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South African Book Fair

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Malan, Altbeker and Steinberg on the Complexities of South African Society

Rian Malan, Paul Cilliers, Jonny Steinberg and Anthony Altbeker in conversation

The title is controversial: “In a country where you couldn’t make this shite up.” The room is packed. The authors held in high esteem. Based on strong white male contingent of the audience, one might be excused for assuming this talk will degenerate into another gripe session on the “new” South Africa.

Resident AlienFruit of a Poisoned TreeThree-letter Plague

Thankfully it did not. Talk centered instead around the feelings of uncertainty, of a struggle to determine what a South African is, where our place is in this world, whether the problems we face are unique or not.

While Altbeker and Steinberg concur that the situation in South Africa is not exceptional, they agree with Rian Malan that we don’t as yet have a single, shared identity. Malan argued that we exist as “kingdoms of conscience” that only marginally interact with one another. Whether these kingdoms will ever merge or even simply have greater interaction remains a debatable topic essential to the future of the country.

Quote of the hour: “Due to Colonialism and Apartheid a sort of Western moon base (South Africa) was planted in Africa.” – Rian Malan

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