The Kingsolver BibleDate Released: Fri, 20 February 2015 12:09 +0200
Channelled by Dani Kreusch
Eighteen years of waiting to visit South Africa came to a close for acclaimed author Barbara Kingsolver who was finally able this month to visit the country she’d been watching for many years. “I grew up watching the world watch South Africa. I feel so lucky to be in your country; so privileged to be part of your process here for a while,” Kingsolver told disciples in a packed Exclusive Books in Walmer Park.
Her arrival was a siren’s call to those who have followed her politically rich and profound writing since The Bean Trees was published in 1988. The JMS 4 Writing and Editing class heeded the call, and even picked up a few souls desperate to meet Kingsolver.
Although the writer was here to promote her most recent book, Flight Behaviour, the work on the minds and hearts of those in the audience was undoubtedly Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, a novel set in the Belgian Congo but which includes references and a short trip to our own country. “That you can enjoy that book as a legitimate expression of your country is so gratifying,” said Kingsolver, who explained that she wrote the novel in response to the United States of America’s covert involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister.
The stories Kingsolver told us demonstrated her passion for science, politics and the written word’s power to instigate astounding changes in the world. With this in mind, the JMS 4 Writing & Editing class has gathered together these gospel verses for the newly scribed Kingsolver Bible for each student to carry with them for all time:
Siphokazi Zama: The lesson I took from Barbara Kingsolver was how observant you need to be as a writer. You need to be aware of what is happening around you at all times. Nothing is insignificant or unworthy to a writer. All these little elements add to form the whole picture.
Anna Christensen: I was struck by the power of her storytelling, every thought she uttered was an engrossing story. That she was able to turn that political moment [Lumumba’s assassination] from her childhood into such a rich, nuanced story leaves me drowning in awe and wonder.
Dawn Long: After listening to Barbara Kingsolver talk about her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, which she wrote after apparently spending one year taking the time to observe & investigate our relationship with food, in particular, how, where and by whom it is produced. I came away from the talk thinking seriously about my own (and my family’s) relationship with the origins of our food, and asking if we truly have become disconnected with nature, particularly in a South African context. I hope to re- discover, and to re-connect with the earth, and really appreciate the miracle that growing and producing our own food is.
Heather Cameron: One sentence stayed with me throughout the bus ride home. Novels give us access to “the people that we can’t be but that we need to understand”. Fiction reaches out, broadens perspective, breaks down barriers and connects worlds and readers simply by using ink and paper.
Kerstin Hall: I think I was most impressed by her humility and willingness to engage with ordinary South Africans without the condescension that we often expect from international authors.
Leah Solomon: What resonated with me is how her relationship with books and reading formed. "Books made the narrow walls of my little world tumble down and allowed me to see further," she said.
Sarah Beningfield: It was easy to see that her mind worked in a different way to mine; she seemed to think in stories. Smells, sounds and memories whirl together in her brain and come out as coherent and interesting answers to the questions she was asked.
Thabile Vilakazi: What stood out most for me was her spirit, the passion that oozes out of her from doing what is second nature to her – reading and writing. As I had fallen off track with both these activities due to very personal reasons, she ignited a light in me I probably have been searching for a long time.
Dani Kreusch: Kingsolver articulated the reason I read and write and continually search for words: stories prove that “these same constraints [such as the colour bar and gender] that I knew in my little town were everywhere, and these are things that people are aching to fix and to change and to talk about everywhere”.
Megan Whittington: When speaking about writers being readers, a particular sentence of Barbara Kingsolver's stands out. "I read the kind of books I would like to have written," she said.
Jes Geldenhuyse: A writer is aware, and this awareness is the inspiration – from peaceful or turbulent social landscapes to our five senses.
Lesedi Ntuli: Her ability to tell stories has made me realise that novels are about reflection upon the depths of human experience. “A novel is mightier than any other read,” she told us.
Carol Kagezi: Barbara Kingsolver is a talented writer who writes fondly and zealously about place.