Kenneth Bonert's work has appeared in McSweeney's 25, Grain, and The Fiddlehead. A former journalist, his work has appeared in the Globe and Mail and other publications. His story "Packers and Movers" was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and his novella "Peacekeepers, 1995" appeared in McSweeney's. The Lion Seeker is his first novel. Born in South Africa, he is the grandson of Lithuanian immigrants, and now calls Toronto home.
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In two separate interviews, Kenneth Bonert talks about The Lion Seeker, his first novel about a Jewish emigrant family who settle in South Africa before the Second World War
Tell us about your book, The Lion Seeker.
It's a big, sweeping novel about a Jewish emigrant family who settle in South Africa before the Second World War. The main character is the son, Isaac Helger, who is desperate to fight his way out of poverty and into respected manhood. His mother is just as desperate to get her relatives out of Lithuania as the war looms closer. The two drives eventually intersect in a grueling crisis for Isaac. There's love, hate, secrets, violence, ambition I tried not to pull any punches.
The best compliment I've received is that the book feels like the true reality of South Africa, even though it's set in the 1930s. I think that's because life in South Africa is so intense, with highs of unbelievable kindness and caring, and lows of the utmost depravity. A country of emotional extremes as well as economical. If I've done my job, the reader should feel that intensity with this book.
How did you get into Isaac's head while writing? What are some of his strengths and weaknesses?
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