By Chelsea Haith
Stacy Hardy delves into alternate experiences of reality, frightening worlds and feminism in her new collection of short stories Because the Night. The anthology will be launched in South Africa on 6 March at the Institute for the Study of English in Africa.
Hardy’s collection is comprised of some of her older material as well as more recent compositions and thus spans a period of 12 years in the author’s life. It is her first collection of short stories. Creative director of London-based publisher POCKO Editions, Nicola Schwartz, chose the stories from Hardy’s oeuvre, and included work previously published in international literary journals and some unseen stories. Due to the selection process the stories underwent, the collection has unintentionally become “something of a road trip”, Hardy explained over a cup of coffee.
Fragmentary and honest, Hardy’s stories hang around your throat like an expensive but weighty necklace, leaving your neck, or mind, aching, but not without leaving a wealth of ideas behind. Not much is considered taboo in this collection and the story lengths vary from a paragraph to several pages long. Not a word is wasted; every sentence and image giving the impression of a smattering of diamonds hung around an elderly woman’s neck.
In ‘A Breast Is Not a Leg’ Hardy places her narrator in front of a group of male amputees to discuss a mastectomy. ‘Kisula’ plays with assumptions surrounding bi-racial couples and Black Consciousness. ‘Whiteout’ struggles through rebound sex. ‘My Nigerian Drug Dealer’ is a heady erotic account of addiction and the story stands as the centre piece in a collection that deviates from the realist mode typical of so much South African short fiction. Hardy has cited this as the reason her work has found little reception in the mainstream South African market.
Formerly as a writer and of late as a contributing editor at Chimurenga, one of the foremost journals and thinking platforms of African journalism and fiction, Hardy has found a home for her work. However, she has had little acceptance in mainstream South African publishing due to her choices of form and the exclusionary target markets.
“I do think that South African publishers are afraid of stylistics that don’t make sense. I also think that they are targeting a limited, specific market. So it’s your Book Lounge in Cape Town, Exclusive Books crowd: largely affluent, white women and book club driven audiences. Which is something of a tragedy, I think.”
Hardy feels that her work is influenced largely by a postmodern worldview in which a realist mode is an insufficient perspective from which to attempt to understand human nature. “I don’t experience people as these ideal, fully formed characters, who undergo some kind of linear development,” she said, her thin hand drawing a vertical line in the air. “My experience of people is fractured, fleeting at best, often very confused and fucked up. So I suppose that some of that is captured in the form of the story, as well as in the kind of writing I do.”
Despite being a South African author, Hardy’s work does not focus exclusively on her socio-political position, but rather on more universal issues that are given nuance by her location in South Africa at the time of writing.
“There aren’t great South African stories in it, but it deals with the landscape that I relate to and the interactions with people in it and the fraughtness of some of those interactions and how I deal with them,” she explained.
Thematically the stories hang together by their form rather than by their content or setting, though Hardy’s own interests and preoccupations inform the thematic landscape of the collection. “It sits in the space between confessional literature, alternative chick lit and more a more experimental interface. I am largely dealing with themes around the body, sexuality, gender and politics and trying to navigate that in the confused, weird space that is South Africa,” she said.
Hardy teaches on the MA in Creative Writing programme at Rhodes University and is a contributing editor at Chimurenga. Because the Night will be launched at a reading at the ISEA, St Peters Building, on the Rhodes University campus at 5.30pm and copies of the collection will be available for sale.
Stacy Hardy describe the origins of her work: