The Writers Write Interview – Bongani Madondo


Author: Bongani Madondo
Birthday: 1 January 1981
Date: 19 July 2007
Where: via email @ work, Johannesburg
The Book: Hot Type (Picador Africa)

1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

While I would love to lie and name check Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Tambudzai in Nervous Conditions, the aging Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita, the tabloid-dish Miss.Runcible in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies or even Achebe’s Okonkwo- truth is, I am not quite attached to fictional heroes.
I find that non-fiction – that includes biography and memoir form- has much more interesting “fictional” characters, and that includes, sometimes, their authors. Some of them.
I mean what better “fictional” hero or villain can you get beyond the Toby Young, the author of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People?
Tell you what: my favourite fiction would be Graydon Carter, the larger than life editor of Vanity Fair. Or even Somregi Ntuli, aka. Obelix, in one of Hot Type’s cinematic miniature-biographies; Obelix & Asterix: Somregi Ntuli and The Tough Love Gang. You don’t get more fictitious, as well as fictional than that.

2. What is your most treasured possession?

Books, blues vinyl records, CDs, and sometimes my criminally huge collection of Atlantic, and Vanity Fair magazines.

3. Which living person do you most dislike?

I don’t have neither the time nor the space in me to do that. Takes a lot of work, innit ?

4. What is your greatest fear?

Conquered that, as well. Not sure. Ok: let’s see: that my granny would pass on without having met the woman I’m contemplating marrying.

5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?

It’s tempting to say West-African music, but no: haven’t met her, or experienced that. Yet. I’m still growing.

6. What is your greatest regret?

That my late mother is not here to see me answering questions like these: on the flimsy premise that I am now a famous author. But then, I don’t regret that, either: everything happens for a reason.

7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?

I’ve already been. By osmosis. James Baldwin’s young preacher-boy (himself) in Notes Of A Native Son, little Frankie McCourt in Angela’s Ashes. I think I must still deal with what Oprah would refer to as “my growing up, pre-teen issues.” And be grown up, for a change.

8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?

McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Ayi Kwei’s Two Thousand Seasons,  Sandile Dikeni’s Telegraph To The Sky, Baldwin’s Notes Of A Native Son, and this particular Archie&Veronica yarn, with Jug-head as the main troublemaker. Dig my comics. Wish Tin-Tin was Rastafarian and born in the iPod age.

9. What is your favourite journey?

Dreaming, that is my favourite journey: like, dreaming I was in Dakar, or Bamako, listening to music, sleeping under the African sky blanket, washing my feet in the Atlantic. I also love doing a trip in Mpumalanga, I have labelled  “On the Road To Heaven”- driving on the very peak point of mountainous parts, passing Long Tom Pass, between White River and Lydenburg. Pure butter- nah, pure heaven!

10. Cats or dogs? Which do you prefer?

Learning to love dogs, because of two reasons: Njabulo Ndebele’sessay about dogs in the Mail&Guardian altered my entire and wrongfully held attitude towards dogs. Also, I attend so many dinners at white folks’ houses, and all white folks in South Africa have dogs.
The rapper Snoop would love these folks: where my dawgzz at ?

11. What quality do you most admire in a woman?

Ability to resist women’s glossy mags notions of beauty. But also she must have style. “Style”, like “tact”, is everything to me: in so far as it applies to personal, religious, intellectual, fashion, or whatever aspect of life. Do it in style: meaning be cool, while leaving your unique stamp on life.

12. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?

I’m blessed and quite elated that I have published Hot Type, but please call me after three years. I’ll have a more pointed answer. Right now, you are mugging me!

13. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read, write, read, write. Dream, write and take notes of your dreams, then write some more.
Don’t wait for inspiration: Ayi Kwei, Baldwin and Tolstoy stole it long time ago. They were seen sharing it somewhere in Beyosla State, Nigeria- can you believe it?

14. What are your favourite names?

Nolita, Lolita, Nomvula, Thulile and Dumisane.

15. What do you do as a hobby?

Answer stuff like this. Or walk the city streets across the world, from Sin City (Johannesburg) to Lagos V.I (Victoria Island): it would be great to do a book about cities, that’s not your typical tourist-junk.

16. What are your top 3 books?

Are you asking me if I am keen on interviewing Osama bin forgotten, wearing a Stars and Stripes emblazoned silk suit?

17. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?

Walking, walking and more walking. Especially in the city streets. It’s rather weird that I lose myself in dreams, in mostly noisy or artificial places, where neon lights, perfume, sex, sound, mobile items, swivelling of hips, hustlers selling some square a dummy, bullet speeding cars, and visuals fight for your every sense’s attention. Damn weird.

Bongani Madondo,
19 July 2007

 posted by Amanda Patterson, July 2006