Alan Paton Award Nominee: Anton Harber
Bibi Slippers asked Anton Harber a few questions about writing his Alan Paton Award-nominated book
In Margaret Atwood’s book on writing, Negotiating with the Dead, she compiles a list of hundreds of reasons why writers write. Some of the reasons on the list are:
If you were to name your main reasons for writing this specific book, what would they be?
- To record the world as it is.
- To set down the past before it is all forgotten / To excavate the past because it has been forgotten.
- To satisfy my desire for revenge.
- Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die.
- To produce order out of chaos.
- To hold a mirror up to the reader.
- To show the bastards.
- To make money so my children could have shoes.
- To attract the love of a beautiful woman / To attract the love of any woman at all.
- To serve History.
Because I love doing journalism, real shoe-leather reporting, going to places I might not normally go to and talking to people I might not normally meet. Because I wanted to tell untold stories that are central to our country and our lives, but are neglected. Because we need to know.
Could you describe how you came to write this story? Did the story find you or did you seek it out?
I knew what sort of story I wanted to do, but I found this location in a conversation with Chris Vick, who was then adviser to Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Human Settlements. He talked about the politics involved in organising Sexwale’s visit to Diepsloot, and cleaning up afterwards, and I immediately knew that was the place I wanted to write about.
What is the most important thing you learned or discovered while writing your nominated book?
How complex and difficult and challenging places like Diepsloot are. How little we know about them.
Do you have a "first reader"? And related to this question, who is your ideal reader?
My first reader is my wife, Harriet Gavshon, who is a film and television producer and therefore has a fine sense of storytelling. My second reader was the inimitable Ivan Vladislavic, a great writer and editor. My ideal reader for this book is – naturally – anyone who lives in Diepsloot.
Have you decided on the next issue or story you will tackle?
Maybe, but it is like a pregnancy: one should not talk about it in the first trimester.
What has been your favourite South African read of 2011/2012?
I reread Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia, a fine, brave and very important piece of work.
Which one of the nominated books would you place your betting money on to walk away with this year’sprize?
Doesn’t Jonny Steinberg always win?
Return to index page.