National 12.8.2016 02:39 pm

Eric Miyeni on life and all things literary

Eric Miyeni has an opinion on just about anything and Jenny Crwys-Williams, who interviewed him on Saturday at the Lowveld Book Festival, knew just how to get the best of him on show. Picture: Lowvelder

Eric Miyeni has an opinion on just about anything and Jenny Crwys-Williams, who interviewed him on Saturday at the Lowveld Book Festival, knew just how to get the best of him on show. Picture: Lowvelder

Eric Miyeni has an opinion on just about anything and Jenny Crwys-Williams, who interviewed him at the Lowveld Book Festival, knew just how to get the best out of him.

Whether you love him or hate him, Eric Miyeni is an unbelievable raconteur: “A communicator first and foremost”, as he calls himself, reports the Lowvelder.

It has been 10 years since Miyeni – actor, radio personality and writer – and the former 702 talk show host, Jenny Crwys-Williams, had their first interview. The pair sat down together again on Saturday at the Lowveld Book Festival.

Unfortunately, a combination of the early Saturday morning slot combined with the clash with the Super Rugby final meant that there were not too many audience members in attendance. Those who were present, however, certainly got their money’s worth.

“The SABC fired you three times. You’re controversial. It’s difficult to put you into any category but that’s a good thing,” Crwys-Williams said.

“I say what I think,” Miyeni retorted.

“You’ve brought out a book of poems but you wouldn’t describe yourself as a poet. You are an author but not a novelist and yet you have a novel,” said Crwys-Williams.

Miyeni has published five books to date, including a book of poetry and A Letter From Paris; a collection of photographs and essays. He is currently working on his second novel.

“You’re a brilliant photographer. I wonder why A Letter From Paris didn’t do better?” she said.

“That’s because no one bought it. Good work doesn’t always translate into commercial success,” Miyeni explained while laughing. “No one can put me into a space because I don’t like to repeat things. But novel writing, that is the ultimate challenge and the one form of writing I’d really like to try again.”

Crwys-Williams asked the author to read an excerpt from his first published work, O’Mandingo! The Only Black at a Dinner Party, a book based on Miyeni’s argumentative and sometimes controversial, but hugely popular, e-zine.

He read: “I saw God the other day. He was a builder. I saw him plastering a wall at the coffee shop Nino’s in Rosebank, Johannesburg, at about eight thirty at night. I stopped for a good five minutes and watched him plaster.

“For that length of time, nothing mattered in the world. Not the conflict in the Congo. Not HIV/Aids. Put it this way, if a truck came shuttling down on me at that very moment I would hardly have looked up, even if the driver were hooting. God was busy, you see?”

He had his listeners in shivers, not just with the way he had written the words, but with the way he conveyed them.

When Crwys-Williams asked Miyeni about the country’s exciting political circumstances after the elections last Wednesday, he said he found it all “boring”.

“Mmusi [Maimane, DA leader] and Gwede [Mantashe, ANC secretery-general] do not excite me. I wrote about this long ago. It feels like people are only catching up now,” he said. “I hope no one thinks they can fool the South African people or take them back to where they once were. All is not as it seems; the depth of political analysis has just been dumbed down. We need to drill deeper.”

Caxton News Service

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