Kobus Moolman Chats to Elana Bregin at the Launch of Survival Training for Lonely Hearts
Friends, colleagues, family and well-wishers thronged Adams Books in Musgrave Centre last Tuesday evening, to hear acclaimed author Elana Bregin in dialogue with poet and personal friend Kobus Moolman about her most recent novel, Survival Training for lonely hearts, published by Pan Macmillan.
Moolman asked Elana how the novel came about. Bregin, describing herself as a chaotic writer, said that it took her seven years to write it, as she only had “shreds of time”. This, she said, allowed the novel to “brew” in the background, as an “unconscious process”. She explained that she had wanted to write a book about South Africa, but found herself approaching it through the romance genre, as writing a love story helped her avoid getting “bogged down in issues”.
Moolman asked Bregin to comment on the fact that the book has a particular focus on Durban. Bregin explained that, for her, Durban is “not the malls, but areas where we find it difficult to cross over”, naming Grey Street, and the Rainbow Restaurant as examples. She said she was glad that writing the novel enabled her to explore this as well.
Elaborating on the theme of romance, Elana said that this book hones in on “love amidst the wreckage of our terribly wounded SA, not just on love amidst the roses”. She spoke of the importance of leaving one’s comfort zone in order to understand how it is for other people living in SA, saying she is grateful for her work as editor, which enables her to meet people from various walks of life.
After briefly discussing several characters in the book, Moolman asked Bregin about the role of the dog, Jezebel, in the novel. Alluding to the therapeutic effect of dogs on people “leading lonely and self-absorbed lives”, Bregin explained that for the protagonist Kate, owning a dog was a way of reclaiming the humanity she “didn’t even know she had lost”. She noted that the original title for this book was intended to be “In the Company of Dogs”, but she and her editor decided it was too enigmatic and picked a more lucid name.
Moolman asked Bregin how she created a safe authorial distance; separating herself from her characters. She said she and Kate are “not the same, though at times I am sad that we are different”. In closing, Moolman highlighted the tenderness which promoted the writing of this love story, commending the author for this.
Bregin read from a chapter where the heroine goes on a date with “Mr Wrong”, revealing the novel to be gently humorous, and politically astute. In closing, bookseller Peter Adams congratulated Pan Macmillan for being named Trade Publisher of the Year Award and for publishing yet another book which looks set to become a best-seller.
- Survival Training for Lonely Hearts by Elana Bregin
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