tot stad…
Niq Mhlongo is making waves. Way Back Home, his third novel in not even a decade, is out. His local publisher Kwela has reissued Mhlongo's two previous novels, Dog Eat Dog (2004) and After Tears (2007). To most South African authors a second imprint in itself would be a great achievement. But Mhlongo's work is being translated and published overseas, which is a rarity for local writers of his generation (one can count the others on the fingers of one hand). Hailed as one of the front-runners of the "kwaito generation" (a label he himself expresses doubts about, although he…
Friday, 27 September 2013 16:36

The Day I Disappeared

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It was during the December holidays that hard black pimples began to grow on my face. Now that I recollect the memory, it must have been on a Friday, I remember not being able to make an appointment with the doctor in town. Then there was only one doctor serving the entire town of Tsomo and its thousand villages. Tsomo is a small town in the former Transkei. If one is approaching it from Butterworth, its sporadic shops and market place appear to be seated over a tiny bridge that only one car can pass at a time. By the…
Sharp Edges is the fourth novel by the highly successful South African YA (Young Adult fiction) author, S.A. Partridge. Her first, The Goblet Club, was a dark, gothic story about a secret club and a murder in a boarding school. It was followed by Fuse which explored the life of a teenager pushed to the edge. In Dark Poppy's Demise, Partridge ventured into the dangerous world of online romance. In her latest, six friends travel to a music festival in the Cederberg to celebrate Demi's seventeenth, and last, birthday. Sharp Edges is the story of that tragic weekend and its consequences.Partridge…
The National Geographic Channel routinely airs a program simply titled Taboo which, needless to say, deals with subject matter that typically elicits an ‘ooh’ and an ‘aah’, accompanied invariably by a disapproving shake of the head or facial expression that marries bewilderment with fascination. The idea of flying completely against normative behaviour, values and notions brings with it a kind of intellectual excitement that is not dissimilar to the adrenalin rush when one decides to do something that the brain deems detrimental and/or lethal.(The effect of adrenalin fades.) Extensive tattoos that transform a man into a leopard. Sadomasochistic nude couples that…
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 06:10

A Man About the House

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I’m well aware of the fact that this account is going to ruffle some feminist feathers. Admitting to anything anti-the-independent-woman is never well received. But sometimes the truth can set a sister free.We are often drawn to the familiar, be it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The familiar for me, was a father who liked to do the so called man stuff. He changed my tyre, fixed the blown fuses, got behind the dishwasher to retrieve the dead mouse, paid for mine and my mother’s dinner from his personal account, even though they also shared one. Dad wasn’t always the most affectionate…
Sunday, 09 December 2012 12:14

A Tradition of Longing

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Everywhere in Lagos The city unfolds in metal locomotives, road, banters, then frisking, and sometimes laughter. The times I have seen laughter: some old men are calling out to themselves; a lady shows a young man (her age? older?) her phone and when he sees it he laughs, hugs her, says congrats, God has done it; a lady is on the phone with 'Beatrice' and she is telling Beatrice, Don’t give up, don’t let the devil have his way, I would come to your house on Sunday, wait for me in your house on Sunday, then she laughs. There is…
“My own thinking about art and values is far more disillusioned than would have been possible for someone 100 years ago. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s more correct on that account. It only means that I have examples of degeneration on the forefront of my mind which were not in the forefront of men’s minds then.”– Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1946 24. When we think of the cinema’s future, we always mean the destination it will reach if it keeps going in the direction we can see it going now; it does not occur to us that its path is not…
Andy Warhol's manifesto for living could have been his declaration that 'Pop Art is for Everyone'. If, in the last issue of Itch, I was reflecting on the Gerhard Richter exhibition, Panorama, a couple of shows in 2012 brought two other pop art masters into my cultural orbit. Jostling my way through the final day of David Hockney's sell out A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy in London (21 January–9 April 2012; now on show at Museum Ludwig, Cologne) proved an enjoyable if slightly fraught experience. My overriding impressions were of a deeply personal set of paintings of…
Don't impose criteria grounded in Western literary tradition onto a film form that has its origins in oral tradition. Allow for repetition of motifs, archetypal characters, suspension of disbelief, unusual segues and length. Don't allow ample contrivances and abrupt tonal shifts within a film to deter from its main thrust – its emotional integrity. Fine Bollywood films have the power to meld seemingly disparate elements.Look for internal logic rather than applying Western notions of verisimilitude.Don't regard Bollywood as a genre. This is misleading because the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai makes films which relate to many different genres or combinations of genres - drama-romance, masala, thriller,…
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 19:51

