Posted by: jbwuk | March 8, 2011

Guest Blogger: Shaun Levin on ‘Ways of Staying’

Some notes towards a blog entry on a talk between the actor and director Janet Suzman and Kevin Bloom, the author of Ways of Staying: 1)  On April 16, 2006 Kevin Bloom’s cousin Richard was shot in the back of the head alongside his friend Brett Goldin on the streets of Cape Town. 2) Goldin was in a production of Hamlet Suzman was directing at the time and which was about to travel to the UK. 3) Suzman’s intro is long. Do actors make better interviewees? I’m not sure they’re so good at giving the spotlight to others. I think about how she and Bloom are from two very different generations of South Africans. 4) Bloom says that after his cousin was murdered “something new and uncomfortable entered into the way I live in my country.” He says it changed his relationship to his journalism, that his layer of distance dissolved (in the past, he says, he’d approached his work the way a war photographer covers a war, detached). 5) Richard, the cousin, was gay. Him and Brett were taken from their car and made to strip naked and were then executed on the street. 6) Bloom and Suzman do not come back to the issue of Richard’s gayness. They do not talk about their own Jewishness, nor that of the two murdered men. 7) Suzman: “Has it crossed your mind to leave that place?” Bloom: “Yes.” Suzman: “What stops you?” Bloom: “I don’t cast a wide enough shadow when I’m anywhere else. I am an African. It’s too cold for me [anywhere else].” He laughs.  8) He talks about the complicity of all white South Africans in apartheid. He talks about the ways in which white South Africans compound the rage of Black South Africans. His passion and his pain and his rage and his embracing of truth and its complexity are moving. What I really mean to say is that they’re deeply Jewish. 9) They talk about the World Cup. Bloom admits that everyone made a decision to be on their best behaviour, gangsters included. Suzman can’t seem to get her head around this. 10) Bloom talks about the xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2006. He tells us about the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe, a friend of his, who said at the time that South African self-hatred runs so deep that it keeps creating these cycles of violence. 11) Bloom explains the meaning of “tik,” a uniquely Cape Flats form of crystal meth, made from household detergent and smoked out of a broken light bulb. His cousin’s murderers were so high on tik the police had to wait five hours before they came down. 12) Bloom says: “There is always a historical context to murder.” 13) Bloom talks about the narrative of reconciliation established by the TRC, a narrative that does not exist in Zimbabwe, he says. 14) The Q&A session at the end is mildly violent. “What’s the question?” the audience shouts at one guy who’s telling a story about his multiple visits to South Africa. And to another, someone shouts “Will you shut up!” 15) Find a better way to end the blog entry.

Shaun Levin is the author, most recently, of Trees at a Sanatorium, based on the relationship between the artists Mark Gertler and Dora Carrington, and Snapshots of The Boy, an exploration of the unseen stories in photographs. His other books include Seven Sweet Things,A Year of Two Summers and Isaac Rosenberg’s Journey to Arras: A Meditation. He teaches creative writing on the Complete Creative Writing Course. Visit him here:





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