Literature: Franschhoek Literary Festival – Reading Into Everything, Or The Internal Explored

May 20, 2023




The second day of a festival is quite different to the first. The novelty of being in a new place is diminished and there may be a dip in energy if you committed to the after-hours offerings of wherever you’re staying – eating out; enjoying a drink with seldom-seen industry colleagues or new friends made at your hotel – the night before. On the upside, you now know where all the session venues are and how long it takes to walk between them, as well as where the best coffees are available.

Michelle Magwood is a fixture at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, a calm and experienced discussant who it’s more or less impossible to feel uncomfortable with. Rachel Joyce, looking like a sort of literary Bonnie Raitt with the single streak of grey in her red hair, is not the sort to need extra prompting and, in a wide-ranging discussion about her books and the intricacies of establishing them as emotionally authentic beings, she proves to not only have a prodigious knack for answering every question immediately with layered, though-provoking responses, but also with a wonderfully appealing dry wit. It’s not at all surprising, listening to her speak, that her writing is as widely popular as it is, and the film adaptation of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is likely to only extend that influence.

By contrast, the discussion between host Wamuwi Mbao and authors CA Davids and Lethokuhle Msimang has an altogether more academic tone, possibly because some of the themes in their work involve existential concerns with identity and how a change in geographical space can change that. Such a difference in tone had little impact on the length of the queue to buy books afterwards, though…

A third, very different option was then presented in a session featuring hugely popular sportscaster Robert Marawa, talking about his memoir with journalist and author Mandy Wiener, who wrote it with him. This scenario – essentially two authors who’d worked on the same book – makes for a different kind of chemistry to most of the other sessions, with Wiener knowing her interviewee well enough to push a couple of buttons that make him smile as he sees where she is guiding the conversation. The drama in his story is also a rather sobering reminder of what often lies behind the glamour of a life lived in the public eye.