Wilbur Smith in his own words: my life in eight objects

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Wilbur Smith in his study at home in Bishopscourt, Cape Town. (PHOTO: Jacques Stander)
Wilbur Smith in his study at home in Bishopscourt, Cape Town. (PHOTO: Jacques Stander)

Fans were sad to hear the news of the much-loved author's death.

"Global bestselling author Wilbur Smith died unexpectedly this afternoon at his Cape Town home after a morning of reading and writing with his wife Niso by his side,” a statement on his official website announced.

No cause of death was given.

As the world pays tribute to Wilbur (88), we look back at a visit we made to his home in 2016. Wilbur graciously invited us in and gave us a tour of the study where he spent decades writing his bestselling novels.

1. His desk

"I've been sitting here a long time – I would say I’ve written about 25 books on this desk. I bought it about 25 years ago at a sale and it’s a fun desk because it’s got lions on it but it’s made of very ordinary wood.”


Wilbur Smith Pangolin

2. Pangolin statue

Wilbur loves his pangolin,” his wife, Niso (48), tells us. When he sits rubbing the statue she knows he’s trying to decide whether to kill off a character in one of his books. “It’s a big decision,”Wilbur chips in. “Once they’re gone you can’t bring them back!”


3. His watch collection

"I love watches. I keep a few here but my main collection is in London. I suppose I’ve got about 40 or 50 in total and each one has its own character.”


Wilbur Smith silver goblet

4. Silver goblet

“This is a cup I like very much. I drink water out of it all the time. I bought it in London."


Wilbur Smith pen

5. Pens

From When The Lion Feeds (1964) to River God (1994) Wilbur wrote all his books by hand.

“I use a computer now but I still like collecting pens. This one I like signing cheques with!”


Wilbur Smith

6. Car

"This is a model of an Aston Martin. They gave it to me at the car dealership when I bought one years back. Terrible car!”


Wilbur Smith trophy


7. Trophy

“I got this from (book publisher) Pan MacMillan to mark the sale of a million copies of A Leopard Hunts In Darkness (1984). It was a good feeling.”


Wilbur Smith

8. The book that changed everything

“This is a first edition of When The Lion Feeds (Wilbur’s debut novel) covered in the skin of a buffalo that I hunted.” 

Wilbur used to be a keen hunter but gave it up years ago.

“Now I prefer fly fishing. We [he and his wife] go all around the world from Norway to Canada to Argentina to do it.”

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