The fourteen interviews in this book form an unprecedented wealth of material on authors' responses to HIV/AIDS in South Africa and Zimbabwe. They comprise a valuable archive which documents and contextualises the variety of views and opinions of different authors on their often ground-breaking choices in writing about HIV/AIDS. Each author ranks among the first to publish fiction on HIV/AIDS in their respective countries. These interviews are of particular merit as these issues have not been discussed at length with any of the authors before. Collectively they offer a unique range of approaches and opinions in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. Their significance lies in their specific literary, as well as their broader social, cultural and political perspectives on a disease which continues to spread despite extensive NGO, medical and government intervention. In both South Africa and Zimbabwe, government responses have failed to address the urgent need for new political and economic solutions to the challenge of HIV infection.
Responses among the population have varied from widespread silence, shame and fear to political activism and outspoken critiques of government inaction. Writers give voice to this silence and contextualise the disparate reactions amongst diverse people. Globally, AIDS killed approximately 2 million in 2008. In 1998, AIDS was the largest killer in southern Africa, nearly double the one million deaths from malaria and eight times the 209,000 deaths from tuberculosis. It has long been the case that of those dying globally of AIDS, the majority live in southern Africa. When the associated social and cultural implications of infection with HIV are considered, fictional representations contribute significantly to our understanding of the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities and individuals, and provide a much-needed basis for 'humanising' an epidemic which is unimaginable statistically. It has been said that the feelings and reactions that HIV/AIDS inspires are often 'too unreal for words', and it is this very notion, that certain diseases are taboo, unmentionable, and hardly even named as such, that makes verbalisation of this epidemic a modern imperative.
"Literature" provides an opportunity to the reader and critic, not just to hear what people talk about, but most significantly, to read what they would perhaps otherwise not talk about, allowing novelists to 'intervene politically'. Listening to the authors of the cutting edge texts they have penned, provides additional insights into how these texts were conceived and produced and what impact they imagined they might have. By contrast much HIV/AIDS research and publishing displays a distinct absence of this form of qualitative work. These interviews will enhance understandings of the texts published by these fascinating authors, acting as a wonderful secondary resource for teachers and students, and providing a platform for authors to speak and engage with serious contemporary issues in their own words.
"Blood on the Page is a striking and important collection of interviews on HIV/AIDS and literature with contemporary South African and Zimbabwean writers reflecting on their own texts and lives in the Mbeki-Mugabe era. Rarely has the brutality and complexity of the question of writing in a post-Apartheid African world haunted by death and illness been confronted with as much directness and honesty. An absolutely must read for any one engaged with South Africa, Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDS and literature, or the difficulty of writing in the world of global health politics." -Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University