In 2014, Modjaji published Do Not Go Gentle – a story of strong women who have little but are determined to shape their own destinies. The book was translated into Mozambican and Brazilian Portuguese, as well as being published in the USA by Catalyst Press as We Kiss Them With Rain, and the international reception has been excellent. In celebration of the forthcoming French edition of Do Not Go Gentle (Enrage Contre la Mort de la Lumière, published by Belleville Editions), we bring you an interview with Futhi Ntshingila, the author behind the book.
Tell us about the process of writing Do Not Go Gentle.
I wrote Do Not Go Gentle having been inspired by my experiences as a journalist in Durban. One incident that stayed with me long after I left journalism was a story of devastation by flash floods in an informal settle community near the city. I wrote mostly at night after work hours. I wanted to tell stories that never make it into main stream news. I mostly do not plan my plots right down to conclusions. I try to be led by characters and where needed I curb my imagination if it veers off too much from realistic point of view.
How did you come to be published by Modjaji?
It was recommended by a friend here in Pretoria. I searched online and sent in my pitch.
What was the reception like in South Africa? What has changed for you since you became a published author?
It’s hard to know for sure how it was received because of many factors, reviewing spaces are scarce, sales the same. I mostly received positive feedback from readers some of whom are biased because they are friends and family who care not to hurt my feelings. Do Not Go Gentle is my second published novel and prior to that I worked with writing new stories. Getting published did not feel shifting who I am. In some ways though it made me slightly cautious because I noticed that people tended to expect authors to turn into public intellectuals with opinions to everything. It has made me mindful of what I put out into public platform and protective of my space and time.
How did it come about that the book was translated into both Brazilian and Mozambican Portuguese, as Sem Gentileza and Não Vás Tão Docilmente respectively?
It was through the marketing of Modjaji in platforms of international book fairs and networking.
What has the reception of the book been like for its Portuguese editions and its US edition?
It’s been great, the reviewing spaces are wider and I suppose economic dispositions of readers there boosted sales more than locally.
You’ve twice been invited to tour Brazil to promote Sem Gentileza. What was the highlight of those trips?
I was most impressed by the culture of book festivals and enthusiasm of the readers. I was surprised by how relatable a story from a coastal town of SA was to people of far flung places of the globe. It convinced me that human beings are more the same than they are different.
How do you feel as we approach the launch of the French edition, Enrage Contre la Mort de la Lumière? Did you ever imagine Do Not Go Gentle would travel as widely as it has?
It is moving. I am happy it is getting wider international exposure and I hope French readers enjoy the story and find resonance with it or learn a thing or two about the lives of my community. No I never had it in my thinking that my book would go international.
Your first novel, Shameless, was published by UKZN Press. Have the rights been sold elsewhere?
The rights of Shameless lapsed with UKZN and are back with me as the author. I was approached and have signed up the Portuguese translation with a publishing house in Brazil.
What are you working on now?
During level 5 of lockdown I finalized a manuscript. I have sent it out to a few people to read, once feedback is back I will be fine tuning it, turning it into a book I can submit it for publishing.
Our thanks to Futhi for her wonderful responses!
You can buy Do Not Go Gentle here.
You can pre-order Enrage Contre la Mort de la Lumière here.
Sem Gentileza is available here.
Não Vás Tão Docilmente can be bought here.
We Kiss Them With Rain is available here.