Conversation with South African Writer, Thando Mgqolozana


Brief Biography:

Thando Mgqolozana was born in Cape Town and partly grew up in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. A graduate of the University of the Western Cape, he was elected as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and also received the Golden Key International Honour for scholastic achievement and selected as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans.

Mgqolozana is the author of A Man Who is Not A Man (2009), a coming-of-age story which recounts a young man’s traumatic journey through a botched circumcision and traditional initiation gone irrecoverably awry. This debut novel enjoyed critical success and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Mgqolozana’s new novel, Hear Me Alone was published in 2011. This controversial allegory set in an Africanized Nazareth, provides an ­alternative account of the birth of the Messiah and the great ­mystery of Immaculate Conception.

Mgqolozana has worked as a researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council, where he co-authored a number of research monographs. His work has also appeared in the Mail & Guardian and Wordsetc, the South African literary journal. He lives in Durban and works for the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Note: The interview was conducted at the just ended 15th Time of the Writer Festival in Durban, South Africa.

GeosiReads: What is your impression about the festival?

Thando Mgqolozana: It is a good platform for writers to meet readers. You write to be read. I have been here for the past four editions. The festival helps writers to interact with each other.

GR: When did you begin to write?

TM: When I was at the university around 2004. The first thing I wrote was my own biography. It was a trial. I was trying to see if I can write creatively. From then onwards, I improved on my writing.

GR: What do you hope to achieve with your writings?

TM: I hope to get people talking about the social issues I raise in my books.

GR: Have you had any rejections before?

TM: No.

GR: When do you write?

Thando Mgqolozana & Myself

TM: Mostly at night and dawn.

GR: What theme(s) do you write on?

TM: Culture, traditions, ritual, health, power, position, religion.

GR: Who is your favourite author?

TM: It is difficult to pin down one but a few of my favourites are Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

GR: Do you write full time?

TM: No.

GR: Any favourite books?

TM: The Appointment by Herta Muller, Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe.



4 Responses to Conversation with South African Writer, Thando Mgqolozana

  1. You were busy at that festival, Geosi! It’s interesting to read about this author, who I’d never heard of before. I like those three authors he listed as his favourites, so maybe I’d like his writing too. Have you read anything by him?


  2. I agree with Andrew, that you were really busy at the Festival. But through that, we’ve been exposed to such wonderful interviews and insights about lots of writers and their works. I will be particularly interested to read Hear Me Alone. Judging from what you’ve told us, it sure is controversial. Thank you.


  3. amymckie says:

    Great to read a bit more about him, after reading Hear Me Alone. It sounds like you had a truly amazing time at the festival!


  4. winstonsdad says:

    many thanks I loved the muller book as wel ,all the best stu


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