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?
GR: When do you write?
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?
GR: Any favourite books?
TM: The Appointment by Herta Muller, Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe.