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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

An Obituary of a Living Man

James Woodhouse, editor and publisher at Kwela Books, resigned. Resigned? Or rather, was fired about a month ago. I think and believe that he was fired as he never even sent a goodbye email. He deserted this ship in deep sea and vanished.

I got to know James Woodhouse by phone when he called in 2003 after he read the hard copy of my manuscript “Aborted Foetus Growing”, standing at 98 000 words in size 10 font. By his words he had just finished reading a series of dead manuscripts and he looked at the thickness and the font size of mine, shaking his head. He was not going to read it, but then he was compelled to read it. The opening pages touched him and on the morning of the third day he gave me a call. Since that day we were communicating regularly.

Room 207 should have been with us by 2004 but the then-Kwela publisher Annamarie resigned and Nelleke became publisher. There was a relationship that grew between me, James and Nelleke, and my then-girlfriend warned me about the relationship. “These people are working, you are just a job to them, nothing more.” But the relationship was personal, at least on my side.

When Nelleke trashed the book and proved my girlfriend right, James was there to give a comforting hand. There was a relation there that was not business, but it was business. Today I only have these words to comfort me and continue to travel – to borrow from Titlestad – this lonely trivial road.

James Woodhouse loved words, words moved him and made his life whole. He left some the most important things in life, that you and I would consider first and foremost, just to deal with words – words, from manuscript to publication.

And here I am in tears for losing for a word-man in my life as a living being and writer.


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