15 questions for Pieter Fourie


15 questions for Pieter Fourie

His new thriller, Ons Skulde, explores the things lovers do to one another, the author and professor in political science tells LAUREEN ROSSOUW.


1. What do you read first thing every morning?

When I open my eyes, I lie in bed and scan the headlines on Netwerk24, News24, BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera.

2. What is your favourite quote? 

“Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means, / Time held me green and dying / Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

– The closing lines of Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas.

3. What are you reading at the moment? If you could recommend one book to everyone, what would it be?

I'm reading The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard. And I would recommend Outline by Rachel Cusk for everyone. She manages to write silence.

4. What book have you reread the most?

I reread Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending every year or second year, because the language is so chillingly precise and picturesque, as well as Michael Cunningham's The Hours, because it's lovely, and to witness again how a story can be built.

5. If you had to date yourself, why would you never end the relationship?

Oh dear, no, I would never date myself. That having been said, my one impressive skill is cooking eggs with great expertise to absolute, almost supernatural perfection. So, if fried eggs are your thing…

6. Who do you admire?

People who defend unpopular views or do the right and good thing with integrity, calm logic and without arrogance, even if no one agrees with them.

7. What is your greatest fear?

To suffer greatly and be in pain while dying while not having the ability to communicate this to people, or that I will not have the physical strength and agency to exercise final choices about my own life. I am not afraid of death, but I don't believe unnecessary hardship or suffering is noble or fulfils any higher moral or practical function.

Pieter Fourie
Pieter Fourie

8. What do you regret?

I wish I was braver emotionally. To tell people I love them, or to say I'm in love with them. There are a handful of people to whom I wish I had said this at the right time.

9. What is your favourite restaurant?

I can think of four right away. Suki Thai, on the wrong side of Merriman Avenue in Stellenbosch, the Wimpy at the Winelands Engen 1-Stop on the N1 North, the beach hut at Bilgola Beach just north of Sydney, Australia, as well as Little Gujarat in Westdene, Johannesburg (which unfortunately does not exist any more).

10. And your favourite takeaway?

Perfect Place in Wellington makes a ham, cheese and tomato toastie with chips second to none. But my ultimate was the (unfortunately former) Springbok Kafee in Stellenbosch's “triple" toasted bun with chicken mayonnaise, bacon and cheese, generously spread between three slices of white bread then toasted with butter in a kind of steel toaster. It still makes my mouth water.

11. Who is your favourite South African poet? And author?

MM Walters' satirical poems made me ROFL when I was a teenager. For example, have a look at Boeremaaltyd and Vakansie in die Vrystaat. He was progressive and iconoclastic about race, class and especially Afrikaner pretentiousness — which I really enjoy as a Free State Bôôôlander.

Wilhelm Knobel's Elegy is one of the most beautiful and mysterious things I have ever read. It was one of three texts I read in school that made me suspect  there might be something to this “literature" thing.

JM Coetzee is my favourite South African writer.

12. If you could live in another time, when would it be?

A hundred years into the future. On the one hand, medical and biological technology is currently entering a revolutionary time; I want to see if cancer and ageing will be conquered and what will be made possible by means of genome manipulation. On the other hand, climate change is going to have all kinds of interesting and scary consequences. I am curious.

13. What inspires you?

The small trifles that one experiences daily. Dust particles in light. People's inner lives that become visible in their facial expressions when they stand dreaming in the checkout line at Checkers.

14. Do you have pets? And what are their names?

Indoor cats Suki and Tom, and outdoor cat Ben. And then the transgender parrot Japie, who lived as a male for 16 years before it started laying eggs a few years ago.

15. What do you listen to?

In the car: Podcasts about fiction. The New York Times' Book Review Podcast. Canadian Eleanor Wachtel's Writers and Company (sadly, she has just retired). The BBC's book programmes. A few others.

For my upcoming road trip, I just downloaded John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany on Audible.

Music: everything from Arvo Pärt to Thomas Feiner and Röyksopp and Max Richter and, and, and...

♦ VWB ♦

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