Old Major's Speech in Consonants

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‘Cmrds, y hv hrd lrdy bt th strng drm tht hd lst nght. Bt wll cm t th drm ltr. hv smthng ls t sy frst. d nt thnk, cmrds, tht shll b wth y fr mny mnths lngr, nd bfr d, fl t my dty t pss n t y sch wsdm s hv cqrd. hv hd lng lf, hv hd mch tm fr thght s ly ln n my stll, nd thnk my sy tht ndrstnd th ntr f lf n ths rth s wll s ny nml nw lvng. t s bt ths tht wsh t spk…
Monday, 07 May 2012 02:00

Nineveh

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Nineveh is a window into the life of pest controller Katya Grubbs, a woman following in the footsteps of her estranged father. But unlike her father, who used rather unscrupulous means of dealing with people's unwanted problems, Katya chooses the painless approach. Yet despite her attempts to be her own woman, echoes of her father's methods sometimes creep into her own, such as the unethical practice of "insurance" which entails leaving a pest or two behind in order to ensure repeat business. The story begins when Katya is offered the opportunity to work at Nineveh, a new housing development stuck…
Monday, 07 May 2012 02:00

In Other Worlds

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Margaret Atwood opens her latest non-fiction offering with a clear declaration: In Other Worlds is not a catalogue of science fiction, a grand theory about it, or a literary history of it. It is not a treatise, it is not definitive, it is not exhaustive, it is not canonical. It is not the work of a practicing academic or an official guardian of a body of knowledge. Rather it is an exploration of my own lifelong relationship with a literary form, or forms, or subforms, both as reader and as writer. In short: In Other Worlds is a love song…
Ivan Vladislavić is one of South Africa's finest contemporary writers. His latest offering is a most unusual book about some of the most unusual stories: those which have never seen the light of a published page, at least not in their initially intended form. The Loss Library comprises of eleven "case studies" of "unsettled accounts" from "three distinct periods". The first is the time of the transition between 1989 and 1992 when Vladislavić, like most authors in the country, felt more like a historian than a writer. The second and third periods, the years between 1996-99 and 2004-05, are characterised…
I always find it particularly difficult to pick up a book about war, any war, but especially the Second World War. Yet after having read a few of Richard Zimler's other novels, opening his latest, The Warsaw Anagrams, I was hoping that if I followed him into the hell of the Warsaw Ghetto, I would emerge with a flicker of hope in my heart despite everything I was bound to witness. That was the gift of his other novels about the persecution of Jews around the world and throughout history: that not all is lost when people are prepared to…
There is a fresh breeze rustling through the South African literary scene. A new generation of young English writers is coming into their own. Among them, no other voice is simultaneously fresher and more mature than Craig Higginson's. Born in Zimbabwe in 1971, Higginson grew up in Johannesburg and studied at Wits. Multitalented, he has already made his indelible mark as a playwright, novelist, theatre director and lecturer. Sitting across the table, he impresses with his erudition and eloquence which are accompanied by an inner calm, making you feel immediately comfortable in his presence. In conversation, he moves across a…
Monday, 07 May 2012 02:00

A Life With Books

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  Let me begin by emphasising a truth very close to my heart: There is no such thing as too many books. You could think that with all the books around us, and the poor reading culture in this country, it is pointless to reprint some of the titles Picador has published during the last four decades. But it isn't, and I hope it never will be. The only thing that could become pointless would be a world without books. When I look at the rows of books here, I see magic. Because the moment you pick up one of…
Sunday, 06 May 2012 02:00

The Curious Nomad

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  When I meet up with Itani Thalefi, who prefers to go by the pseudonym Grae Matta (or simply Grae), the air is filled with the sound of music as he sits strumming away at his acoustic guitar. He's wrapping up a practice session with some of his fellow artists. It's been quite the mission to get myself squeezed into his already full schedule, which has been progressively filling up as the year unravels. "I have a meeting with an artist management company later," he informs me; time is tight for this busy man. But here on this sunny Thursday…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Fade to Grey

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As this is my debut for ITCH magazine, the first column of many I hope, it would do well for me to introduce myself and my intentions for this small universe of paragraphs, spaces, words and dots. I am a twentieth century historian by training and I will be moonlighting as a cultural critic while writing for ITCH. My qualifications are a Masters degree in Art History, some gallery work experience, and a dash of decidedly dishevelled old-fashioned enthusiasm. These columns are not designed to be objective or definitive. Rather they represent my own partial opinions and will sometimes be…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Otakar Švec

