What does it mean to have visions, to be mentally ill within a South African context? Masande Ntshanga discusses his new novel Triangulum
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Masande Ntshanga chatted to Polity SA recently about his new novel, Triangulum.

The main character of the book is never named, and Ntshanga says he had two reasons for making that decision.

‘The first is that we can’t know her identity, because she’s involved in all these subversive activities,’ the author says. ‘She doesn’t want to be tracked down, she makes that very clear. So in the book’s world, we can’t know who she is.

‘But also, the more I worked on it, I became fascinated by this idea of not naming the narrator because I wanted it to almost feel as if the story could be narrated by anyone, in the sense that, if it’s not tied to a particular character with a name and an identity, it kind of opens itself up more to interpretation.

‘So even you as a reader or myself as a reader are able to project ourselves more into the character and what they go through.’

In the story, the narrator journeys in search of her missing mother, and has inexplicable visions of a great ‘machine’ and a series of triangles. Ntshanga says this subplot is central to the story.

‘Essentially there’s a lot of stuff that happens in the book but really it’s a story about family at its core,’ he explains.

‘I also wanted to explore the bond between a child and a parent, a daughter and a mother, and have that be the emotional and psychological focus point of the book, as it explored all the other theories.

‘In terms of the visions, I was interested in this idea of exploring mental illness in a way that looked outside of its formulations by the West. What does it mean, actually, to have visions, and what does it mean to be mentally ill within an African context, or even a South African context?’

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Categories Fiction South Africa

Tags Masande Ntshanga Penguin Random House SA Polity SA Triangulum Umuzi Videos

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