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Henrietta Rose-Innes Talks About Exploring the In-between Spaces in Her Writing

NinevehHenrietta Rose-Innes was in Edinburgh for the International Book Festival this month and Katie Reid from Africa in Words took the opportunity to interview her about her novel, Nineveh. Reid spoke about the shift away from political writing in South Africa, questioning whether writers still have a socio-political role today and Rose-Innes commented that she resists “the idea that authors have compulsory tasks, but do feel a certain responsibility to look at the complexities of where I am, and respond in as nuanced a way as I’m able. Exploring specific land- and cityscapes is one of the ways I try to do this in my writing.”

Rose-Innes also discussed writing about Cape Town, her home town, saying that “it has very interesting overlapping zones: between urban and wilderness (the mountain, and sea); rich and poor, old and new” and that she’s interested in exploring these in-between spaces.

Henrietta Rose-Innes: I love the city and the Festival has been wonderful. It’s been great to meet other writers. The fan in me is excited to see and hear authors I admire who may never come to South Africa.

Katie Reid for AiW: You are a ‘new South African voice’ at the Edinburgh Book Fest – your session next week with Sifiso Mzobe is entitled ‘New Voices from South Africa’ – and I know that you have recently completed a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency, whose mission is “to promote innovation and identify impact-oriented solutions to critical global problems”. What’s newest with you and your work?
HR-I: I have just finished the manuscript of a new book, called Green Lion, which among other things explores the natural history of Table Mountain. At one point, when I was frustrated with sorting out the complex story structure of my last novel, Nineveh, I told myself that the next book would involve somebody going to the top of the mountain and then coming back down, and that would be the entire plot arc: simple. Well, of course it didn’t turn out simple at all, but it still has that movement at its heart.

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