South African TV journalist, radio correspondent and novelist Hamilton Wende is our featured author this week. Wende’s astounding clarity and knowledge about some of the world’s most opaque and bewildering conflicts, as well as the wildly different countries in which they take place, has made his reportage an indispensable guide to understanding the story behind the stories on our screens and in our hands.
His collection of wartime dispatches, Deadlines from the Edge, offers vivid vignettes of a number of conflicts, from the unpredictable brutality of the Congo to the ideological attrition of Afghanistan. Meticulously-written, startling in its clarity, and utterly personal, Deadlines offers an inner view into the psyche of the war reporter, and the nuances of conflicts that are too readily simplified in day-to-day news reportage.
In contrast to Deadlines‘ globe-trotting, Wende’s Alan Paton Award-nominated travel memoir True North takes a more focused route, following his travels through Africa, into countries where serene and overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes are jarringly contrasted with the barbarity of civil war. Documenting Africa’s less-travelled roads, Wende captures the alienation and difficulty of being an outsider in a tumultuous place.
“I like to explore the paradox between where we find ourselves and where we want to be,” Wende writes. In both of these books, we see travel writing of vocation instead of vacation; of involvement instead of surveillance.