…the bloodshot eyes of cherries… green figs sit pertly on their bottoms peeping over trays… – You Can’t Get Lost In Cape Town, Zoë Wicomb
Country: South Africa
Why We Love Her: Wicomb’s first collection of interconnected short stories, You Can’t Get Lost In Cape Town, was an incredible offering. No one quite like Wicomb, describes so well how, “home” is a continually contested space. Semi-autobiographical, it stood out at the time as one of the only works of fiction to accurate portray the complexity of the coloured experience in South Africa. It has aged beautifully and still retains the pungency of insight that it did when it was published first in 1987.
It’s easy for Michael to say that it’s impossible to get lost in Cape Town when he never rode, nor ever will ride, on a bus. – You Can’t Get Lost In Cape Town, Zoë Wicomb
“If there is such a thing as truth…it has to be left to its own devices, find its own way,” – David’s Story, Zoë Wicomb
Her next book, David’s Story, was concerned with one man grappling with his past as part of an underground liberation movement. In this multi-voiced book he struggles with political memory and the elusive truths hidden in a barely formed, new South Africa.
If the whiteness they pursue is cool and haughty and blank,
history is uncool, reaches out gawkily for affinities, asserts itself boldly,
threatens to mark, to break through and stain the primed white canvas
that is their life.
For, having primed it, they do not know where to start,
how to make a mark. They are alone in the world, a small new
island of whiteness. Or so they think; they do not know, or perhaps
they do not want to know, that the neighbourhood is full of people
like them. Thus they are steeped in its silence. – Playing in the Light, Zoë Wicomb
In 2013 she was honoured with one of the richest literary prizes in the world, the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, bestowed on her because of the creative value of her literary career. Her latest book is October, which she has described as being about: “Home, deracination, family secrets.” It is affecting in its prose and mood and shows Wicomb’s writing is still in top form as she writes about a mid-life crisis and abandonment.