BY THE BOOK: Mapule Mohulatsi - Daily Nation

BY THE BOOK: Mapule Mohulatsi

Friday April 20 2018

Mapule Mohulatsi is a reader and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTO| COURTESY

Mapule Mohulatsi is a reader and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Mapule Mohulatsi is a reader and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. Her work appears on Brittle Paper, Itch Magazine and the Enkare Review among others. She is also a Master of Arts student in the department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Tell me the three books that excited you the most in 2017?

Gabeba Baderoon’s Regarding Muslims is a gorgeous analysis that draws extensively from the popular and the official archive, it’s about the role of Muslims from South Africa’s founding moments to the more contemporary presence. Baderoon writes really well.

It’s an important book, especially considering that we live in the age of a so called ‘extremism’ and purely unjust portrayals of Muslims. Baderoon conducts her analysis through etymology, popular culture, visual art, humour, recipes, and body art.

Her chapter on food will make you hungry. No, like, seriously.

I really loved Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl. It’s prose writing that’s been confused to be a short story. I read it like a thousand times. Anyway, Kincaid is ruthless with her sentences. I grew up with two older brothers and I was always told to ‘sit like a girl’ and so on.

So when I read Girl, I laughed on my own, knowing that all that advice girls are given as to how to walk on Sundays is wasted.  Or at least to me it is.

Kincaid, when she speaks has as much temperature as when she writes, she has feeling you can taste when you read her, you know. I like that, being able to taste the writers feeling, and temperament, through their sentences.

I also really loved Kei Millers poem titled Questions for Martin Carter. I just have a huge crush on him because he really can write.

The poem is about a Guyanese poet who lived under constant surveillance and started writing his poems on his zinc fence; and it’s also a poem about the fascination writers have with print publishing; when really what matters is following that urge to write. Anywhere. Maybe your wall is a great start.


Two books you hold so dear they can’t be lent out

Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue and my battered and extremely tired copy of Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths.


Your fauvorite childhood books? Why?

These books really changed the world, the white world, of books for me. I was used to happy endings and resolute conclusions, but William H Armstong’s Sounder and Mildred D Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry changed that for me.

They’re both really honest books, with real people in them; and I can say that they took me to the very first trips (considering that reading is a traveling of sorts) into the American South.

I mean I liked Dahls, The BFG and a whole lot more of his books, but we’re speaking about the books one really, really loved, right?


If you were to dine with three writers dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Yvonne Vera, worked as the director for the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and she also writes images, pictures, that you can actually see when reading her.

I would be so interested to know the things, and the art that she’s seen. She seems to have been a beautiful person.

Virginia Woolf – because I need all that sass in my life! Also I still need a room of my own and my own money, so I need to hear all that advice from the horse’s mouth. She seems to have been brutally honest. I enjoy that.

NoViolet Bulawayo – I really love how humble she is. And reading We Need New Names (okay I know I say this a lot), but it changed my life! The first half of the novel especially. She’s just really awesome, and beautiful, to read, and to look at.

Most unforgettable character from a book?

Richard Parker in Life of Pi, is the most charming tiger I ever met in my life. I had I crush on him for the longest time. To be quite honest Richard Parker is the only tiger I know intimately so I can’t really say ‘most charming’, but you know what I mean.

But if tigers don’t count then it has to be Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil; the only character not affected by the ring in The Lord of the Rings; and he’s just so charming, with a playful wit, and, he is free.

And if those unaffected by power don’t count then it has to be Tituba from Maryse Conde’s I Tituba the Black Witch of Salem


Which book do you wish you had written and why?

Toni Morrisons, Beloved. Because it is the gospel.

If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?

Jaume Cabre’s Confessions, Graham Greene’s A Burnt Out Case andGeorge Lamming’s In the Castle of my Skin.

Do you think book festivals, literary prizes and writing workshops are important to a writer’s growth?

Yes they are, especially writing workshops. My first writing workshop was hosted by Short Story Africa Day and I still relish the lessons from that day.

Workshops are productive. Uhm, festivals too, but it just always ends up being about the authors hogging the mic; so miss me. I don’t enjoy them that much, it’s about the personality more than it is the book.

But if the discussions are rich, yes! And prizes are also important. I read a status on Facebook by Kelwyn Sole saying that one day there will be more prizes then there are writers, so we need to be careful of that; and also just what are people writing for?

But I do think prizes are important to keep people excited, the culture alive, and also to pay respect to the art, you know?

Tell me about the last book that made you cry?

 I don’t remember. Honestly. I feel sad sometimes, I’m not sure about crying. But the last book that made me feel sad was Jaume Cabre’s Confessions.

It’s about a man who at 60 is systematically losing his memory; so the novel is all about his recollections, especially at childhood. His study is the centre of his life.

He has also inherited a violin that really is at the centre of the narrative, it’s a famous violin, everyone wants it; especially his best friend.

His family owned an antique shop so the narrative spans across centuries; but at the heart the novel is really about beauty and betrayal and it just broke my heart at the end.

Among your contemporaries, who’d you consider the most exciting newcomer in the writing world and why?

Bongani Kona (I don’t really think I am his contemporary since I consider myself a neophyte, I am not sure if he is a newcomer either, but he has not published a book so concessions can be made); he is really honest in his writing, you can kind of sense that honesty and subtlety.

D-e-l-i-c-a-t-e is what he is, and I am a bit jealous of that.

What are you currently writing?

I am a slow writer and still at the stage where I need a whole lot of drafts before anything I am writing is legit; but there is something I hope turns into a short story that is still really a mess of life but I am working on it and it is okay and I am not here to judge myself so can I live?


BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]