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Margie Orford

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Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

A friend sent me this. You can’t go writer/righter than Walter Benjamin.

How did he read my mind and then express my thoughts about writing with such eloquence and elegance? (See my own tips for writers here.)

One Way Street: Walter Benjamin

Post No Bills: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

I. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.

II. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.

III. In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an etude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.

IV. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.

V. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.

VI. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.

VII. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.

VIII. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.

IX. Nulla dies sine linea — but there may well be weeks.

X. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.

XI. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.

XII. Stages of composition: idea — style — writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration, style fetters the idea, writing pays off style.

XIII. The work is the death mask of its conception.

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A little shout for Louis

Louis GreenbergMy website has been given a brilliant nip ‘n tuck by html maestro Louis Greenberg. Thanks to a little matchmaking by Ben Williams. Lots has been a happening recently. I have new publisher in South Africa, new editions abroad, new book out in September, new project on the go with an exhibition coming at the Goodman Gallery… so it was time for a change. Louis took all my mad, non-linear e-mails and turned them into a sensible brief and very quickly, in between deconstructing Derrida, he put it together for me. It can all be seen now on

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If a President were in My Book

…this is how I would write him:

First, I would untint the windows of your fast black car so that you could see again what was on the other side of the glass. Second, I would stop you before your cavalcade hit that little boy playing on the grass.

Third, I would open your window so that the woman running to snatch her youngest out of your path could tell you how the guns you bought have hollowed her belly and stunted her children.

Fourth, I would drive you without your minders to a razor-wired building. It is a hospital, although there are no doctors and few medicines. I would take you inside and you would wash the girl dying on a bare mattress, infected with HIV by a man much older, more powerful than she ever was. I would curl her thin hand in yours, a question mark on your palm.

Fifth, I would walk you through a crowded school. I would make your ears hurt with the cacophony of untaught, bookless children.
Sixth, I would return you to your car, eyes and ears hurting, the soles of your feet bleeding because I would have made you give your bespoke shoes to a man walking barefoot to look for work.

Seventh, I would deliver you to a banquet and seat you at the head of the table. At your window, I would show you the thin faces of the unfed. I would clench your gut so that, despite your hunger, you would be unable to eat. I would swell your tongue, so that despite your thirst you would not be able to drink.


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Podcast with Nigel Beale

Click here to listen to a conversation I had with Nigel Beale, the Canadian literary journalist, last month:

From Nigel Beale:

Crime novelist,  film director, children’s author and award winning journalist, Margie Orford was born in London and grew up in Namibia and South Africa. She has studied under J M. Coetzee, and worked in publishing with the African Publishers Network. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and while in New York she worked on a groundbreaking archival retrieval project, WOMEN WRITING AFRICA: The Southern Volume.  She lives in Cape Town, where we met recently to discuss another of her many projects: Fifteen Men, a collection of writing by South African prisoners, all of whom are serving very long sentences, with whom Margie spent a year leading a creative writing course. This book is the result. We talk here about her experience.

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A Kriminal Lineup

Kriminal Lineup at The Time of the Writer

Siphiwo Mahala was in some bad company at the Durban Writer’s Time of the Writer Festival. He sent me this great photo of the more criminal end of the literary contingent.

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Chick lit blues

The article on chick lit in the M&G is intersting – although I am surprised to see my gory fiction included under a chick lit banner. I have thought for a while of calling myself M Orford (as opposed to Margie) and reverting to the George Eliot gender disguise so that my chickiness is disguised. But then again who would want to be accused of writing what Zukiswa so brilliantly calls dick-lit? Niche-marketing hell… Although it would be an amusing piece: a panel with Conrad, Hemingway, Coetzee, Tolstoy bemoaning the burden of being dick-lit writers…an amusing imaginary discussion there!

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Podcast with the Sunday Times

I had a nice interview with Tymon Smith of the Sunday Times recently, which was turned into a podcast. Here’s the clip:

If it doesn’t play, click here to listen at the source page.

Also, I’ll be speaking tonight at the launch of Andrew Brown’s Street Blues. Looking forward to seeing friends there…

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Interview With The Citizen

I chatted to Bruce Dennill of The Citizen recently:

Margie Orford often gets accused of writing “popular fiction”, where that term is used in a disparaging sense by snotty literary types.

Orford thinks that’s ridiculous.

“I taught publishing and literary theory at the University of Namibia,” she says.

“The students there had English as a third or fourth language, but they managed, which was an epiphany for me. You can present complex ideas to intelligent people and they won’t be uncomfortable with it.

“Writing ‘popular fiction’ deflates that whole ivory tower thing where language hides what I’m really thinking.”

Read the complete article.

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The Sunday Times Covers Fifteen Men

Boebie SamodienAndrew Donaldson of the Sunday Times covered the launch of Fifteen Men – prison writing generated during a 9-month workshop that I facilitated at Groot Drakenstein Prison last year.

It’s called “Broken voices from the inside” and here’s an excerpt, below.

Details of how and where to buy the book coming soon.

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A meditation on South African citizenship

I am so ashamed and sickened by the murderous violence that has gripped parts of South Africa and that is spreading like a noxious cancer.


If being a South African means beating on the red door of a shack and demanding to see a green identity book – the dompas of citizenship, then I am a foreigner.

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