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    Dear all, welcome. Fridriech Nietzsche presented himself as an envoy of the Übermensch. George Bataille depicted himself as a champion of cruel Aztec rituals. I, Otakar Švec, have been commissioned to realize the largest representation of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, of all times. If I'm in front of you today, it's to talk about my practice as an artist. You will see that the questions my work raises are rather evident, but the answers I can give you, aren't. You must already have your own idea about what lead me to accept this commission. You may think I was…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

In The Country Of Men

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With the Arab Spring, which began in December 2010, as well as the murder of South African journalist Anton Hammerl shot in Libya by forces loyal to the dictator Qaddafi during the Libyan war of 2011, so fresh in our collective memories, Hisham Matar's debut novel In the Country of Men is both topical and disturbing. Set in Libya in 1979, In the Country of Men tells of nine-year-old Suleiman's complex childhood: games in the street with his friends intertwine with a deeply ambivalent relationship with his mother. Married at 14, a mother at 15, Najwa seeks a remedy for…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Questions For Inequality

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Inequality, when I first come across you my immediate impression is disparity. Before we extend our arms to acquaint ourselves I can already tell that you've lived a life that is uncommon; almost unfair, tainted by injustice, obscurity and irregularity. These are the words I want to use to describe you. We sit down for a while; make small talk and get all the politeness out of the way. There's an awkward silence about us now. A thick air of uncertainty above our heads, met with unfamiliarity and when I turn to face you, I'm met with a look of…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

The Big Stick

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    "Fear is the problem," says Wynand Greefswald, (fictional) former SADF aversion therapist, of the protagonist Staal, and the homosexuality of which he was trying to cure the boy with the blessing of his family. His words are echoed throughout the novel in a chorus of voices, including Staal's step-brother Wessel, who tells us that it was fear that indeed killed the young man. It as the novel progresses and the reader gets to inhabit Staal's world, however, that the boundaries shift between who is fearful and who fearless.It is with fear in her heart, certainly, that Alma Nel,…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

The Interracial Quest

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In recent years I've often had to answer numerous questions regarding this particularly captivating concern: "Why does it appear that relationships between most interracial couples do not last?" My response has frequently been, "Fewer relationships today are able to stand the test of time--regardless of the partners' skin colour." The growing inability of folk to cherish and fight for what they have isn't similar across the continents of the world; people in the developed world take the unfortunate lead. As Europe welcomes immigrants, creating an environment where races mingle, observers do not need to Google personal details of Alicia Keys…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Created equal?

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In about four years, e-books went from being a new curiosity to outselling their physical equivalents (music MP3s achieved this feat last year, after a decade's head start). The Kindle e-book reader is online retailer Amazon's biggest seller by a massive margin. Smartphones, tablets and dedicated e-reading devices have put e-books into the homes and pockets of people around the world, and thousands of new titles appear in online bookstores every month (rather than the few dozen that a physical bookstore may stock. The blistering speed of e-book uptake has thrown the publishing world into complete disarray. Publishers (now usually…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

From the Margins

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I have been wondering where Lovey got her name. A nickname, I assume, from an English-speaking person; perhaps an employer of her mother's when she was a child. No, she enlightens me, it is short for her real name: Lovedalia. I hear 'Lovedahlia'. After a flower, I think. How beautiful. Again, I couldn't be further from the truth. 'My mum was at Lovedale College in the Eastern Cape,' she tells me. 'And then my father proposed to her. And she didn't want to get married because she wanted to study. She wanted to be a teacher. But in the old…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Divine Justice

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"We are all alike, on the inside." (Mark Twain, 1835-1910) Moira Richards in conversation with author, Joanne Hichens, about her zinger of a new crime novel, Divine Justice.  Rae Valentine, at the wrong end of a broken relationship, is making sense of her life and of her new career as a private investigator based in Cape Town. She's a tough woman and pretty ruthless about wrenching her personal life back on track but the day job brings her up close against a cross-section of the creepiest and deadliest of South Africa's low-life Rae must learn to shoot fast and to…
Monday, 30 April 2012 02:00

Everyday Origami

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  In the first of her four-part series of interviews with young South African poets, Genna Gardini speaks to Jenna Mervis about publishing her first collection and reading poems aloud in pilates class.  Jenna Mervis "Women in South Africa are really finding their voice now," says Jenna Mervis, the Cape Town-based poet who released her debut collection, Woman Unfolding, in November 2011. "Our female writers are incredible and inspiring. And boy do we have subject matter in this country. There are so many stories to tell." Telling some of these stories is a task that's kept Mervis busy for quite…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

