Q: How did you research this book, and was there anything that particularly surprised you in the course of your research?--Marshal Zeringue
A: I knew that I, as a white South African, couldn’t create nuanced, three dimensional black characters. The Apartheid regime of my childhood kept South Africans of all races very effectively apart.
Who Killed Piet Barol? is set in South Africa in 1913, and many of the characters are Xhosa. I knew I’d have to go on a quest for lived experience before trying to bring them to life. So I upped sticks and went to live in a tent on a hillside in the rural Eastern Cape. I threw myself into helping found a centre for green business skills, which took me right to the heart of Xhosa village life.
The experience was amazing and appalling, hilarious and miserable, in approximately equal measure. Certain mysteries were revealed to me, and any things had to happen before, several years later, I was ready to create a Xhosa village from my own experience - with...[read on]