Henrietta Rose-Innes was born in Cape Town in 1971. After completing her studies in archaeology at the University of Cape Town, she studied biological anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In 1996, her short story »Burning Buildings« was awarded first prize in the Cosmopolitan/Vita Short Story Competition. She graduated three years later – again in Cape Town – with a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. Under the supervision of literature professor and Nobel Prize Laureate, J.M. Coetzee, the first draft of her début novel »Shark’s Egg« (2000) emerged. In this book, the author uses her protagonist’s relationship to the sea to mirror her coming of age. The novel soon went into a second printing, and reviewers received this new literary voice with acclaim: »This book marks a new start for South African fiction in the way that it takes the interior world of the self as its prime focus«, the critic Tony Morphet wrote.
Rose-Innes’s second novel, »The Rock Alphabet« (2004), plays with forms of communication between completely different mentalities. Two boys are found living wild in the mountains and the daughter of a missing archaeologist brings them back to civilization. The two brothers go through contradictory developments: while one boy learns the language and adapts to his new environment, the other stays true to his untamed nature – he seems to have telepathic abilities and develops a »rock alphabet« by means of which he is able to communicate with his brother. In the image-rich, dense style that characterises Rose-Innes’s work, the author draws one ’s distant past. Navigating between different periods of time, she employs diverse symbolic structures and milieus to touch on, in the author’s own words, »issues of identity, of going back to the past and dealing with regret, which are all common South African issues«.
She has had numerous short stories and essays published in various collections, and is also the compiler of »Nice Times!« (2006), a miscellany of South African »pleasures and delights«. Rose-Innes has received numerous awards for her literary work, including a nomination for the M-Net Book Prize. In 2007 she won the SA PEN Award, and in 2007 and 2008 she was nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Beyond her home country, she has been a guest on the Château de Lavigny in Lausanne, grant holder of the kunst:raum sylt quelle foundation and a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, where she is currently working on her latest novel. A selection of her short stories, entitled »Dream Homes. Schnappschüsse und Geschichten aus Kapstadt« (t: Snapshots and stories from Cape Town), has recently been translated and published in German (2008). Rose-Innes lives in Cape Town and teaches at the Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town.
© international literature festival berlin