Listen to Perfect Hlongwane’s Musings on the Decline of Hillbrow from the Launch of Jozi
Perfect Hlongwane says his debut novel, Jozi, draws on a rich history of novels that are short, but “very long in the memory”.
Jozi was launched at Niki’s Oasis Lounge and Restaurant in Newtown, Johannesburg, recently, with Hlongwane introducing the novel, elucidating his creative process and his intentions in writing the book.
He also read some excerpts, with breaks in between for attendees to ruminate with their friends and enjoy a drink or two. It was an interesting approach, and worked extremely well.
“I understand that for some people a novel is supposed to be a certain length, but my attitude towards all that is that it follows in a rich tradition of very short novels, and if I call them by name, don’t think that I’m saying Jozi is in that league, I’m saying that there is a precedent for this kind of form, this kind of approach,” Hlongwane said.
“If you think about Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, if you think about John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. And I think in South Africa a lot of the literature that caught my attention and drew me to writing were stories that tended to be very brief but that were very long in the memory. That stayed with you. I think of Alex La Guma’s A Walk in the Night, the tragic Can Themba’s ‘The Suit’.”
Hlongwane says he hopes the reader will “cut us some slack” look beyond Jozi’s length and be rewarded by the novel’s challenging style and subject matter.
“All I really want for the reader is to find that they are challenged, that they are engaged, I just want it to be thought-provoking. I want it to raise questions in your mind about how you see certain things. That’s basically it.”
Listen to Hlongwane reading a short extract from the book describing life in a decaying Hillbrow:
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