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SJ Naudé Contemplates His “Imploded Novel” The Alphabet of Birds (Plus: New UK Cover)

The Alphabet of BirdsAlfabet van die voëlsSJ Naudé’s collection of short stories The Alphabet of Birds has been published in the UK by independent publishing house And Other Stories.

The Alphabet of Birds was first published in Afrikaans in 2011, as Alfabet van die voëls, winning the 2012 Jan Rabie Rapport Prize and the 2011/2012 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize (Afrikaans).

Naudé himself translated the stories for the English edition, which The Guardian called “bursting with transcendence”.

The UK edition of book has been given a lovely new cover:

Carli Coetzee of Africa in Words chatted to Naudé about the process of translation, the “estranging effect” of writing in Afrikaans, and how his short story collection could be seen as “an imploded novel”:

CC: Is the collection an imploded novel? How would this collection be different if it were in fact marketed as “a novel”? Is it perhaps a novel but an imploded one?

SJN: I like the idea of an “imploded novel”: a collection of connected stories that refuse to become a novel. Stories that retreat from the novel form, rather than approach it. Texts that may be either the scaffolding for, or the ruins of, a novel, and that intend to be nothing more and nothing less. Why should we insist that something is a novel, even when it actually wants to be something less easily classifiable, simply because the demands of modern publishing require that something must parade as such? There is, of course, nothing new about the idea of a cycle of stories that are linked through themes, motifs or reappearing characters. Such stories may be mirrors or shadows of each other, may answer or oppose or undermine each other. The lengthy (sometimes novella-length) stories in my collection do, I hope, something slightly different. They are exceptionally diverse in their subject matter and setting, but are also closely linked in certain ways. They seem to both clash and engage intensely with each other at the same time, which is why the violence suggested by your notion of an “imploded novel” seems apt.

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