Backchat: OK, Mr Field

Katharine Kilalea, OK, Mr Field

Katharine Kilalea, OK, Mr Field.
Faber & Faber. £12.99.
Buy direct from the publisher.

Splice publishes new content on Mondays and Wednesdays, but throughout the week we bulk it out with bonus material on Facebook and Twitter. On Fridays, “Backchat” looks at the week that was and gathers up all the bonus material in one place.


This week on Splice, we covered OK, Mr Field, the début novel by South African poet Katharine Kilalea. On Monday, Anna MacDonald reviewed the novel, calling it “an expansive, multi-sensory narrative which at once makes manifest the human condition and upsets that condition to vertiginous effect.” On Wednesday, Kilalea spoke to Splice and answered a few questions about her creative process, saying that the greatest challenge she faced in writing OK, Mr Field was “to find a way of writing a plot in which nothing really happened. Or rather, in which the same thing kept happening.”

Because OK, Mr Field is Kilalea’s first novel, there’s not a great deal about it online. But it was serialised in the Paris Review prior to its publication by Faber, so you can read the opening paragraphs of three sections (one, two, three) and if you’re a Paris Review subscriber, you can log in and read the entire thing.

Prior to OK, Mr Field, Kilalea published a number of poems which were later collected in One-Eye’d Leigh, published by Carcanet. She also wrote a cycle of poems called House for the Study of Water, parts of which have been published, and which dovetail thematically with OK, Mr Field: Mr Field himself moves into the so-called House for the Study of Water upon his return to South Africa.

On YouTube, courtesy of Carcanet, you can find footage of Kilalea reading her poems ‘Portrait of Our Death’ (text version) and ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’ (text version). Also recommended: an incredible analysis of ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’ by Charles Whalley, who goes through the poem line by line. And there’s an excerpt from House for the Study of Water, ‘Whatever You Love Most Dearly’, at Prac Crit; click the “Poem to Poem” button and the introductory text will disappear to reveal an in-depth interview with Kilalea on her practices as a poet.

That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll be back with more reviews and interviews. Follow Splice on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with everything as it unfolds…