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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Spark: Untitled

Untitled - Kgebetli Moele

I first came across Kgebetli Moele with his novel, Room 207, about living in Hillbrow, being young and full of burning ambition in the big city that could swallow you whole.

It’s spiky and electric and alive and it gave me amazing insight into that part of Johannesburg for my novel, Zoo City.(It was lovely to give Kgebetli a copy of the book and point out the thanks for the debt I owe to Room 207 in my acknowledgements, when we met for the first time recently at the Open Book Festival).

No surprise that Room 207 placed joint-first for both the University of Johannesburg prize and the Herman Charles Bosman prize.

As a writer, he’s ambitious, provocative and brave, and he’s become more so with every book.

The Book of the Dead takes on HIV, and makes the virus a character with its own voice.  

Untitled is about a seventeen year old girl chasing her dreams, while she’s being clutched at, pulled back by predatory teachers, sexual abuse, poverty, the circumstance of her life. 

He writes about things that are hard to read about. But he does so in a way that grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you.

I hunted him down to ask him to write for The Spark, a guest blog series that highlights new African fiction*.

I’ll let him tell you about where the idea for the novel came from: 

(*If you’re an African writer or publisher and want to write your own Spark click here for guidelines on what I’m looking for and how to pitch me.)


The Spark for Untitled by Kgebetli Moele 


1995: There was a little girl whose life was violated by her primary school teacher.

A rape case was opened, the teacher was arrested then released on bail but the case vanished like it was never been.

The rural community sided with the teacher because they gave him their children to educate long before the little girl was born. She was betraying the trust that the community had in their upstanding lifelong teacher. The little girl was judged guilty of being a ‘rape victim.’

I knew the upstanding school teacher very well but I did not know the little girl.

1999: There I was dreaming hard and hustling harder in Johannesburg but things were not moving, so I decided to take a break from the big city, to refresh in my rural community. I was walking aimlessly within the poverty-infested street corners of my community when I met a young woman. She induced an internal reaction within this self, me. I acted and we talked.

A thorough background check revealed that she was the little girl who went through the violation at the hands of her teacher, and that the violations did not end there but continued till she got titled with all kinds of derogatory terms but her beauty surpassed any derogatory term that the male chauvinist could master.

It was this beauty that induced a reaction in me the first time.

I gave her a hug and a kiss because I felt that she needed a hug and a kiss, not with intentions. Then I told her I that I loved her. She smiled.

Took her on a date to the Ngwarele River, the ever flowing Ngwarele River, there was a favourite spot of mine where I took her. We were talking when I started bathing.

At that time Ngwarele River was flowing gradually like a child taking her first steps, unlike when it was flowing or flooding during the raining season. Then she sings music that I love to hear.

After some time the girl stripped naked and came in to bathe.

For a moment she was like cocaine taking over the body of a drug addict – a moment of fulfillment, unadulterated life and living, measured in milliseconds and lasting for milliseconds.

The male psychology justified the violations; ‘this kind of beauty in this kind of a community, they can never coexist.’

Snapped out it -then I had to control my inner urges and her urges because if I were to let them take over, I felt I would not be any different to her reputable primary school teacher.

I enjoyed the bathing but I don’t think that she did.

She came to my house; I had bought her a pair of sandals and Tsitsi’s Nervous Conditions. The latter was a hard issue to make her interested in, tried to read it for her but that did not help.

I wrote her a poem there and then but I could not get to her.

She took the sandals but left the book and the poem (probably the only poem ever written for and about her).

We were always disconnected in our conversations, we were never a match.

My home boys thought that I was having a sex festival but in fact I was trying to get to the bottom of her thinking. When did I decide on this mission? For what and why? I don’t know.

Later I was back in the City of Gold chasing not Gold, but a set of dreams. Maybe it was it that she deposited something in my mind that I cannot pinpoint, but she became one of the girls in the manuscript, Untitled.

When I sat down to write, it was supposed to be a poem about Refilwe, but it manifested itself into the manuscript Untitled.

Who is Refilwe? She is one of the girls featured in the novel, Untitled.

Buy Untitled ebook on Amazon here

Buy the paperback from Exclusives here (international shipping is extra) or contact to order.

Kgebetli Moele’s website on Kwela


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