Author in residence: Mphuthumi Ntabeni

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Mphuthumi Ntabeni is one of six authors currently in residence in Somerset East, courtesy of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation and PEN South Africa.

His novel The wanderers (published by Kwela) is on the long list for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.

Izak de Vries asked him a few questions.

Where do you come from?

I was born in Queenstown and currently reside in Cape Town.

When in your life did you decide, “I am a writer”?

I still haven’t decided whether I am a writer, but am beginning to suspect my vocation is writing, because it is the only thing able to absorb my whole personality, and my spirit rests when I write. I have always been a voracious reader; I guess at some point I developed my own opinions and felt the growing and urgent need to jot them down during my mid-thirties.

The stay is made possible thanks to a generous sponsorship from the Jakes Gerwel Foundation, but you applied for this residency through a PEN centre. How did you hear about PEN and the residence?

I heard about the residence through social media – the Facebook page of the JGF and that of Bronwyn Davids.

What do you hope to achieve during the residency?

I hoped the residency would be my launching pad towards beginning the manuscript for my third novel, and also finalising my research, which required some information I could only get in the Somerset East and Graaff-Reinet area. I achieved both my goals.

How do you like being with other writers?

My biggest worry coming to the residency was personality clashes. But I was fortunate to be placed with a bunch of kind people from whom I learned a lot and whom I am now proud to call friends.

Somerset East is a small town. Is the silence good for your writing?

The town and the house are ideal for writing. I hope to visit the area again when it is time to do the final draft of my manuscript.

  • Photographs: Izak de Vries
See also:

Full particulars: Confessional fiction for a desolate age

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