Manifesto

What is AERODROME? Well, an aerodrome is an airport. The term was popular in the 1930s but has largely fallen out of use. We’re reclaiming it – inspired by the word’s nostalgic allusion to the golden era of air travel. It is a reminder of childhood trips to the library and reading books about planes and the aviation pioneers of the 20th century – Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson, Louis Bleriot.

But beyond nostalgia, we are inspired by the word’s very essence. Aerodrome – a place of departures and arrivals; a place where journeys begin and end, where planes take off. Yes, planes. In many ways, books are like planes; they take you places, they help you escape, they allow you to see things from a different perspective. Reading makes us travellers, explorers, observers.

And so AERODROME, the portal, is a place where journeys begin. It is a place to help you decide which trip to embark on and to enable you to start that journey. It is a celebration of the ability to travel to other worlds and embrace other lives. In celebrating and promoting words and the people who use them, we want to stimulate curiosity, tolerance and understanding.

AERODROME is a space for books, their authors and their subjects to be evaluated and explored. We wish to encourage a passion for reading, writing and literature and a community inspired by this passion. We also aim to promote excellence in southern African literature.

AERODROME is therefore preoccupied with the art of writing, the subjects conveyed through books and writing, and the people involved in the creation of books and magazines – be they novelists or chefs, editors or poets.

Our coverage has a strong emphasis on literary fiction, memoir and current affairs. However, we believe in embracing a wide variety of genres and titles – from graphic novels and cookbooks to children’s books. We also embrace the wonderful world of magazines and will be featuring those involved in creating them.

AERODROME aims to be erudite yet accessible and engaging; intelligent but not academic. While we have nothing against academia, we know that within this sphere there are many journals and reviews analysing literature from a theoretical perspective. That is not our role. Our role is to be there for the “everyreader” – in an age of so much information, both in print and on the internet, we are editors, curators, simplifiers helping to answer the question “What should I read?”.

AERODROME is for the Brontë-obsessed college girl, the time-pressed executive searching for something to read on the plane, the engineer who last read Lewis Hamilton’s autobiography. It’s for cooks, dentists and art directors. Like its physical, more literal equivalents, AERODROME is a place for travellers, for those curious to engage with southern African literature. In other words – it’s for those who love to read, whether they devour books by the dozen each month or only get a chance to pick up a paperback in their December holidays.

We are inspired by Allen Lane, the publishing genius who founded Penguin in the 1930s. Lane democratised literature, making good writing accessible and affordable. Penguin paperbacks were to be found everywhere, priced roughly the same as a packet of cigarettes. Penguin meant that books were no longer merely the preserve of a wealthy – and expensively educated – elite, but for anyone and everyone who could read. We want literary criticism (and the coverage of books and their subjects) to be the same – no longer restricted to the grass quadrangles and ancient stone of academia.

One might argue that this has already been achieved. After all, most newspapers and many magazines around the world have books sections. There are book blogs and online literary reviews. These signs are encouraging, but they are not enough.

In South Africa, books coverage has come under increasing pressure – in mainstream media it often feels like an afterthought. Precedence is given to pulpy bestsellers, depriving obscure gems of much- needed exposure. Reviews often veer between being poorly written and highfalutin. We want to avoid both. We also want to avoid the sense of clubby exclusion that sometimes permeates bookish circles. Like Lane, we aspire to make good writing accessible though, in our case, through evaluating and promoting it.

Ultimately, our reviews need to evaluate whether or not a book should be read – and why. Perhaps inevitably, our content has a South African perspective (something else which is often in short supply), but it is not constrained by this. Our content is also informed by an understanding that for sub-Saharan African literature to grow – in quality, quantity and readership – it needs to be both scrutinised and championed.

At its essence, AERODROME is about words and people – the people who write them, the people who edit them, the people who read them. That is all.