Monica Arc de Nyeko once said, "a story that must be told never forgives silence". Professor Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane made sure this was emphasized in Words Gone Two Soon, a publication published last year to celebrate the lives of Phaswane Mpe (Welcome to Our Hillbrow) and K.Sello Duiker (Thirteen Cents, The Quiet Violence of Dreams). Mzamane went on to quote another doyen of African literature by paraphrasing Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's phrase by writing, "when the young begin to spice their talk liberally with proverbs, you know the time to dress them in diapers is past"
These might have been spiced references made to the two departed young souls that thought outside the box and positioned themselves as authorities alongside equally gifted writers like Niq Mhlongo (Dog eat Dog). Mpe and Duiker achieved more than most of their peers and beyond in a short while and redefined a whole genre of contemporary adult literature.
Room 207 is actually a sad story of life in Hillbrow, as the author relates, and some of the characters are still alive and can be traced to many successful and failed avenues of business South Africa. Moele tells the story of his rise to what should be prominence and the tale behind the book that, while it is not yet acclaimed, it should be mentioned that it stands a good chance of being made into a film as it is visually strong and seems to have a cinematic quality that sells off the untold story of how Moele once worked with Sello Maake ka Ncube and Mcedisi Shabangu on popular stage productions Call Us Crazy and Koeksusters.
"That's a little known story about me because we never made money out of those productions. I used to be frustrated with Sello during rehearsals when we were doing Call Us Crazy because the guy hadn't been doing theatre for some time but when the opportunity came he was often fluffing lines. I got mad", Moele, the film school drop-out remembers many years ago when Grahamstown Arts Festival was his pilgrimage as an aspiring theatre practitioner.
"Read Week must also be an active ongoing engagement, not just for seven days", he warns. His frustration is with the black middle class, who are rumoured to number more than a million with cheaque books as big as their bellies and their apathy towards books. "The black middle class does not have a reading attitude, they lack an interest to read. They should understand that I am not saying money can buy knowledge which they need, but a situation like the current one where we require a miracle to encourage them to value books should change. Parents should encourage their children to read and the children as well should encourage each other. Reading should go beyond academic stuff", Moele pledges, obviously not happy with the fact that his publisher will first print less than 5000 copies of Room 207 because blacks with money rather spend it on buying luxury cars than books.
Moele's point is poignant as Duiker himself said he had three manuscripts rejected before his first novel was published. Mpe told journalist Liz McGregor that a week before he decided to start working on his first novel some friends had gently talked him out of suicidal intentions, something often worrying even with Moele who, before Kwela published his book was nicknamed 'the hobo with the script' as he always carried his writings wherever he went, even when hiking for transport to either Polokwane or Johannesburg.