Fake: fables, facts and fiction

December 2008 -

Fake is the theme of the next edition of the literary festival Winternachten in The Hague. Writers are masters when it comes to manipulating reality. They use day-to-day life and history to tell their own stories and uncover the truth behind reality. "Fiction and imagination unveil things that we did not know that we know," said the South African writer Breyten Breytenbach during Winternachten 2006.

Nurrudin FarahLiterary authors have a variety of reasons for fabricating what ever they want. Somali author Nurrudin Farah, for example, who will be opening this year's Winternachten with an address on migration and exile, has made "keeping my country alive" with his pen his life's mission. Farah has been publishing novels about his war-torn country despite his exile, from a variety of host countries since 1965. Although he cannot be an eye witness, fiction has made it possible for him to live in his country in his mind.

Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina – who is not a guest during Winternachten but can be often seen on other stages in the Netherlands – wrote a satirical essay on reality and clichés. In How to write about Africa, he demonstrates how writers and authors are pointed in the wrong direction by the image of Africa in today’s media. The author has established the Kwani Trust to adjust that image. In an interview with The Power of Culture, he says that even African children often have a distorted image of their own reality due to the fake Western reality presented in their school books.

Turkish author Perihan Magden juggles fact and fiction in her work. Her debut novel, Murder of the messenger boys, seems like an absurd fairy tale but is actually based on reality. In an interview with The Power of Culture, she reveals that the book is partly autobiographic and that the main theme - the cloned blond messenger boys – came from a news article on Hitler’s Germany.

Comedian and author Nury Vittachi uses his pen to escape from the stigmata of daily life and to build a bridge between East and West. In his humorous whodunits with the feng shui detective Mister Wong, he becomes both a sexist Asian and a blond trainee. Like Wainaina, Nury believes that his task as an author is to promote a better understanding of his continent. "I want to show Westerners that Asians are not scary, illogical and impossible to understand, and to teach Asians the same lesson about Westerners," he says in an interview with The Power of Culture.

And, last but not least, winner of the Principal Prince Claus award 2008: Indian author Indira Goswami. "You have to be a great artist to turn harsh reality into literature," she says. Her story The Journey proves that she has mastered this skill like no other.

This special contains not only interviews with and essays and fragments by these authors, but also a list of literary web sites in Africa, Asia and Latin America.