Literary Birthday – 1 December – Rian Malan

Happy Birthday, Rian Malan, born 1 December 1954.

Five Quotes

  1. If you genuinely believe a nation can flog its way to paradise, what will it look like once we get there?
  2. Johannesburg as we know it will vanish, and something new will arise in its place. Many centuries hence, visitors to this New Jerusalem will encounter something presently inconceivable—Africans wearing safari suits and struggling to decipher the crumbling texts of a race that once lived here, planting cornfields that stretched farther than the eye could see, splitting atoms, and making the trains run on time. That race will be gone, of course, but the new order will preserve and venerate its ruins, in much the way that Europeans preserve Roman roads and aqueducts. Outside universities, Afrikaans will be a ghost that rattles its chains in the depths of some new African tongue, and white and black skins will have given way to something closer to golden. The issues that divide us now will seem absurd in retrospect. The good that white men did will be acknowledged, the evil forgotten. The wounds of history will be healed. Would that I could live to see it.
  3. Foreigners think we’re nuts coming back to a doomed city on a damned continent, but there is something you don’t understand: it’s boring where you are.
  4. My position has always been: this cannot be how history ends in South Africa. This is an incredibly dramatic country. It can’t end with upbeat advertising slogans. This has been a transitional phase and it has been really positive and interesting, but the real history of South Africa is about to begin. I was completely wrong about that in my book, I thought it would happen straightaway. There has been a gap.
  5. I had always been two people, you see: A Just White Man appalled by the cruelties Afrikaners inflicted on Africans, and an Afrikaner appalled by the cruelties Africans inflicted on each other, and might one day inflict on us. There were always these two paths open before me, these two forces tugging at my traitor’s heart…. That being the case, there was only one path left for the likes of me—the path that led into Africa, the path of no guarantees…. Strange terrors and ecstasies awaited us in Africa, but that was the choice we faced: Either we stayed as we were, trapped inside our fortress of paranoia, deformed by fear and greed, or we opened the door to Africa and set forth into the unknown.

Rian Malan is a South African author, journalist, documentary maker and songwriter. He is best known as the author of the memoir My Traitor’s Heart. As a journalist, he has written for major newspapers in South Africa, Great Britain and the USA.

See Photograph of author here.

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 1st December 2015