15 questions for Annemarié van Niekerk


15 questions for Annemarié van Niekerk

Her book, Onder 'n bloedrooi hemel: Liefde en geweld in Suid-Afrika, 'n memoir (Tafelberg), recently hit our shelves. She has been living in The Hague for the past 20 years and is working on a new novel, the award-winning author told LAUREEN ROSSOUW.

1. What publications do you read first thing every morning?

Vrye Weekblad, Daily Maverick and Trouw, the Dutch newspaper I review books for — all online.

2. What book is next to your bed?

Annie Ernaux's Meisjesherinneringen.

3. What is the best book you have read in the past year?

Anjet Daanje's Het lied van Ooievaar en Dromedaris.

4. Is there a book or an author that you regularly reread?

I like rereading JM Coetzee, Teju Cole and Antjie Krog.

5. Your favourite poet?

That's a question I don't like to answer, because then I reduce my favourites to one choice that gives a simplistic idea of ​​what I like. If I had to name one, it would be Ronelda Kamfer.

6. Your favourite art gallery and museum? And why?

Kunstmuseum Den Haag. It's close to our house and has an exceptional permanent collection of artworks and always interesting temporary exhibitions.

And the Musée du quai Branly in Paris with its fascinating ethnographic collection.

7. What does your ideal day look like?

My ideal day is what our days looked like when we recently stayed in a tiny one-room house in Molyvos on Lesbos for 10 weeks.

I start the day slowly. I don't like an alarm clock; it's nice to sleep until I wake up by myself, and to drink the first coffee of the day with my husband and talk about what's going on in the world and with ourselves. He gets up earlier than me, knows all the latest news and can update me.

After breakfast we write and work — my little writing table has a view of the blue Aegean — with music in the background. I prefer to stay indoors most of the day, without make-up and in my house clothes.

We take a short break for lunch, after which I continue writing. In the late afternoon I lie on the bed with a book until I doze off for a nap, then we walk down to the sea for a swim. Late in the evening we walk down to the village for a simple Greek meal at one of the restaurants.

8. Your favourite dish when you entertain?

Ottolenghi dishes. I took the day off one Saturday to go through all my Ottolenghis, made a list of all the spices and herbs I didn't have, then ordered everything online. Now it's easier to make an Ottolenghi dish without having to go hunting for ingredients.

9. What would you want to do over?

I would have liked to read more, and a wider variety, earlier in my life.

10. What do you regret?

That I didn't have more probing conversations  with my mom and dad about things that matter.

11. What inspires you?


12. Is there an older woman who is a role model for you?

My friend Theunise van Schoor who passed away a few years ago. She always treated everyone with respect and showed personal involvement. I miss her.

13. What is the quality you like most about yourself?

Perseverance and conveying what I believe in.

14. What do you listen to when you're alone?

When my husband is at home we always listen to music and Spotify is on permanently — we listen to anything from classical music to pop. But when I'm alone, it's dead quiet in the house. I like bird songs and calls.

15. Favourite city? And why?

Cape Town and surrounds. Mountain and sea. There isn't a more beautiful city anywhere in the world. 


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