Arja Salafranca selected the short stories for The Edge of Things, a compilation of South African short stories. I chatted to her.
NIKKI: What were the criteria for selection for The Edge of Things?
ARJA: Firstly, a story had to move and touch me, make me feel something, reflect on some aspects of life and our experiences here. Secondly, I was looking at excellence in terms of telling a story, well-crafted stories that begin with something deep inside and move readers because these were tales that just had to be told.
N: What was the inspiration for this book?
A: The book was initially meant to be an edition of the literary journal, Green Dragon. I received nearly 100 submissions and then selected the 24 stories that make up the anthology. It was too large for a journal, so I suggested that it become a special short fiction edition. I decided to do it because of my own love of the short story – as both a short story writer and as a prodigious reader of the genre.
N: Can you tell us about some of the themes of the book?
A: Some of the stories centre on solitude – and the ramifications of that, from loneliness, to a sense of fulfilment that also results from time spent alone, some centre on relationships experienced, some are about the outsider from society. Some of the stories explore the mother-daughter bond, some look at childhood experiences, some reach deep into South Africa’s past, looking at how those experiences have shaped those in the stories. Others look at identity issues in post-apartheid South Africa, and my own story deals with polio and the mother-daughter bond.
N: What do you think of South African writing currently?
A: It’s extremely vibrant and healthy – certainly in terms of the volume of fiction being produced, and we have some world-class writers, both established as well as emerging. South Africans are now so much more receptive to reading local literature – and there’s also such a range – from literary, to science fiction to crime thrillers and more.
N: Who are some of your favourite local authors?
A: I love Damon Galgut’s fierce, spare, almost uncompromising vision; David Medalie’s collection of short stories The Mistress’s Dog as well as Henrietta Rose-Innes’s Homing. I also love the poetry of Eva Bezwoda Royston (sadly she committed suicide in the 1970s). It’s personal, confessional poetry full of rich, dark and vivid imagery.
(Published in Voila!, Issue Number 8, 2011)