IN JULY 1994, I flew to Paris as one of six aspirant Black South African writers invited by the South African writer, Denis Hirson (resident then in Paris for twenty years), to a once-off fiction workshop sponsored by the French minister of culture. The other writers were Joan Baker, Sipho Mahlobo, Isaac Mogotsi, Roshila Nair and Mango Tshabango. Most of us had had bits and pieces published here and there, most notably Tshabango, who had had a story published in an early Staffrider. The workshop – ten week days – took place at Royaumont Abbey, a 13th century Cistercian monastery close to a small village 30-plus kilometres north of Paris. Apart from these ten days, our programme included five or so days in Paris, staying with Parisians and taking part in readings at two book stores.
Denis Hirson, White Scars: On Reading and Rites of Passage (Johannesburg: Jacana, 2006)
As Hirson mentions in his brief Afterword, White Scars started out as the ‘critical and reflective’ component to a Creative Writing Ph.D. and this partly explains the writerly feel of the book. It is a writer reflecting on other writers, a genre with many excellent practitioners (I think of Joseph Brodsky’s essay on Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Darkling Thrush’, Derek Walcott’s reviews of Lowell, Larkin and others). Hirson’s book falls into this tradition: it is literary, reflective, investigative, curious about himself in the world around him, without losing sight of the world as it is around him. Read the rest of this entry »