Machine, System, Code: Masande Ntshanga and Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra

“Literature has this remarkable, almost miraculous, ability to distill human experience.”

Our partner podcast Novel Dialogue invites a novelist and a literary critic to talk about novels from every angle: how we read them, write them, publish them, and remember them. This season’s signature question is: “What is the first book you remember loving?”

Building parallels between technology and the human imagination, Masande Ntshanga’s conversation with Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra explains how cities are like machines and how South African history resembles some of the most sinister versions of techno-futurism. Masande is the author of two novels: The Reactive, winner of a Betty Trask Award in 2018, and Triangulum, nominated for the 2020 Nommo Awards for Best Novel in 2020 by the African Speculative Fiction Society. His responses to Magalí’s questions interweave autobiography and history, showing how when you venture into “underwritten spaces” in South Africa, realism starts to seem like speculation. Masande moves from playing bootleg Nintendo and hacking Lego sets in Ciskei, a “homeland” under the apartheid government’s Bantustan system, to data mining and novel writing in the global cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg. All the while, technology is never something “we’re resigned to experiencing” and “endorsing” in fiction—it can be a medium of contemplation as well as conquest. Masande and Magalí are also interested in the queer intimacies of young people busy forming their own “micro-tribes.” Especially young people who are reading the global phenomenon that is Stephen King by moonlight, when they might be just a little too young for it.






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View a transcript of the episode here.



Mentioned in this Episode