Tshidiso Moletsane on the genesis of 'Junx'

Tshidiso Moletsane says he was inspired to write his book after reading 'Eclipse', the third novel in the 'Twilight' series

10 October 2022 - 09:51
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Junx is his debut novel.
Tshidiso Moletsane Junx is his debut novel.
Image: Supplied

Tshidiso Moletsane’s Junx (Umuzi) is shortlisted for the Sunday Times fiction prize, in partnership with Exclusive Books.


The winner should be a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.

The judges called it “a tour de force. Bold, raw and surprisingly elegant Gonzo style writing.”

Moletsane’s brave story begins at a party in Dobsonville. A guy shares a joint with Ari — an imaginary friend, angel and demon and the roller-coaster jol of a night begins. There are stolen cars with joyriding, brothels, sex, drugs and anxiety. It’s a trip of a book that is not only exciting but pokes cheekily and bluntly at the South Africa we live in.

Tshidiso Moletsane on the genesis of Junx

The first Twilight movie came out when I was 15 years old. I went to see it with some friends but I couldn’t tell you now what my feelings were about the film. However, I distinctly remember that about a week later I saw the books everywhere.

A girl in my class had a copy of Eclipse, which is the third novel in the series. I borrowed it and read through a few pages and thought, “You know what, I could probably do this too. How hard could this be anyway?”

By the time I was 19 I had received what felt like hundreds of rejections for my work; turns out getting published is pretty hard.

When I started writing Junx I found my voice. I settled into a style and tone I considered quite exciting. But even then it took me years to finish. A significant chunk had to be discarded as I struggled with the content. I worried about the novel's length and I wasn’t sure about some of the decisions I made with the story (I’m still not sure, really). 

I wanted to write a good story, but even more than that I wanted it to be fun to read. When I found out Junx was shortlisted by the Sunday Times I thought, “You know what, maybe I can actually do this.”

I wonder how I will feel about this book in 10 years, but I am certain Ari will be with me forever.

by Tshidiso Moletsane.
Junx by Tshidiso Moletsane.
Image: Supplied


I grab the glass from her and drink the wine down. I pass the empty glass back across to her. She smirks and huffs at me, then she refills the glass and takes a sip from the bottle.

‘I like you already,’ she says. If I were White my cheeks would turn red right now.

‘She’ll eat you alive,’ Ari says. I tell Ari not to threaten me with a good time.

I worry that she may be a little beyond me. She’s so beautiful it burns my eyes. I wanna ask her, like, Am I dangerous, am I disaster enough for you? I feel like she’s out of my league only in that she seems to have connected more deeply than I have with her inner self. By that I mean she has the strong air of will and purpose you find in visionaries. I’m just drifting along. She has this healthy balance of chaos and poise. I wanna ask her to teach me. I want her to show me how she’s done it. I feel like I’m being too complimentary of her. I probably am.

A different girl gets up and walks to the kitchen. Her skin looks as if it has broken out in hives. I will refer to her as Hives going forward. I hear her open the kitchen door. I

crane my neck and see her go outside. Hives comes back in a few minutes later. I assume she was having a smoke. I watch her pick something out from the fridge and grab something else from the kitchen cupboard. She’s not very gracious in her movements. She waddles around in what I would de­scribe as the opposite of ballet. Hives comes back to us with a bag of potato chips and a cup and a bottle of whiskey. I as­sume she is one of the roommates, given how wantonly she meanders around the house. Hives places the cup in my hand. She pours a pinch of the whiskey and dashes it with lemonade for me.




‘Thank you,’ I say.

‘It’s nothing.’ Her breath smells like mustard. She sits back down and starts scratching her elbow. Her skin flakes onto the floor. She stops when she catches me looking at her.

After the introductions, everyone gets back to bickering, as they were before.

This other girl, I gather Vimbai is her name, starts off by saying, ‘Alright, everybody listen: Trump is winning the elec­tions!’

Seems like I have found myself in the middle of some drunk­en debate.

‘Fuck no!’ somebody replies. The elections in the US aren’t for a few months still. Right now, it looks like it’ll be between

Bernie and Hillary. Donald is just a pretender. Donald Trump is something else, man.

The alcohol calms my anxiety and now I start feeling like I should chime in. I want to make my presence felt, you under­stand? I don’t want to be the weird, quiet dude. So I go, ‘Don­ald Trump is the asshole’s asshole. He is the kind of asshole other assholes like Gordon Ramsay look at and go, Now there’s an asshole.’

I notice Mayim and a few others chuckle, others nod in as­sent.

Ari says, ‘You’re trying to make Mayim laugh.’ Of course I am.

A loud honk comes from outside and Tshepiso’s phone starts ringing.

‘Food’s here!’ Tshepiso says.

Nqaba quickly gets up. ‘Be right back,’ he says and leaves the house.

‘His position is untenable. He has made himself out to be an imbecile. He has no chance,’ this dude on my left says. A few moments later Nqaba pops in with a few boxes of pizza. He sets them down and everyone starts eating.

With a mouth full of food, Mayim says, ‘It would be ex­traordinary if he did, though.’

‘Hilarious!’ Nqaba says.

Nqaba hands me a slice of pizza. ‘Eat,’ he says. It sounds like more of a command than a request. As soon I finish the pizza he hands me another slice. ‘Eat.’ Ari looks up at me. ‘Eat, asshole.’ So I keep eating. Tshepiso asks everyone if they like the food. Everyone nods, Mayim gives a thumbs-up. Hives goes, ‘Meh.’

Another song starts playing. I ask to be excused. I turn to Nqaba on my right, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ I’m starting to feel unwell.

‘There are two bathrooms in the house,’ he says. ‘One is for the guys and the other one is for the ladies. Our bathroom is upstairs, second door on your left.’

Did I tell you that Nqaba and Tshepiso are at Wits? I can’t remember if I did. They are both brilliant, let me tell you.

So I make my way up the stairs once again, get in the bath­room to take a piss. I am starting to get a bit dizzy. Then I retch into the toilet bowl; the acid rises up the length of my oesophagus, and when I try to catch my breath, I inhale my own bile. My body is in tatters, I tell you. Afterwards I rinse my face and my mouth out with hot water and wash my hands. Check my face out in the mirror. My hair looks a mess, but I like it this way. You know how they say a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life? Well, the opposite applies for dudes. Trust me.

My eyes look sunken and grey. I push my nose up and squint my eyes to make a face. This is what Ari looks like. There’s a Post-it stuck along the edge of the mirror. It reads:

God is who he says he is

God can do what he says he can do

I am what God says I am

I can do all things through Christ

God is alive

Questioning God’s existence is like questioning my own

God loves us all


subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now