A Man of Parts

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David Lodge is one of the few safe bets in the literary market. If you like his work the first time around, you like it forever. He does not disappoint. At least that is how I feel every time I open a new Lodge novel. A Man of Parts was no different. Set in the few decades around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the visionary, über-prolific author, H.G. Wells, who is mostly remembered for his early novels, today's world-literature classics, such as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Dark Poppy's Demise

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Dark Poppy's Demise is the newest novel by local author S.A. Partridge, and a great one at that. It is an extremely potent psychological offering that displays Partridge's ability to get inside the head of a reader. Dark Poppy's Demise is aimed at a young adult audience, and with its modern themes and its understanding of the trials and tribulations of teenage life, it hits its target very effectively. The book tells the story of Jenna Brooks, a sixteen-year-old from Cape Town whose life is anything but easy. Her parents are divorced, the boy she's had a crush on for…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Deadlands

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Lily Herne's Deadlands has the distinction of being the first ever zombie novel by a South African author. It possesses a wonderful awareness of modern pop culture and the social climate in which today's teenagers live. This will appeal directly to modern teens, the novel's target audience. The main character, Lele de la Fontein, is seventeen years old, and lives in a futuristic version of Cape Town, surrounded by zombies, and ruled by the Ressurectionists, a strange religious sect turned totalitarian government, who follow the mysterious Guardians. Lele wishes to escape this unpleasant environment and find a better life for…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Home of the Image

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  One possibility: the home of the image is the intersection, the bounded space between information (true or false), form, chance, concept, and choice. There is an inevitable tension in the push and pull of these principles along the borders of our enclosed space as they infinitely stretch and take their turns prevailing - or territorializing - over the prison - or cocoon - of the image. This is the truest moment of the image; concept may dominate, chance may cower, form may crawl, but without their walls, you have... an abomination of randomness; a stunted growth; stolen fingers, a…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Infinity

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SCENE ONE HE and SHE sit on armchairs in a cramped but cosy-looking lounge. Both are in their mid to late fifties. The room is filled with knick-knacks - porcelain cats, hand-crocheted doilies and such-like. A dog is sleeping at the woman's feet. The man has a knitted blanket over his knees and is slowly drinking from a cup of tea. Each time he takes a sip, he returns the cup to a small round table beside the chair, which is piled with the remains of a newspaper. They sit in silence for about five minutes before HE at last…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

The Years of Childhood

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At one point or the other it becomes necessary to look back at one's life, for it is in conformity with the adage that says "you need to know where you are coming from in order to know where you are going." This brings to mind reflections about childhood memories; not because they are crystal clear- by the time they occurred I was still inchoate, so they rather come to me in flashes, like dissimilar images. My 'reconstruction' of some of these events has been made possible through the 'stories' of people who experienced these occurrences as well. Growing up…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Of my abstract gods and I

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The small Bible study sessions at work really amuse me. The mainly conservative and smartly dressed officers meet at the board room every morning at seven for a praise and worship session. They are fond of holding hands around the table in most sessions, projecting their blame to god (or is it God?) for everything from the slow pace of project implementation to the recurrent power black-outs and galloping inflation. At some point in their prayers or preaching, they always remember to plead with him/her to have mercy on them for crimes they have no direct hand in. Once in…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Stepping into the Future

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Gordon Bruce was born in 1922 in Bath, in the west of England, about twelve miles from Bristol. In those days, as he puts it, 'cars were never even thought of in my family'. His father was a schoolmaster, and he recalls the 'picture in my mind of him walking home with the headmaster, walking side by side - I've never forgotten this, I don't know why - and they were deep in serious conversation, and for the whole of their lives the idea of getting into a car, and doing this by car, would never have entered their minds.'…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Life After Death

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Young, strong, sharp, reality's electric in your present tense-this is who you are before the phone rings: "Dead? Murdered, who was?" David Kato, 46, gay rights activist, Ugandan, bludgeoned with a hammer to the skull in his own home and now a group of organizers in New York City want a vigil in his honor followed by peaceful protest outside Uganda House would you like to come? Poof, just like that, from the time you answered the phone then put it back down, you're older, weaker, matured in the face of sudden death. Two days later it's Thursday and two…
Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Palo Alto

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The striking cover caught my eye. Then the author's name. Could it be? Really? But then the photo and the bio at the back flap confirmed it. Yet it was only the fact that Faber and Faber published it that made me want to buy the book. James Franco - yes, the actor - has written a collection of short stories entitled Palo Alto. It's neither the first nor the last time that a Hollywood star reaches for the pen: Carrie Fisher's Postcards from the Edge, or Ethan Hawks's Ash Wednesday immediately come to mind. Judging from the reception they…
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