In 2003, Julian Jackson left his legal job in London to return to South Africa where he founded a legal practice to facilitate investment into sub-Saharan Africa. Julian has written in magazines and journals on travel, politics and philosophy. We interviewed him about his writing and whether place has an impact on his writing voice.
Is place, the landscape and language of where you’re from, something that has a bearing on your writing voice?
I don’t have a short answer to where I am from – but perhaps that lack of ‘place’ influences my writing voice. I am at home in Africa and in Europe but I am to some degree an outsider in all places. My ancestors on my father’s side came to South Africa from England as colonial civil servants, settlers or immigrants. On my mother’s side, my ancestors were German settlers in Eastern Europe, who returned to Germany as refugees after the second World War. When my parents came to South Africa in 1982 this country defined my experience as an adolescent, but I am as much of South Africa as I am of England or Germany.
Yet Africa affects who I am and what I want to write about. To know and love Africa is to be changed by it: Africa is sublime and primal; inspiring and terrifying; nurturing and annihilating.
Do you know why you do it?
I started this journey because writing is a way to make sense of my life – which is reassuring – and to find beauty in the ordinary – which is inspiring.
What are you working on now?
I want to experiment with the short-story medium and explore different points of view, themes and styles. I have a theme percolating in my mind, about arriving at the moment at which perspective changes forever, when a crack starts to run across the mirror.
If you were in a band, what would it be called?
South African alternative bands in the eighties were an odds-defying green shoot of creativity growing through the concrete of apartheid: homegrown, potent, completely original. They had great names, like the Kalahari Surfers, Cherry Faced Lurchers or the Gereformeerde Blues Band. My favourite name was The Genuines. And for the same reasons I love the converse name, The Pretenders.