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Posted on: Thursday, 13 May 2010

Franschhoek Literary Festival – Books, words, literature and Franschhoek – a heady mix

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Literary Festival

Literary Festival

I don’t need an excuse to head out to Franschhoek. The simply gorgeous little winelands‘ village easily adapts its streets into the site of a party for writers and book lovers from around the world, and 2010, the Franschhoek literary festival’s fourth year, looks like it’s set to be even more of a words and wine treat than ever before!

If you’re anything like me, the chance to rub shoulders with authors, editors, and poets while enjoying debates, fascinating conversations, talks by authors that range from discussions about writing techniques to more politically charged debates, leaves you slightly agitated. The thrill of being so close to a myriad South African authors, and to hear about the ins and outs of their books and writing techniques gives me goose bumps. It’s the closest I can get to experiencing the artist hub of Paris, but one better, as it’s only an hour from home, and I don’t have to do public transport (shameless bourgeois that I am).

So, as I rub my hands excitedly in anticipation, let me share a couple of the line-up highlights that, if I didn’t have a four-year-old, I would be rushing off to hear. Instead, I will live the experience vicariously by writing and thinking about it (sigh).

Friday’s literary frenzy

In typical fashion for Franschhoek, one of the very first talks on Friday is about food. Food books sell. And incase you choose to differ, stop off at your local bookstore and cast your eye over the ‘let’s cook’ section. Even my home has a bounteous food book shelf, and we’re not food fundis by any manner of means. But in the church hall (all the events are within walking distance of the Town Hall in the village centre) at 11.30am sharp,  Mark Dendy-Young of La Petite Ferme, and two well known foodie writers, Marlene van der Westhuizen and Myrna Robins, talk to Donald Paul of Big Issue fame (I’d go just to hear Donald Paul, as I’m quite a fan) in The Chefs Who Played with Fire.

But I have to say that my highlights for Friday would be Doing it Weekly – on at 14.30 in the School Hall, in which one of my favourite columnists, Marianne Thamm, gets together with Ndumiso Ngcobo, Jacob Dlamini and Tyrone August, three other columnists, to discuss their weekly angsts, and Writing by Numbers (at the same time as the former talk) in the Hospice Hall – where Jenny Crwys-Williams quizzes three recently published female authors – Marida Fitzpatrick, Angela Makholwa and Paige Nick about their first novels. Were they easy to write? (gawd, surely a first novel is something like giving birth?)

Other highlights for Friday include: the book launch of Mike van Graan’s Play Scripts in the Screening Room at 17.15, Flashbacks in a Strange Room where Damon Galgut (I’m a fan) and Ivan Vladislavic talk to Uk publisher Toby Mundy.

For fans of Off the Wall Poetry, which happens regularly in Cape Town, an open mic evening offering local and Cape Town poets the chance to perform is on at BICCCS Café at 18.30.

Saturday’s heady whirl

Without a doubt, I would front a stampede to hear Who’s Afraid of the ANC? Taking place in the School Hall at 13.00. Zapiro, Allan Boesak, who wrote Running with Horses, and Kader Asmal exchange views with Rhoda Kadalie (human rights activist, feminist and former anti-apartheid activist). On at the same time, unfortunately, is A Writer’s Best Friend, which looks at the bond between author and editor and the art of getting the best out of manuscripts.

I’m a Novelist – Get Me Out of Here, also at 13.00 in the Hospice Hall, looks like fun, with Niq Mhlongo, John van de Ruit and Imraan Coovadia talking about the unexpected aspects of being a novelist. Whilst Debutants’ Ball allows three new authors – Aher Arop Bol, Marida Fitzpatrick and Adam Schwartzman to unburden themselves of the difficulties of getting their work accepted, published and reviewed.

Other highlights include hearing Marita van der Vyver (one of my favourite authors) in conversation with Muriel Barbery, who appears to be bringing out a new book called Gourmet Rhapsody, in Of hedgehogs and Gourmets in the Church Hall. And then of interest is Secret Agents at 11.30 in the Hospice Hall – what literary agents and scouts do for the system, and why they’re so important. That’s chaired by Karabo Kgoleng (SAFM presenter).

Sunday’s wordy debates

At 10.00 there is Flying High (aptly in the School Hall) where John van de Ruit of Spud fame, talks about the highs, and lows, of being a bestselling author and about working on the film version of Spud. At the same time, Isobel Dixon reads from her recent collection of poetry, A Fold in the Map, in the Screening Room.

Other talks for Sunday include We don’t Need No Education at 11.30 in the School Hall, where authors Mandla Langa, Deborah Posel and Graeme Bloch discuss the state of the SA education system and what should be done to create schools we could be proud of. Word of Mouth in the Church Hall at 14.30 looks at the impact of personal recommendations and book club discussions on the world of book marketing, and includes

Ebook How to Avoid Disappoinment takes an interesting look at where the eBook has come in the last eighteen months and what this means, at 11.30 in the Council Chamber. And The Beautiful Game at the School Hall at 13.00 sees insiders of sport in this country, Tom Watt and John Carlin, chat to Chris Thurman about the biggest show on earth that is about to roll into town. Also don’t miss Laughing at Ourselves, in the School Hall at 14.30, and Who Do You Think You Are? in the Hospice hall at the same timel.

Writers of the literary festival will be available for signings from Wordsworth Bookshop in the Town Hall, whilst Treasure House will have a table of out-of-print South African authors’ books.

Ticket prices are R60 each (R20 for students).

Look out too for the Sunday Times Dinners in aid of the Storybook Campaign, one at La Brasserie on Friday, and the other on Saturday at Reubens. Enjoy the celebration of books and writers at this year’s literary festival in Franschhoek!

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Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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