Getting under the skin of the new SA: an interview with Masande Ntshanga / by Nick Mulgrew

Photo by David Harrison

Photo by David Harrison

Mail & Guardian
21 November 2014

Masande Ntshanga’s debut novel ‘The Reactive’ follows an HIV-positive young man who is dealing with the long-lasting trauma of his brother’s death by selling his antiretroviral drugs, chewing a lot of khat and drifting around suburban Cape Town with his friends. Describing the novel baldly, though, ignores its immense thematic depth. I sat down with Ntshanga to discuss one of this year’s most startling novels.

In The Reactive, I wanted to write something about someone who was trying to evade everything in their life, someone who lived in a suspended state. I wanted to deal with something in this novel that was not only real, but something I could be intimidated by. The inspiration came when I was at home in King William’s Town. I tried to take a step back from myself and tried to become perceptive to what other people were going through in their lives; about how people operate, about what communities are moving from and working toward.

I realised that we’re all just trying to survive, to strive against mortality, against death, against grief. I wanted to find a new way to think about these things – to treat the idea of death in the novel – in such a way that these things seem a lot less daunting when you come out on the other side.

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