Alan Twigg’s review of my novel The Afrikaner in the spring issue of “BC Booklook” goes to the core of the predicament faced by the protagonist of the story, Zoe du Plessis, a young female scientist (33) who grew up in South Africa in a deeply entrenched white family: “Zoe is little concerned with money, status or personal appearance. Instead she seeks belonging.”
Later on, Twigg thus describes and comments on Zoe’s field expedition in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia in a hunt for fossils and for herself: “In the field, near an encampment of twenty some Bushmen people, in charge of men under strenuous circumstances, able to have a brief shower only once a week, Zoe proceeds to explore her place in South African society, contemporary and otherwise, with a candour that makes The Afrikaner increasingly engaging.”
At the end of his review Twigg hints at the film transposition of Zoe’s story, which would allow to show southern Africa’s majestic beauty, its cultural complexity and historical fault lines.
You can read the whole review here:
Arianna Dagnino, The Afrikaner. A Novel (Guernica, 2019)
Audiobook (Chatpter 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rogbi6kmmkw&feature=youtu.be
The Afrikaner. A Novel (and now also a screenplay!)
Arianna Dagnino’s website: https://www.ariannadagnino.com
I thank the South African writer Toni Henning for her review of my novel “The Afrikaner” (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019). One comment struck me most and made me ponder over the total freedom writers can and should have when devising their stories and the characters that inhabit them: “I can hardly believe that the author is not South African.”
Here is the Toni Henning‘s full review:
“The Afrikaner stirred a number of emotions in me; pride in the beauty of the landscapes and places of South Africa, my beloved country, incredibly described by Arianna Dagnino; the pain of loss, new and old; shame and frustration triggered by the recount of history and the fact that, so many years later, we, as a nation, are still struggling to break free; disheartened that the potential of Africa is lost due to this continent’s people’s short-sightedness and the world’s indifference; and, hope that even the most dire circumstances can be healed. Arianna’s characters are genuine; their emotions are raw; their lives are real. Having read the book I can hardly believe that the author is not South African. To read The Afrikaner is to find The Rainbow Nation exposed.”
Arianna Dagnino’s website: https://www.ariannadagnino.com
When reading is good in time of crisis: “I felt her every emotion, her pain, her anxiety, her fatigue-she became so real that I could even smell her”
Let’s not forget that books – fiction as much as nonfiction – are our true companions and sometimes even our real saviours in times of crisis.
“The Afrikaner is a story that takes us to the past, the present and the future of South Africa. It gives us hope, as a nation. It speaks a message of love, forgiveness and peace. ”
“I absolutely enjoyed every moment with Zoe, the main character of The Afrikaner. I felt her every emotion, her pain, her anxiety, her fatigue. She became so real that I could even smell her. It was very easy for me to relate to this saga as I live in South Africa and naturally wish to learn about the history of this country. Zoe can easily represent South Africa: a young land that has suffered so much injustices, so much heartache, pain, violence and bloodshed. But she has to move on. She has to be strong. She has to find her strength in herself, in her deserts, in her oceans and rivers, in her people and in their diversity in culture and language. She has to move away from the place of pain and start afresh on a clean slate. Unfortunately, as Kurt says at page 229, “The past always resurfaces.” Humankind’s past, our individual past and our nation’s past. It cannot be buried and remain buried. How to handle it when it resurfaces is the main issue. Cyril says at page 184, “Diversity is healthy. We can accept each other and be together without giving up our differences. It’s useless – even foolish – to reduce us to a common denominator.” Kurt sums it up, “The Tribes of this country – the white, the black, the coloured – share a long history. Sure, a bloody and violent one. But we’ve been together for hundreds of years now […] This common lived history should be the foundation of our new country.”
If you ever happen to be in British Columbia in May, find a way to reach Salmon Arm, in the Thompson Okanagan region, for the “Word on the Lake Literary Festival” (May 8-10). Salmon Arm has been ranked as the best place to live in B.C. and the sixth-best place to live in Canada by Maclean’s magazine.
On May 9, I will be giving this workshop: “Journeys into the page: how (imaginary) travelling & movement can inspire and nurture your writing”. Here is a brief description of what we will be working on:
Travel is commonly associated with exploration, adventure, stories of growth, and personal transformation. Most of the great writers of all times have tried their hand at or honed their skill through travel-based writing. In this highly interactive workshop, we will discover why this is so by taking you on a journey through memorable stories (of past masters) and highly personal experiences (yours).
Expect to be asked many questions and to have to write your answers in short, fast paragraphs. At the end of the workshop, expect to have developed a mental map of your own creative writing mind and of the reasons why it functions at its best once you have really or virtually left the comfort of home.
Arianna Dagnino’s cultural and professional experience crosses many borders and five continents. Born in Genoa, Italy, she studied in London, Moscow and Boston before entering journalism and international reporting, which led her to spend several years in Southern Africa and Australia and travel across China and the Middle East.
She has published books – both in Italian and English – of fiction and creative nonfiction, as well as on the effects of digital technologies and global mobility.
Her newly-published novel The Afrikaner (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019) is an on-the-road tale set between South Africa and Namibia that covers the terrains of love, race and science. Arianna holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of South Australia currently teaches Italian literature and film adaptation at the University of British Columbia; together with her colleague Dr. Ernest Mathijs she has just finished writing a film script based on her novel.
New in 2019: The Afrikaner. A Novel (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019)
South African actor Gys de Villiers (“Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom”) has kindly accepted to provide his feedback on my novel The Afrikaner, a story of hate, love, guilt and scientific obsession inspired by the five years (1996-2000) I spent in newly post-apartheid South Africa as an international reporter for the Italian press.
I am grateful for his comments, which support my understanding of how creative writers should go about their craft when dealing with other cultural landscapes and the multifarious workings of human nature – that is, with great humbleness, the utmost respect, an open mind, and an unquenchable curiosity. These elements are at the basis of any attempt at cultural permeation, interpretation, and understanding.
You can read Gys de Villier’s full feedback on The Afrikaner here:
“I really enjoyed your story. It was quite moving and I felt intrigued to continue reading till the end.
It is uncanny how you as a foreigner could pinpoint so accurately my own well-guarded emotions about being an Afrikaner.
There were times when I was very surprised at your insight into my psyche as an Afrikaner. I wanted to shout out, no you can’t share that with the world; like the complex military situation during conscription, also the lingering suspicion, resentment and racism that is still part of South Africa.
I like the exploration of Zoe into her maternal line, trying to understand and break free from the supposed curse. I also felt her deep love and loss of Dario [her lover].
I enjoyed Zoe’s interactions with the Khoisan Koma [the shaman] and wanted more of that.
I thought Sam was a very recognizable character that I might have known in SA.
I also loved Zoe’s relationship with Georgina, the old housekeeper which is all too familiar and which forms the base of stability in many a South African household.
The determination with which Zoe tackles her archaeological digs reminds me of all the strong Afrikaner women I know and have known including my mother and sisters.
The story was quite moving and I felt intrigued to continue reading till the end.
Good luck with your film version.”
“It’s simply immense in scope, character development, historical reconstruction, poetic sensibility, human empathy. I consider it a sort of secular Bible for the creative writer. It belongs to another era but it still speaks to us, to all fundamental weaknesses and strengths as human beings.” What book am I referring to? You can discover it by reading my interview with the “well-seasoned librarian” Dean Jones, originally published in his ongoing series on Medium, the platform with 120 million curious readers.
You can read the whole interview here.