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Wordsetc Journal

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Here we go again

First published 10 June 08.

The second edition of Wordsetc is out and the site has been updated. Yes, both events took a while. They also took all our energy. Apologies for those who got impatient. We are new in this. We’re learning the terrain – fast. We endevour to keep getting better and doing things a littler quicker.

We thank those who have supported us. They have done so because they share our vision of promoting African literature and great writing from elsewhere in the world.

Wordsetc’s premise is that literature plays a crucial role in society. Literature can make us aspire to be what we are not. It also helps highlight the commonality of human condition. As I write this, thousands of fellow Africans are in makeshift encampments in Johannesburg, having fled their homes due to senseless xenophobic attacks that have seen Africans hacking other Africans to death on baseless grounds. How can this happen now? Have we only recently, as a country, resolved that such ethnic violence will never again plague us? Our only hope is that literature — and all of the arts — can help us to transcend our lowly human conditions, our base predijuces and emotions. Perhaps by reading each other’s stories, by listening to each other’s music, by seeing each other’s stories told through painting and photographs, we can learn to appreciate our commonality as human beings, we can learn to stop dwelling on differences. Perhaps, through the arts, we can cleanse our poisoned souls. Elsewhere on this site, the South African writer Zukiswa Wanner clearly articulates her anger over the senseless attacks. Justifiable anger, to be sure.

Our second-edition leads with the remarkable story of Professor Es’kia Mphahlele, a literary icon who preferred exile than teach poisonous apartheid education. Through the generosity of the Nobel Foundation, in our hard copy magazine we feature the entire lecture that Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk gave upon winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. Called “My Father’s Suitcase”, it is a must-read for those who have ever wondered about the origins of great literature. The issue also features one of our country’s top writer Ivan Vladislavic’s essay on the mortality of writers. Karina Magdalena Szczurek has a short story of unfortunate immigrants (sound familiar?). Another writer we visited was Dr Gomolemo Mokae, who has tirelessly advocated the use of indigenous languages in African literature.

We also rounded up five of our country’s top biographers and asked them about the art of the biography: how they found their subjects and how they went about the business of telling their incredible stories. Included in our panel were Mark Gevisser (Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred); Mcebisi Ndletyana (African Intellectuals in the 19th and Early 20th Century); Anthony Butler (Ramaphosa), Stephen Gray (a noted literary biographer who has written many books); and Pippa Green (she’s writing a biography of Trevor Manuel due out later this year). The subject of biography writing is also visited in one of our online essays as Isabella Morris explores the dynamic relationship between biographer and subject. I hope you will find it as fascinating as we did.

There’s more to enjoy on this site and in the hard copy of Wordsetc, which I hope you will go buy and enjoy. Better still, we’d be pleased if you subscribed. It’s easier, cheaper and convenient. We’ll also get a chance to know what you’d prefer to see and read in this bold journal.

Before I forget, Wordsetc champions new writers, new voices. So, if you have an urge to jot something down and get published in our magazine, we’ll be happy to hear from you. Of course, established writers are also welcome to show us how it’s done.

Enjoy.

Phakama Mbonambi
Publishing editor

 

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