Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Podcast with a Wandering South African: Christopher Hope

The Garden of Bad DreamsChristopher HopeChristopher Hope has brightened the global literary firmament for decades. This prolific author (increasingly venerable, to his great unease) has created a unique brand of fiction that draws on his formative years in South Africa but that travels almost as widely as he does – wider even. He belongs to that elect group of writers who become citizens of the world, and whose travels yield to literary necessity.

Join me on The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast as I chat to Christopher about his fiction – especially his latest works, the novel My Mother’s Lovers and his collection of short stories, The Garden of Bad Dreams – as well as about his involvement in the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

I recorded the interview in Franschhoek, during the second FLF (of which Christopher is Director), and during our conversation it became clear why he has stayed unwaveringly at the top of his game in the world of books. He speaks with warmth and charm: not at all softly, as the adage goes, yet one never fails to sense the “big stick” of his intellectual firepower informing every word.

Heaven ForbidChristopher HopeChristopher was exiled from South Africa in the mid-seventies, and to this day he considers himself a “wandering South African”. He has fascinating views on why certain people react to Africa in certain ways, and how the continent has inspired the strangest fantasies among those who’ve left their own countries to settle in on it. An echo of this may be heard My Mother’s Lovers, in which Christopher startled readers with his creation of the larger-than-life character, Kathleen Healy, who seems to regard Africa as her playground. This marauding woman hops from place to place in planes; boxes; hunts; and has a lover affair with explosives – but in the end she remains an enigma, even to her son Alexander.

It is clear that Christopher enjoys the process of creating fictional worlds, and much of his writing stretches the bounds of literary possibility. By turns a poet, a short story writer and a novelist, his narratives delight, inform and sometimes infuriate as only works of a strong imagination can.

White Boy RunningSince his forced exile because of official disapproval for his writing, Christopher has lived in many places, but he now makes his home in a village with an ancient heritage in the south of France. His work as a journalist has taken him to many parts of the world – a fortunate happenstance for him, given his enduring love affair with travel.

His writings have received numerous awards, including the the Thomas Pringle Prize, the CNA Award, the Cholmondeley Award and the Whitbread Novel Award (for Kruger’s Alp). Serenity House was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize.

My Mother's LoversChristopher HopeChristopher’s first novel, A Separate Development, was published in 1981 and the Apartheid government immediately banned it. It subsequently received the David Higham Prize for Best First Novel the next year – an ironic turn of events quite fitting for a writer who plays irony like a finely-tuned instrument.

Please tune into our highly enjoyable conversation:

  • Play now: use the widget links below, or click the link under Latest episodes in the sidebar on the right.
  • Visit feed: You can also play the podcast directly from its source feed; click here, then scroll to the bottom of the page (opens in new window).
  • Listen via iTunes or subscribe through a podcatcher or alternative service: use the buttons and/or feed address in the sidebar.

Further bio/biblio notes on Christopher Hope.

Richard Ford, Anne Landsman and Christopher Hope


Please register or log in to comment