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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
            Back to Open Skies

Travel to Cape Town


The Book Lounge, Cape Town

1 July 2014

Questions: Andrew Birbeck / Answers: founder of The Book Lounge, Mervyn Sloman

The Book Lounge opened back in 2007. What’s been the greatest challenge since selling that first book?
Never-ending paperwork and admin. That, and dealing with around 50 different book suppliers. It all takes a lot of time. 

You have a reputation for great coffee. How does the café enhance the bookstore?
I wanted to create a space in which people feel comfortable to sit, browse, talk and debate. You need good coffee to do that. It’s essential. 

How healthy is the South African literary scene and what do you do to promote local writers?
The scene’s thriving in terms of the number of wonderful books, both fiction and non-fiction, published each year. It’s less healthy if you look at sales figures nationally and compare those to other similar countries, or so I’m told. We run an absurdly diverse programme of events at The Book Lounge, constantly talk to readers about local books, and of course there’s the Open Book Festival. 

What do you hope to achieve with the Open Book Festival?
Open Book enables us to build on all the events we run at the store. The scale of what you can do in a festival is much greater than what you can achieve in a single bookshop. There are four main aims: to put on a truly international literary festival in Cape Town, to promote the best of South African writing to international audiences, to build a love of reading among the youth of Cape Town and to attract as diverse an audience as possible. 

You also set up libraries in schools. Where do the books come from?
We encourage our customers to buy books for school libraries from a selection that we put together, publishers make donations, we organise various fundraising events and, when possible, The Book Lounge donates books, too. On that note, if anyone out there would like to help out, drop us a line at booklounge@gmail.com.

What are you reading at the moment?
A wonderful novel, An Imperfect Blessing, by Nadia Davids, which we’re launching, as well as dipping into a collection of essays by Geoff Dyer, who is one of the authors joining us for Open Book this year. 

If you were marooned on a desert island and could have just one book, what would it be?
One that we’re launching at The Book Lounge the following week in the hope that I’d be rescued and brought back in time for the launch. 

Have you ever written a book or do you plan to at some point?
No. I’d love to, but don’t know if I have it in me. 

Finally, what’s the best part of your job?
Putting a book into a customer’s hand and saying, “Read this,” knowing that they’re going to love it.