Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Gig Life: Fractured Lives Book Launch 08/05/2013

Attending a book launch at Love Books is always a treat. The store is beautiful and the owner, Kate Rogan, and her staff are some cool human beings. If you love books you really should stop by and say hello; and if you end up buying a book (or ten) and a cup of coffee that's good too. My lovely companion, Judy, says attending book launches and comic book stores with me is bad for her wallet. What she doesn't know is that I'm looking out for the well-being of her bookshelf. I really am. I digress though.

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 saw the launch of Toni Strasberg's memoir, Fractured Lives, published by Modjaji Books. The book documents Toni Strasberg's life as filmmaker covering wars in southern African countries in the '80s and '90s. The book offers a female perspective on the senseless nature of war, which is often seen as 'the province of men'. Toni focuses especially on the effects of war on women and children. From what I saw of her on the night of the launch Toni is a very formidable woman. Her demeanour is that of someone who will not take nonsense and is not to be trifled with. I imagine that these are some of the character traits that allowed her to be a woman in charge of a film crew covering some of humanity's most inhumane actions at the time. Fractured Lives is a documentary of Toni as a woman and as a human being who has witnessed war in its many terrible forms and even in its exhilarating forms. The book provides social commentary on war in general and our fascination with it. Toni admits to not being a writer in the traditional sense of the notion as she is primarily a filmmaker and sees the world more visually than in terms of words. Fractured Lives is her written account of all she has seen and lived through.

Toni Strasberg was born in South Africa and went into exile in Britain in 1965, following the Rivonia Trial. She studied in Britain where she eventually became a filmmaker. Toni's responsible for award-winning films like Chain of Tears, Chain of Hope and A South African Love Story. In addition to making films and dabbling in writing Toni has served as an International Peace Monitor and Election Observer for the United Nations. She was also involved in NGO work for UNESCO and other similar bodies. At the launch she pointed out that she's old now and that, of course, she's done some things in her life.

Toni was in conversation with Hamilton Wende, a journalist and writer who has also seen and experienced many of the brutalities of war on the African continent and has added his voice to the literature that documents these conflicts. As formidable as Toni is she is also quite humorous. She regaled the crowd with funny stories about the slow and arduous process of shooting a film and meeting flamboyant political figures. As a white woman documenting war in Africa she did find herself in many humorous and even unsettling situations. Toni and Hamilton also spoke at length about child soldiers in many African wars and how, as the title of the books suggests, war fractures people's lives. As a result of war many families are scattered across the globe and it's difficult for them to stay in touch. War takes lives and ruins those it leaves behind. Humans are also very resilient in that they find small things to hold on to in times of conflict, things like a music teacher charming Toni and her crew into filming a boy he taught to play the piano. War is also exciting and addictive Toni points out. She has made a career out of documenting war because all those stories need be told but also because it got her adrenalin pumping.

War is hell as is always said but as humans we are ever drawn to it. 

Pick up a copy of Toni Strasberg's Fractured Lives and Hamilton Wende's Only the Dead on sale at Love Books.

As per usual, thanks to Joostenberg for providing the wine to fuel an amazing literary evening.

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