Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can South Africa's literary community turn a new page?

The country's once-struggling book industry is now booming, but more needs to be done to encourage reading amongst the entire population.

Last month I visited my brother in Cape Town. He put together the most amazing itinerary: the "big five" in Kruger National Park; lounging on the beach and watching the cold surf in Kleinmond; seafood on the seashore in Hermanus; wine and escargots in Franschhoek for the price of burgers and coke back home; flowers and weddings in the Company Gardens, and hiking up Lion's Head.

But what I was by far the most grateful for was the tireless manner in which he drove me to every bookstore I could find, and his patience as I browsed through miles of new and used books. After which, I can happily report that Cape Town and its environs is home not only to the world's most fecund floral kingdom, but also a thriving literary life.

Almost everyone I met spoke of Cape Town's growing literary community; of how the industry had turned itself around after years of neglect by the chains, independent bookstores such as The Book Lounge and Kalk Bay Books were now. As the Lounge's Mervyn Sloman put it, they were: "filling the void, treating customers with respect, hiring people passionate about the profession, and caring about more than just stock turnover".

- Nigel Beale, Guardian.co.uk

Read the rest of the article here.

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