Elleke Boehmer and Naomi Wolf on apartheid, family and literature
The 1970s. Apartheid South Africa. A situation of profound division, both in the country at large, and in many homes, as children turn against the values of their parents. For many writers, early memories powerfully shape their fiction. But what if the world of childhood is a house divided? What if the surrounding politics pose seemingly insurmountable questions — about power, freedom, love, survival from day to day?
Elleke Boehmer, novelist and critic, confronts these questions in her new novel, Op de Veranda (English title: The Shouting in the Dark’). For main character Ella and her family these divisions are further complicated by the Second World War nightmares of her Netherlands father Har. Elleke Boehmer explores the effect of political change on an immigrant family and asks about growing up during apartheid, in the dying days of a colonial system. How is a child impacted by racism? How does she throw off the dead hand of her father’s control?
The writer Karin Amatmoekrim and the writer and public intellectual Naomi Wolf will join the conversation about memory, family, resisting oppression and writing fiction.
Wim Manuhutu, historian and heritage professional, will moderate the programme.
Sue Grant Marshall interviewed Elleke about The Shouting in the Dark on Reading Matters (Radio Today) on 17 September.
Reading Matters hosted by Sue Grant-Marshall is broadcast on Thursdays from 10h00 to 10h30 (GMT+2) and repeated on Sundays at 16h00 (GMT+2). Radio Today broadcasts on 1485 MW (AM) in greater Johannesburg and countrywide on DStv Audio Channel 869. Radio Today also streams on its website www.1485.org.za and on 1485.mobi.
Listen to the podcast here
WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) invites you to a celebration of Elleke Boehmer’s new novel, The Shouting in the Dark, and her new academic work, Indian Arrivals, in Johannesburg.
The event is hosted by WiSER with support from OUP.
Elleke was just interviewed by author Rebecca Mascull about The Shouting in the Dark. Here’s an excerpt of their fascinating exchange:
In this novel we are presented with a rich range of cultures and languages: Boer, Zulu, Dutch, English etc. Certainly uneasy bedfellows! Behind it all is the indifferent land itself of Africa, a land wounded by its history. In my novel The Visitors I became fascinated by the effects of the different cultures on the land before and after the 2nd Boer War. Can you expand a little for us on what role is played in your novel by South Africa itself?
A really interesting question! South Africa is a land divided in the novel; there are very few conversations or interactions other than between Phineas and Ella where the conversation leaves the parties involved closer together than further apart. Here and there the land itself, including nature, like the frogs in the river valley, has a way of asserting itself against the determination of the characters to live as if they didn’t need to take account of these things. I’d also like to point to the role of the sea, which is an area of release and potential escape, but also of connection, where Africa isn’t a sealed off geography, but open to lands and cultures of the Indian Ocean, that someone I know calls the connecting sea. This is the powerful sense of possibility that the father, the man of the sea, gives to Ella in spite of everything.
Read the rest of the interview
The Book Trust has given The Shouting in the Dark an excellent review:
This moving story is not to be missed either as a glimpse into the political chaos of Apartheid South Africa or as a beautifully rendered portrait of a childhood deprived of love or comfort. Astounding.
Read the rest here
Feminist Naomi Wolf and biographer Elleke Boehmer discuss South African apartheid and forbidden love. Boehmer, writer and acclaimed biographer of Nelson Mandela, and Wolf, a leading third-wave feminist, activist and author, look at apartheid from the perspective of settler families and explore the forbidden loves that bloomed against a backdrop of segregation.
Boehmer’s new novel The Shouting in the Dark tells the story of Ella, the daughter of settlers from Holland, who falls in love with Phineas, their black gardner, and comes into conflict with the limits of life under apartheid.
Boehmer and Wolf look at the damage that was inflicted on the oppressed and the oppressor and how, against the odds, some relationships found ways to flourish.
Elleke will be at the 2015 Open Book Festival in Cape Town, 9-13 September. She will be participating in the following panels (view events on the calendar):
Sins of our Parents
10 September, 14.00 – 15.00 in the Fugard Annexe 1
Elleke Boehmer, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Bridget Pitt discuss how the actions of the previous generation impact on their protagonists with Kathryn White.
Reading: Poetry and Prose
10 September, 18.00 – 19.00 in the Fugard Annexe 1
Join Elleke Boehmer, Patrick Flanery, Perfect Hlongwane, Siphokazi Jonas, Shirmoney Rhode and Hong Ying as they read from their work.
You’re South African?
11 September, 14.00 – 15.00 in the Fugard Theatre
Elleke Boehmer, Justin Cartwright and Melissa de Villiers discuss their respective relationships with the country of their birth as it is reflected in their recent books. Chaired by Nancy Richards.
12 September, 10.00 – 11.00 in the Fugard Annexe 2
Elleke Boehmer, Craig Higginson & Henrietta Rose-Innes discuss their jumps between past and present with Diane Awerbuck.
See all the events on Elleke’s events page or view the complete Open Book programme
Ashley Davies has written a brilliant review of The Shouting in the Dark in The Scotsman (27 July 2015):
Every now and then you develop a relationship with a novel that transports you so vividly to a specific place and time in history that whenever you look up from its pages you need to catch your breath to be reminded of the here and now.
This is one such work – an outstanding study of a deeply troubled family against the backdrop of political change, and one girl’s resilience in the face of ugly, sharp-edged obstacles.
Read the full review here
Elleke contributed to this morning’s episode of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, in the segment ‘Vocal Fry + Speech Patterns in Young Women’:
‘Vocal Fry’ may not be new – think Mae West in the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong, but it’s the latest in a line of speech patterns popularised by celebrities such as the Kardashians, Scarlett Johansen, and Lena Dunham. Best described as a guttural lowering of the voice at the end of sentences, it’s a manner of speaking which some linguists believe undermines women, and causes them to be taken less seriously. Joining Jenni to discuss the feminist implications of ‘vocal fry’ are the author and journalist Naomi Wolf, and Professor of World Literature in English at the University of Oxford, Dr Elleke Boehmer.
Listen to the episode