An Interview with Chris Barnard

Chris Barnard is one of the leading authors of Afrikaans literature, he was part of the Sestigers which were responsible for a radical renewal in Afrikaans literature during the sixties. He is almost unprecedented when it comes to the number of genres he has worked in and the number of awards he has received. He won the Hofmeyr Prize, the Rapport Prize, the Hertzog Prize twice and was awarded the CNA Prize three times. In 2011 he received the South African Literary Award (SALA) for lifetime achievement.

Born in Nelspruit in 1939, Barnard completed a BA degree in 1960 at the University of Pretoria. He worked as a journalist for seventeen years and as a script writer and film producer between 1978 and 1994. He has also written radio plays, stage plays and screenplays for TV and film, including several documentary films. His screenplay for the film Paljas, directed by his wife, Katinka Heyns, was the first South African film to receive an Oscar nomination. His plays are still performed, and Heyns is currently filming his screenplay Die Wonderwerker, a film about the enigmatic naturalist and author Eugène Marais.

He now lives and writes on his farm outside Nelspruit.


10 Questions

1) What led you into writing?

Reading poetry. I was fascinated by the really good poet’s ability to say more with less. But then I read Hemingway.

2) What was your earliest career aspiration?

I wanted to be a game ranger in the Kruger National Park.

3) Can you describe your latest book Bundu and its inspiration in thirty words?

A band of loners and outcasts, used to the solitude of the African bush, being forced to unite against a common enemy: an environmental disaster.

4) Do you have any plans for your next book?

Yes, I am halfway through a new novel, with the downfall of apartheid as backdrop, and the influence it had and is still having on ordinary people.

5) What has been the most exciting moment in your career?

Being awarded the CNA prize (best literary work of the year) for my first book.

6) What are you reading right now?

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.

7) If you could have dinner with any three people, past or present, who would they be?

The Afrikaans poet and naturalist Eugène Marais who died in 1936. Just the two of us. And then another dinner with Nelson Mandela and Jan Smuts, South Africa’s prime minister during the second world war.

8) Which period in history would you most like to have lived through?

The last decade of the nineteenth century in Paris.

9) If your house was on fire, which three books would you save from the flames?

My first picture album, the book I’m reading now and the manuscript of my unfinished novel.

10) What do you do to relax?

I read, listen to music and watch movies, cricket and rugby. And I love bird watching and working in my garden.

Find out more about Bundu