Nakhane Touré enraptured our hearts with his debut album, ‘Brave Confusion’, now his tickling our literary taste buds with his debut novel, ‘Piggy Boy’s Blues.’
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Photo by: Ashley Chiswo
When I heard that Nakhane was releasing a book, I thought to myself, “Oh God, not him too”. With the new wave of South African artist publishing biographies, I was quite apprehensive that this young singer was also jumping on the bandwagon. But when I learned that it would be a novel that sees him exploring the world of homosexuality in South Africa, through the eyes of a small-town boy, raised in Eastern Cape, Alice, I was enticed.
I wanted the main character in the book to leave the city and go to a small town, and instead of having this peaceful life, he realises that life is complicated wherever you go. Yet, within those complications, there are those little joys of life.
Blacklight: Piggy Boy’s Blues. Interesting title. Sounds like a title Toni Morisson or James Baldwin would use.
Nakhane: I suppose. It sounds a bit Black American, and also, it has that retrospective 50’s sound to it. I already had a different title, which was To Whom Shall It Go. I changed it because there is a book by Ernest Hemingway titled For Whom Bell Tolls, and it also sounded a bit too serious. Another thing was that I rewrote the book four months ago.
I had started writing it when I was 20-years-old. During that process, I realised that I had changed and my ideologies had changed, too. But mostly what I wanted the book to be had changed completely. After rewriting I realised that title didn’t fit anymore and the publisher was pushing for a title. I gave her 35 titles and we narrowed it down to Piggy Boy’s Blues.
We liked it because it has an element of humour to it. I also love the juxtaposition between fun and seriousness, because the word blues means utter sadness.
BL: What sort of issues do you explore in the book?
N: What I wanted to do was to “Fuck” with the genre of the western literature called The Pastoral, which is basically about people leaving the city to go to the country or in this case the villages, and when they get there they experience a new kind of life where they get in touch with their most natural selves.
In South Africa, there is a genre that explores a kind of similar theme, done by authors like Phaswana Mpe with Welcome to Our Hillbrow. But usually they explored urbanisation and I wanted to reverse it. I wanted this character to leave the city and go to a small town and instead of having this peaceful life, he realises that life is complicated wherever you go. Yet, within those complications, there are those little joys of life.
BL: Was it hard to come up with the characters and give them life?
N: In the beginning, it had a lot of characters and sub-plots and I decided to just focus on certain characters, which was hard to do.
It’s much easier to scatter things because you don’t have to concentrate on them a lot. My focus was on the main characters because I wanted to make them people. I wanted to show that even the people who are meant to be antagonists are also capable of love.
BL: You went to a gateway, just to write. Do you prefer utter peace when you are creating?
N: Not when I am writing music. When I write literature I want to concentrate, that is why I prefer isolation. I want complete and utter silence. So I went to a residency in East London where I was the only person living in the house.
It was very fancy, very middle class and I felt bad sometimes. I didn’t have to make my own food or my bed, I just had to wake up and write. I think it was very important for me to go there for the sole purpose of working.
One of the things I wanted to show with this book was that there is more to life than heteronormativity and patriarchy.
BL: Did the process of writing this book change you in any way?
N: I don’t know. I would say that there is a lot of planning and emotional interaction that goes into writing a book, so you are not just sitting there and typing. However, I wouldn’t say I changed because life doesn’t change.
I think life changes gradually unless there is a big event in your life. I would say though that after writing the book I became more sensitive to people. When you are creating characters, even if they a villains, you have to love and nurture them. When you zoom in on their stories of how they got to be who they are, you become a bit sensitive towards them.
BL: Considering that this is your debut as an author, were you sensitive about sharing your work with people before you published?
N: Actually, I didn’t share it with people, it was only my publisher. One of the reasons was that I knew what I wanted to do with this book. Once I finished the second draft I went into a zone of critical self-editing. Instead of adding, I asked myself; what word can I remove and how can I make this sentence shorter?
I was also very lucky because I had an editor who understood my vision. She was very accommodating and encouraging to what I was trying to do. She helped me to separate myself from the book and in tightening it up.
BL: What do you hope the readers will get out of reading your book?
N: You know I believe in the phrase, “Everyone’s story matters”. One of the things I wanted to show with this book was that there is more to life than heteronormativity and patriarchy. And I also realised that towards the end (of the book) that the book is also about shame. It was a subconscious thing, but it opened up my eyes to how we navigate shame and how we navigate love in a place of shame. How we navigate queerness, sexuality in a place of shame.
But to answer your question; I would love for my work to be funny yet challenging. I want to be an author that makes readers look inside but you can still understand what the fuck he’s talking about. I want people to snuggle up, read it and smile, cry, and say “Fuck you, Nakhane how could you even say that? But I mean that in the sense that I want them to be one with the story.
“Piggy Boy’s Blues” is available at all leading book stores.