Blood on the Page: Interviews with African Authors writing about HIV/AIDS

The fourteen interviews in this book form an unprecedented wealth of material on authors’ responses to HIV/AIDS in South Africa and Zimbabwe. They comprise a valuable archive which documents and contextualises the variety of views and opinions of different authors on their often ground-breaking choices in writing about HIV/AIDS. Each author ranks among the first to publish fiction on HIV/AIDS in their respective countries. These interviews are of particular merit as these issues have not been discussed at length with any of the authors before. Collectively they offer a unique range of approaches and opinions in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. Their significance lies in their specific literary, as well as their broader social, cultural and political perspectives on a disease which continues to spread despite extensive NGO, medical and government intervention. In both South Africa and Zimbabwe, government responses have failed to address the urgent need for new political and economic solutions to the challenge of HIV infection. Responses among the population have varied from widespread silence, shame and fear to political activism and outspoken critiques of government inaction. Writers give voice to this silence and contextualise the disparate reactions amongst diverse peoples.

Globally, AIDS killed approximately 2 million in 2008. In 1998, AIDS was the largest killer in southern Africa, nearly double the one million deaths from malaria and eight times the 209,000 deaths from tuberculosis. It has long been the case that of those dying globally of AIDS, the majority live in southern Africa. When the associated social and cultural implications of infection with HIV are considered, fictional representations contribute significantly to our understanding of the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities and individuals, and provide a much-needed basis for ‘humanising’ an epidemic which is unimaginable statistically. It has been said that the feelings and reactions that HIV/AIDS inspires are often ‘too unreal for words,’ and it is this very notion, that certain diseases are taboo, unmentionable, and hardly even named as such, that makes verbalisation of this epidemic a modern imperative.

Lizzy Attree holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London, on “The Literary Responses to HIV and AIDS from South Africa and Zimbabwe from 1990–2005” and organises literary tours of African writers in the UK. Most recently she ran the Caine Prize 10th Anniversary Tour funded by Arts Council England. She held a post-doctoral fellowship in the Programme for the Study of the Humanities in Africa, at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa in 2008–09 and is currently a Research Associate at the Centre for Humanities Research at UWC. She lives in London, is a founding member of ReadSA and would love to organise literary tours and festivals in African countries.

“Blood on the Page is a striking and important collection of interviews on HIV/AIDS and literature with contemporary South African and Zimbabwean writers reflecting on their own texts and lives in the Mbeki-Mugabe era. Rarely has the brutality and complexity of the question of writing in a post-Apartheid African world haunted by death and illness been confronted with as much directness and honesty. An absolutely must read for any one engaged with South Africa, Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS and literature, or the difficulty of writing in the world of global health politics.”
—Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University

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ISBN: 1-4438-2077-6

ISBN13: 978-1-4438-2077-6

Release Date: 15th October 2010

Pages: 260

Price: £39.99