Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born novelist who now lives in New York. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2003, Dovey returned to South Africa to write a novel. Blood Kin, the result of that work, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim: the novel was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Informed by Dovey's South African roots, the novel tells the story of a fictional military coup from the perspective of the overthrown leader's portraitist, chef, and barber. Dovey is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at New York University. Dovey doesn't see a conflict between her two passions. "Both anthropology and good fiction are full of thick description and a layering of detail," she says.
Question: Which writers have influenced your writing?
Dovey: Well Coetzee, the South African writer has been a kind of gold standard of writing always for my family. My mom was a literary critic, and she sort of wrote about him in the ‘80s when he was only well known in South Africa. So he’s always had this kind of mythic status for me as a writer. And the ways that he has steered quite, you know . . . quite purposefully away from autobiography. I mean obviously there’s elements of that; but that he’s working always at a theoretical level and really unpacking or deconstructing different discourses from within. And so I . . . That kind of writing that’s working on all these different levels, I think, is just amazing. And I don’t know how you do it but . . . (chuckles) you know. Recorded on: 12/6/07