Magical Realism South Africa

ARTEBY Author Interviews

Magical Noordhoek

This Author Interview on Magical Realism was conducted by Arteby Publishing (AP) on 17th January, 2016, based on a series of 10 questions. Here’s question 3 – we recommend you listen to the author’s response and thoughts on the video, and, if you wish, you may follow along on the transcript below. If you missed it, here is Arteby Author Interview 2.

AP: Bianca Gubalke, let’s move to question three: You point out the importance of “…a sense of place” in your novel. So where does your magical realism story take place, and why?


BG: Here are the coordinates: 34.104 ° South, 18.360 ° East! If you want the short version!

Well yes, the choice of a location is always crucial and has a big impact. I think it’s even more important if you write Magical Realism than other genres. The big masters I’ve read a long time go were all firmly grounded in their home country, if I remember correctly . . . like  Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . . with ‘One hundred years of solitude’ in Colombia, Isabel Allende with her ‘House of Spirits’ in Chile, and an African author I really liked, Amos Tutuola, in Nigeria. I think it was essential for their success and, following the philosophy I pursue in my storyabout ‘The Immortal Life of Piu Piu’, the place where we are born has a significant impact on our lives, as we are shaped and conditioned by our environment. Grace, Pippa’s African mother in my story, explains this at some stage.

Did you ever ask yourself WHY you were born where you were born? WHY does that matter? What was specific to that – looking back?

In that sense, and with hindsight, I sometimes wonder why I chose a place in the middle of nowhere, between three portals to infinity: the Atlantic Ocean, the Namib Desert and the Milky Way? And – after spending almost 30 years in Europe and travelling all over the world – I’ve just returned to that same spot again!

Was I looking for a hidden meaning?

Well, besides growing up with an acute awareness . . . that of being enveloped by a subtle web of energies – the energy of water, of earth and of air – that place definitely determined three things I can think of immediately:

1. the notion of being a tiny spark of energy, a little piece of Consciousness that matters . .  that really matters! – within a limitless magnificent whole;
2. a sense of belonging and interconnection with all beings and dimensions; and
3. the absolute need for cooperation and communication between us all – as we’re all on a journey together.

So the place where I was born and grew up played a role in who I became, and so does the place where I live. It is what I know, it is where I belong, it is a small village called Noordhoek at the Western Cape coast of South Africa. The idyllic Noordhoek valley hugs the mountain ranges below Chapman’s Peak – mountains that stretch from Cape Town and its emblemic Table Mountain, all the way down to Cape Point, with the crystal seas of the Atlantic Ocean washing white beaches and crashing against steep shores. The region was declared a Natural World Heritage site in 2004 – ‘A unique setting in a unique place’, says the Elder in my book.

What else is so special about Noordhoek – in the context of this story?

Nature! Be it in terms of animal wildlife or the many endemic plants, Nature plays a significant role in my story. In fact, Pippa, the young female protagonist, is so obsessed with protecting . . . preserving . . . even eternalizing it . . . that in her attempts to get back to her own roots and find solutions, she frequently experiences two realistic scenarios simultaneously. Situations that are – according to our linear understanding of time – more than two-hundred years apart! She is highly aware at all times; she’s not in a dreamlike or trancelike state at all. Everything is REAL – but MAGIC is the golden bridge that connects those different planes of reality, and allows her to dance between worlds . . . which is the title of the series.

While I knew Chapman’s Peak as a kid, Noordhoek wasn’t even on the map. Over the past decade, it has become an ‘in-place’ where jet-setting homo sapiens of all cultures, colors and beliefs have replaced the wild antelope… and the occasional lynx… that came down every night to the local watering holes. But not everything has changed. Whales still get their babies in the bay, the fish eagle’s distinct cry echoes across the valley, and porcupines, mongoose, Cape cobras as well as the Western Leopard Toad – just to name a few – abound in the valley – and in my story – each adding their simple, natural flavor to the daily MAGIC that makes the REAL world so worth living here!

That’s why I chose Noordhoek! 

In its own mysterious way, Noordhoek is a magical place where different worlds co-exist as one reality.

And besides, this magical Noordhoek was home to a REAL wild Egyptian goose called Piu Piu, who lost her ability to fly . . . until she discovered the MAGIC within her . . . and her own REALITY changed.

I’m just the storyteller . . .

AP: Thank you for bringing this magical place – Noordhoek – closer to us!  Although you describe it exquisitely in your book, it’s good to hear it directly from the storyteller! Which brings us to question 4 – who are you addressing with what was called “A Modern Fairy Tale for Baby Boomers”? 

Please stay tuned; the transcript of part 4 of our Interview with Bianca Gubalke on the literary genre called ‘Magical or Magic Realism’ will follow soon!

Meanwhile, you may want to read the latest PRESS RELEASE.