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Flashback Friday: Highlights from a Decade of Lauren Beukes’ Writing

MaverickBroken MonstersThe Shining Girls

LitNet has rounded up eight pieces by Lauren Beukes, whom they call “one of South Africa’s greatest exports”. The article “Writer of the Week: A decade of Lauren Beukes” features highlights of a decade of her interviews, articles and stories.

The earliest article in the list is “My Place: ‘The Accident of Home’”. In the article, Beukes writes about a bad romance in New York, and how being in a different country really taught her how to be South African.

In the bio section, she is introduced as “an intrepid girl reporter”. At the time of the article’s publication, she was working on her MA in Creative Writing and a manuscript called “Branded”, which became her stellar debut Moxyland.

Read the article:

It takes a context to define something, a control to establish a norm. I learned how to be South African in New York.

“Do you recognise the language?” My lover (who was an inveterate liar, but then I’ve always been attracted to the idea of unreliable narrators) was lying in a hospital bed in a Brooklyn emergency room, his collarbone leaping obscenely, insistently, under his skin. Partially obscured by the disinfectant-green curtains, a black family next to us was murmuring in a foreign language over their loved one against a backbeat of respirators and mournfully bleating machines.

Did I recognise it? As if the borders across the continent were so smudged that there was no difference discernible between Swahili and Sesotho. As if I could be so intimately familiar with the play of vowels and consonants as to be able to identify one tongue out of eleven, let alone a hundred languages, a thousand dialects, because one surely should be the mother of all?

“No,” I said.

I think, actually, they were Caribbean.

Fast forward 10 years, and Lauren was being interviewed about her third wonderfully successful novel The Shining Girls:

What inspired your book?

Violence and the 20th century. I wanted to subvert the serial killer genre, to talk about what violence is and what it does to us – femicide in particular. I wanted to portray what real serial killers are like, as the loathsome vile losers they are, and make the victims real, to make the reader feel their loss and what it means to the world. And I was interested in how the past 100 years have shaped us, from the evolution of the skyscraper and highways to civil rights and abortion, and explore how much things have changed, especially for women. Chicago was a useful stand-in for Johannesburg, with the same issues of segregation, corruption and crime, but it allowed me to play on a broader canvas.

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