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Alastair Bruce’s Extraordinary Debut, Wall of Days, Launched at The Book Lounge

Alastair Bruce

Debut novelist Alastair Bruce was greeted by a goodly crowd at The Book Lounge for the launch of Wall of Days last night.

Wall of DaysProprietor Mervyn Sloman opened the event with a quote from none other than André Brink, which set the bar very high indeed: “One of the most magnificent stories to emerge from South African writing over the past twenty years. I have no doubt that not only has Bruce redefined the historical novel, but we may well become one of the most significant writers on the world stage.”

But Sloman nudged the bar even higher, confirming Brink’s opinion, saying, “It’s one of those books that is going to create a buzz for months and years to come. You inhabit the world that Alastair has created and once you’re in there, the rest of your life goes on hold until you’ve finished the book.”

Publisher Frederick de Jager recalled planning to meet Bruce at the London Book Fair earlier this year, “to make quite sure that we were not fooling ourselves… because we’d received a reader’s report that started with ‘Brilliant!’, and never toned down.” A second report came back, verifying this first opinion. “When I read the book myself, I had a similar response – it is a most extraordinary work. It’s all about the future and all about the past. It’s all about South Africa, and yet it contains no reference to this country either.”

He mentioned that a UK publisher has been lined up – “and we’re sure more will follow soon.”

Karina Magdalena Szczurek & Alastair Bruce

Karina Magdalena Szczurek, whose quote graces the book’s front cover, joined the author in conversation. She said the book had first arrived with a brief, but curious introduction, describing it as a cross between Waiting for the Barbarians and Castaway. “‘Yeah, right,’ I thought – but as I read the first few pages and was so drawn into it, I changed that to ‘Yeah, right!’”

Port Elizabeth-born Bruce lived in Cape Town and had hoped to study medicine at UCT, but ended up on the literature track. He went on to write his MA thesis on JM Coetzee – “Obviously, a very major influence in my writing,” – and left South Africa for the UK in 1997.

Szczurek asked Bruce to read twice. Here’s a clip from the opening of the book:

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Other writers who inspire him include Seamus Heaney, Kashuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy, William Carlos Williams, and Hemingway. “The style of cutting out unnecessary words.”

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