Book launch: Interview with Melissa Volker on her novel Shadow Flicker

On 22 August 2019 I interviewed Melissa Volker about her eco-romance Shadow Flicker (Karavan Press, 2019) at Xpression on the Beach, Muizenberg. The novel is set in contemporary Cape St Francis, where the female protagonist returns to surfing. The novel addresses environmental issues relating to the development wind energy farms in the area.

This is one of few literary outputs in South Africa to foreground surfing within the novel’s plot and frame main characters as surfers (or where the authors are surfers themselves). I am aware of a handful of novels and short-stories in English which also do so, namely: Hagen Engler’s Life’s A Beach (1997) and Water Features (1998) (autobiographical fiction, short stories) and Robin Auld’s Tightlines (2000) (beat fiction), Byron Loker’s New Swell (2006) (autobiographical fiction, short stories), Mike Nicol’s Of Cops and Robbers (2013) (crime fiction), and Mary Duncan’s Surfing Sally (2010) (illustrated children’s fiction). Andy Mason’s (aka N.D. Mazin) The Legend of Blue Mamba (2013) (graphic novel) brings this literature into conversation with the world of underground comix.

I am aware of Afrikaans youth fiction too, specifically Mary-Ann van Rensburg’s ‘n Reënboog oor Grootbaai (1995) and Jeanette Morton’s Die Vlinder en die Surfer (2012).

There are also fictional short stories published in local surf magazines since the 1960s.

There is published poetry too that adds to the literature featuring surfing, for example, Robin Auld’s “Between the Storms” and “Reef” in his Kelp (2006) and Stephen Symons’ “Death of a Surfer” and “Muizenberg” in his Questions for the Sea (2016).

It may be time to start compiling an authoritative account of South African “surflit”. Inspiration for this can be drawn from the innovative work undertaken for the Waves of Fiction: Surfing in Australian Literature project led by scholar Rebecca Olive. The aim of the project is to be “able to follow the various threads of surfing that weave through Australian literature [that] will deepen our understanding of how surfing has shaped our relationships to beaches, coastlines and oceans, and how surfing has contributed to a sense of being Australian.”

Author: Glen Thompson

Surfer and academic historian

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