I left South Africa, where I was born, a few months after I had won a national literary award for my first book. The most compelling reason for leaving: a journalist friend of ours, who was black, was shot dead in front of his home by white Apartheid government agents. He had been writing about the value of a creative, freethinking education for all South Africans so that the whole nation might achieve freedom and self-fulfilment. This was too much for those in power who wanted to keep black people oppressed and servile. So they silenced him. I couldn’t live in a place where writers were killed for their words. So I left my country as soon as I could, having learned at the very beginning of my writing career what power lay in the written word. I grew up in a civil war, and when I was eighteen, I was conscripted by a minority government to fight against the majority population. During the two years I spent in that war, I kept a journal in which I recorded everything I saw, and heard and felt. Fellow soldiers mocked me for doing it (‘He’s writing his memoirs!’), and when I left at the end, I had to sign a declaration that I would never write about the things I had seen.
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