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Tracey Farren PDF Print E-mail

Tracey Farren (1966 - ) grew up on the South Coast of Natal.  She is now a full time writer and lives in False Bay with her teenage children, her partner and four large dogs. Farren has a psychology honours degree from the University of Cape Town. Before pursuing her full time writing ambitions, she worked as a freelance journalist for a few years, publishing in the South African newspapers and magazines. Her journalism during this time showed a marked interest in issues like child justice, prison conditions and prostitution.

Farren published several short stories in South African collections before writing her first novel, Whiplash. These include stories in the South African Short Story Review, Urban OneUrban Two, Nobody Ever Said Aids, Women Flashing and Writing the SelfWhiplash was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction prize in 2008 and won a White Ribbon award from Women Demand Dignity for its activism against women and child abuse.

In 2011, she published her second novel titled Snake. At the launch, Sarah Lotz described Snake as 'a fine literary thriller that hooks you on every page'. Tracey describes her novel saying: "In Snake, I used the first person narrator once again, this time the twelve year old daughter of a coloured farm worker. Stella is tormented by recent tragic events on the farm and is desperate to have her say. She tells her disturbing story to a heartless tabloid journalist who has raced from the city for the scoop.

Snake is a satire on the lengths that people sometimes go to to reverse their past. This impulse is given as the basis for madness in both 'ordinary' people as well as the psychotically insane. In the process of hunting for truth among the people she loves, young Stella stumbles on the essence of insanity and its anti venom - the wisdom of the human spirit. 

I deliberately contrasted the naivete of the child with the jaded cynicism of the journalist to allow the reader to navigate the unwritten, that is, to find the insights that neither of these characters directly express".

In 2016, an adaptation of Whiplash, entitled “Tess”, was released. Farren played a strong role in the production of the film by penning the screenplay. “Tess” won Best South African Feature Film, Best Actress and Best Editing at the 2016 Durban International Film Festival.

Extract from Whiplash


New Year's day, a gull whacks into my window.

They say birds bring messages from the dead. I dunno who sent it but I'm ironing my socks when it smacks into the glass. I nearly wet my pants, I get such a fright. Shame, poor bird lies on its side, feathers floating. I hope like hell it's dead.

The South Easter blew it in. It hammers our building, chews on the paint. Spins off the South Pole and stays for days. It's turned the sea on its head, now it's blowing in birds.

The gull gets up, tries to walk a straight line. Bang! Into the glass. I clench my fanny. I can't help it, it's an old habit. You told me Mom, keep your fanny closed, else the birds can fly in. You said it to stop me peeing in my pants.

I'm still scared of thrashing wings and sudden thuds. Birds, and flying insects, if they come too close. The gull shuffles to the corner of the balcony and watches itself in the glass, its eyes that pale blue, like paraffin.

I creep round inside the flat. Knock back five Syndol, eat a lump of cheese. Down some cold Coke. I check out the bird, scared he's gonna try again. He sits between the broken wheels of my swivel chair. The sun cranks up above the bottle store, lights the glass. He turns his back and waits, like he's waiting or an ambulance.

I put water in the mayonnaise lid. Find a piece of pie in the bin, cut it up tiny. I creep out on my knees. Slide the stuff towards the gull. Chuck myself back in the flat.



2008. Whiplash. Cape Town: Modjaji Books.

2011. Snake. Cape Town: Modjaji Books.