Writers Who Are and Aren’t Themselves: Stephanus Muller and Gerald Murnane

Stephanus Muller’s Nagmusiek, published by Fourthwall Books, is winging its way to Greylingstad, home of Highveld Reading and Writing Studios. Nagmusiek won the 2015 kykNet-Rapport prize for nonfiction and the Jan Rabie-Rapport prize for fiction. And I won Nagmusiek in Fourthwall’s Facebook competition.

Stephanus Muller
Stephanus Muller and Nagmusiek


Nagmusiek … sal lank onthou word as daardie-boek-wat-vir-fiksie-én-niefiksie-benoem-was … . Thys Human, beoordelaar van die Jan Rabie-Rapportprys, noem Nagmusiek … “’n uitdagende, grensoorskrydende teks …”. Herman Wasserman, beoordelaar van die niefiksieprys, sê weer in sy nabetragting … : “Nagmusiek is ‘n tegniese kragtoer en ‘n hoogs geslaagde eksperimentele waagstuk …”.

Fourthwall says:

Nagmusiek is … both a scholarly study of the Afrikaans composer Arnold van Wyk and a work of fiction in which the author/biographer – who is and is not Stephanus Muller – highjacks his own literary undertaking. … Muller sets out to explore Van Wyk’s work and in the process creates an epic and genre-defying work of his own. … a groundbreaking work of experimental fiction.

And Princeton University’s Rare Books and Special Collections says:

Is it a novel or a biography or an artists’ book hybrid? The three-volume set is from the wonderful South African publisher Fourthwall Books.

I am curious about Van Wyk. Here is an extract from a letter he wrote while at the Royal Academy, London, around 1940, in which he reflects on the stiff upper lip.

This evening after I had done some decent practicing, I played some of my earlier pieces—the “Nocturne,” the “Bagatelles,” the “Romanza” & “Mazurka” and this has put me in a nice, blue sentimental mood. It would be natural to write a blue letter, with purple moments & mauve cadences, but I’ll do my best not to inflict this on you. Contact with the English has taught me the indecency of emotion; has taught me that naked emotion is as unforgivable as walking down the street without one’s pants. I have as yet not decided whether I am a better man now that I have assimilated this philosophy.

arnold van wyk

Another writer who is and isn’t himself is Australian Gerald Murnane, well known for his virtuoso complications of genre and authorial identities and roles.

gerald murnane

This interview in 3:am Magazine will give you a sense.


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