In South Africa, success never presented..
In South Africa, success never presented the problems that it presents in New York. In New York, if you happen to be the flavor of the month, a lot of nonsense comes with it into your life.
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I think all of my writing life led up to the writing of 'The Train Driver' because it deals with my own inherited blindness and guilt and all of what being a white South African in South Africa during those apartheid years meant.
All of my life had been spent in the shadow of apartheid. And when South Africa went through its extraordinary change in 1994, it was like having spent a lifetime in a boxing ring with an opponent and suddenly finding yourself in that boxing ring with nobody else and realising you've to take the gloves off and get out, and reinvent yourself.
For most of my writing life, I've refused to allow myself to believe that writing was a significant form of action. I always felt very uneasy about the fact that all I did was write in a situation as desperate as apartheid South Africa. Whether I was correct or not is a different issue.
Without white South Africa realizing what it had done - and on the basis of that realization having the courage to ask for forgiveness - there can really be no significant movement.
What I quickly discovered is that our so-called new South Africa has as much material for a story-teller as the old one. The landscape hasn't really changed. Who is in power now is different to who was in power then, but the squatter camps grow like cancer, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
The reason I'm in San Diego is not because I want distance from South Africa but because I want proximity to the people I love. But I don't envy growing up in America. As ugly as aspects of it were, my biggest blessing was to be born a South African.
Nelson Mandela sat in a South African prison for 27 years. He was nonviolent. He negotiated his way out of jail. His honor and suffering of 27 years in a South African prison is really ultimately what brought about the freedom of South Africa. That is nonviolence.
My life, in some ways, has been a half-measure. I didn't commit myself all the way to my marriage and family, because I would have given up more. And I didn't go all the way with just being completely selfish. I always wonder where my career would be if I was more selfish.
I did not have a happy family life a few years ago. I was divorced, and I was very alienated from my daughter, and I was out there cutting every ribbon and running around New York hosting events for different causes to supplant my loss because I didn't have a family to go home to. Now I don't want to be Mr. Show Business anymore.
I can't complain that I've had a public all through my writing life, but people don't quite know what I've written. People don't read you too closely. Perhaps, after I've died, they'll look at my stuff, and read it through, and find there's more in it. That may be wrong, but that's what I comfort myself with.
I know some people who live this much more insulated life in Los Angeles, where their feet never touch public ground. They walk out of their bathroom, their living room, they get into their garage, their car, and the next thing you know, they're at the valet parking of the restaurant or the store or the office. They're in a bubble the whole time.
There are some screw-ups headed your way. I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups... but they're coming for ya. It's a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb.
I've had a relatively charmed life. I loved to be out in the city. New York was my town. I've had people come up to me and say, 'You're a great New Yorker. You've given your time and money to so many New York charities. You're a great supporter of the arts. I like some of your movies - and some of your movies suck, actually.'
Working conditions for me have always been those of the monastic life: solitude and frugality. Except for frugality, they are contrary to my nature, so much so that work is a violence I do to myself.
Basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all, there is only absurdity, and more absurdity. And maybe that's what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.
I haven't changed, but public life has. It used to be you'd go into a restaurant, and the owner would say, 'Do you mind if I take a picture of you and put it on my wall?' Sweet and simple. Now, everyone has a camera in their pocket.