Zuma's Bastard

2010-11-16 14:27

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Zuma's Bastard author Azad Essa tells what inspired him to write the book. Read the Q&A.

News24: We know that you don’t drink but you’re not scared of a pub; you’re Muslim but you have a sense of humour; you’re young but savvy and politically aware. Tell us a bit more about you. What’s a typical day like for you?

Azad Essa: I wake up each morning in my villa at the crack of the dawn, and perform a 30 minute yoga with my instructor from India, following which I have three boiled eggs, fresh orange juice and organic strawberry yoghurt for breakfast before I head off to work. Just Kidding! I am a journalist, and few journalists are blessed with villas or routines! Working as a journo at Al Jazeera means that my life is governed by the news. So if I’m not working on writing up the latest news, I am either at the movies, playing sport, trying to catch up on sleep or looking for organic strawberry yoghurt as I think about the news.

News24: Did you always want to be a journalist?

Azad Essa: I wanted to be a cricketer. But then Hashim Amla came along and stole my dreams. Bloody bearded agent! Seriously though, I wanted to be a journalist since high school but the dream was deferred and I ended up studying Sociology and a whole bunch of other stuff that led me into academia. At some point the journalist within me crept out and refused to be hidden under the muck of academia.  Since I didn’t study journalism, my brand of writing was really a fusion of academic text and reportage – a kind of weird crossover that offered analysis while providing a lot of colour, humour and sex appeal – too much obviously - since I found it difficult to get published in the mainstream, or then again, in any stream. But I stuck to my guns, tried to slit my wrist a couple times (to no avail) – and I finally became “a journalist”.

News24: What inspired you to write Zuma’s Bastard?

Azad Essa: I wanted to write about the world in a way that engaged readers, provoked them into rethinking their surroundings yet kept them entertained while they absorbed calls of an impending revolution. I didn’t know I was writing a book when I started writing, but I knew that when I started my blog on the Mail & Guardian Thought Leader platform, it was my shot at making it as a writer. After two years of writing, it was suggested that I compile my writing - many of which deal with injustice, identity and politics but in an irreverent style - into a book of politically incorrect essays on local and global issues because of their wide appeal.

News24: Without giving too much away, tell us what the book is about?

Azad Essa: Never mind what the book is about. Instead, it is rather a case of what does this book try to do. Zuma’s Bastard is an attempt to reignite conversations about ordinary issues we often sweep under the carpet. Articles tackle a vast variety of “normal” issues – from racism to the Middle East conflict to the burqa issue in France to understanding Malema’s outlandish comments by fictitiously whisking him to a shrink to exploring local Indian business bigotry. It aims to cut through the rhetoric of “seasoned experts” and tries to put forth a new independent voice; the voice of the twenty-somethings with no political baggage, or allegiance, and therefore without a chip on our shoulders.

News24: Why did you decide on the title?

Azad Essa: Ultimately, we (as in the publisher, marketing team and I) were looking for a title that would best represent the content. The writing is meant to be provocative, edgy and hopefully funny. Our cover and title needed to showcase the type of writing, and Zuma’s Bastard not only fulfilled all of the above, it summed up my place in the “new” South Africa, and described my style, approach and ideas as a type of a bastard child of the democracy, trying to make sense of it all. Yes, the title is a little jarring but the writing isn’t meant to be poofy.

News24: Are you worried that the title will cause a backlash from the ANC?

Azad Essa: We expect the ANC to have a sense of humour. Or at least be bold enough to open the book and check it out before they announce “Burn Zuma’s Bastard”. That would be quite funny, if not ironic, or something. But already a radio interview destined for the airwaves has been pulled off air because “the ANC would be upset” and there have been cases of police instructing those promoting our posters to “take them down”.  So people are reacting to the title and the poster as well; but you cannot really stop people from drawing immediate conclusions or for lacking a sense of humour. These things stem from childhood problems. It’s really not their fault.

News24: How long did it take from concept to completion?

Azad Essa: It took around nine months. Like all bastards.

News24: Are you pleased with the responses you’ve been getting with regard to the book?

Azad Essa: Yes, I am quite pleased, sometimes overwhelmed by the response thus far. The most fulfilling aspect of this project thus far has been the cross-over to new audiences. The book is about politics, identity, racism – ordinary boring kak – which we all sick of hearing or reading about – but Zuma’s Bastard looks like a graphic novel and reads like a comedy (not ALL of it of course) and has managed to attract a variety of readers, both young and old. Of course, I have received some flak for being flippant, and a tad naughty for playing a little dirty, but it has attracted a whole new readership as well as got some of the academics talking. This is the most exciting part, because it means the world is still open to new ways of discussing, exploring the world, its problems and interested in searching for solutions - so long as there is enough sex, violence and some rock ‘n roll to keep them entertained.

News24: What’s next for you? Will there be more books in the future?

Azad Essa: Absolutely. For now it is back to work at Al Jazeera, and the drawing board. I want to say I am working on Zuma’s Bastard II, but that would be a little premature.

- Zuma's Bastard is available in most  book stores or buy it online at Kalahari.net.

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