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Niq Mhlongo

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PEN SA’s Q&A with Niq Mhlongo

Niq Mhlongo

This is part of a series of profiles on PEN SA members:

Niq Mhlongo is the author of three novels and a forthcoming short story collection. His first novel, Dog Eat Dog, was published in 2004 and translated into Spanish under the title Perro Come Perro in 2006. This Spanish edition won the Mar des Lettras prize. This was followed by After Tears in 2007 and Way Back Home in 2013. Niq’s short story collection Affluenza will be out next month.

Niq was described as “one of the most high-spirited and irreverent new voices of South Africa’s post-apartheid literary scene” by the New York Times.

Favourite South African novel?

….A Man Who’s Not A Man by Thando Mgqolozana stands out amongst many

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished my short stories collection called Affluenza. It will be published by Kwela in May. Also busy with my manuscript for the new novel which is in an advanced stage.

Any characters (yours or another writer’s) that have stuck with you?

The Man from Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Also Advo and Bafana from my novels, Dog Eat Dog and After Tears respectively.

Any advice / tips for writers starting out?

Read, read, read a lot and then write.

Hardest part of the writing and publishing process?

For me the writing process is not hard. But the publishing process becomes frustrating when you reach that time editors call ‘killing your darlings time’. This is the moment when editors mess up with your story and characters in the name of shaping them.

South African writers or books that have made an impact on you?

Afrika, My Music by Es’kia Mphahlele.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have a tendency of reading two books at a time. At the moment is Rusty Bell by Nthikeng Mohlele and A Traumatic Revenge by Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho.

If you had to pick one book to give to all South Africans to read what would it be?

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

Any other genres that you’re interested in trying your hand at?

I want to try poetry, but I find it very hard.

Proudest moment of your writing career?

When Kwela told me that they were going to publish my then manuscript, Dog Eat Dog in 2004. This is after they had rejected it more than ten times before.

Favourite quote from a book?

‘Why write this book? No one has asked me for it, especially those to whom it is directed. Well, well, I reply quite calmly that there are too many idiots in this world. And having said it, I have the burden of proving it…’ From Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks.

(Image courtesy Lauren Beukes)


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