Fist published by Live Magazine SA.
Cape Town-based writer, photographer and filmmaker Lidudumalingani Mqombothi is one of five writers shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 for his short story, ‘Memories we lost’.
Here, he shares five books that shaped him as a writer. But not before adding a disclaimer: “My answer needs a disclaimer because no book has changed my life. That is not to say I have emerged at the end of books unchanged. In small and big ways, books have shifted my axis, refocused my framing of life, altered the dear facts I was certain about in life.”
1. Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe
“In my school there were only a handful of copies of a book, so my experience of literature was always over someone else’s shoulder, under someone’s armpit, only seeing the book in part, the corner of a page, or a paragraph. Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe was one of those books. I remember that the young reader in me found a sibling in the protagonist, Chike. It was in Chike and the River that I came to know of the world outside my own. Then, struggling with English, much of the book was read through a conduit – someone who could read well, faster. But it left an impression on me.”
2. Black Sunlight by Dambudzo Marechera
“I began to read seriously when I was in my early twenties. It was around this time that I came to know of Dambudzo Marechera, the tragedy and the brilliance of the man. In the plethora of books I was to read in those years, religiously taking them out of the library, returning them, often, only three days later, Black Sunshine stuck with me. I have re-read the book, in its entirety, and in parts.”
3. Indlal’Inamanyala (Uvulindlela) By M. Lamati
“This book is precious to me, perhaps more so than any other book, as it was the first book I ever read. Much of my school reading was populated with foreign novels, plays and poetry. M Lamati revealed to me a universe that had always been within grasp yet hidden behind the colonial reading material taught at school.”
4. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
“Fugitive Pieces rescued me in an abyss I was slowly and surely sinking into. Around the time I found the book I was getting disillusioned about my own writing. In Anne Michaels I found someone who was writing the way I wanted to, every sentence full of poetry, a book of imaginative writing, bold themes and incredibly sensitive writing. The book became a go to book when my own words were not coming to me. I had to stop reading it as it began to slip into my own writing, as if physically holding my hand, as one does a young child learning to write.”
5. Songs of Enchantment by Ben Okri
“Ben Okri writes what is possibly the most beautifully constructed and elaborate beginning of any novel. And then he goes on, without much effort to sustain the brilliance with which he writes the beginning throughout the novel, dipping intermittently, between classic realism and folktale.”
6. Bom Boy by Yewande Omotoso
“I remember reading Bom Boy as if it was yesterday. I was often squeezed in the back seat of a taxi, against a window, for about an hour every morning and again in the afternoon. A strategic seat. I did not have to get up for anyone and the window seat had a view of traffic that would give way to car dealers, shopping malls, men waiting for jobs, an occasional accident, which offered the solace I needed when one of Yewande Omotoso’s sentences unsettled everything I knew about writing and life.”
Lead image by Tseliso Monaheng