Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Zoo City, an urban fantasy about an alternate Johannesburg where criminals are matched with magical animals.

From her Q & A at io9:

Zoo City is a book that deals with some gritty issues about poverty and crime, and the creation of a criminal underclass. Do you think a book like that speaks to important issues in the 21st century? Is this win partly a recognition that your book is topical?

You'd have to ask the judges. But from the feedback I've had from readers on Twitter and in blog reviews and emails, that's certainly part of what resonates with them - it's also the setting, that Johannesburg is unusual, a mash-up of culture and class, third world and first, that is largely foreign and unknown to a lot of people. And I do try to tackle the issues that make me angry in my fiction, from surveillance society to xenophobia to the divides between people and the evils of autotune. It's fantastical and it has magical animals and ghosts that communicate through cell phones and emails and crime and music and refugees and inner city slums, but at heart it's a book about guilt and the possibility of redemption.

Obviously, the Clarke Award is for books published in the UK, and it's a UK-centric award, whereas your book takes place in South Africa. Do you think issues of class, race and post-colonialism play out differently in those two settings? Do you think the UK has something to learn from reading literature about former colonies?

I don't know how relevant the former colonies are to the average UK citizen/reader today. I think it helps because the British audience possibly has a better idea of South Africa (and India and the West Indies) because we had a conjoined history for a time and there are lots of saffers (hate that term) living and working in the UK.

The issues in South Africa are probably more out in the open. We wear our chaos...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue