Patricia Schonstein’s Banquet at Brabazan Launched at the Book Lounge
The launch of Patricia Schonstein‘s sixth novel, Banquet at Brabazan, was a feast of poetry and fine art, wine (courtesy of Leopard’s Leap) and spectacle – despite the wind and rain that whipped the city and kept the fainthearted beside their fireplaces. Many of the gentlemen in the audience arrived in black suits including a dubious peer briefly seen sporting an octopus hat.
Russell Martin of Jacana introduced the author, saying, “Patricia is known as a writer of wonderfully rich and imaginative novels.” He said she was a professional and canny writer who went about her business with quiet persistence and gritty determination. Hugh Hodge, editor of New Contrast, joined the author in a vital, intriguing conversation. He commenced their exchange by reciting John Donne’s The Good Morrow from memory.
Schonstein said she’d included this poem in the frontispiece to tantalise the reader and to indicate that the book is a love story at its core. “Essentially, it’s a story of hidden love, of concealed love, about a boss and his secretary who have an affair that happens over 18 years. It’s all wrapped around poetry, drama, Shakespeare, costum and secrecy.”
Spirit, resplendent in red and black latex, was a live embodiment of one of the characters from the book. She lives in the Rubber Doll Room on the first floor of the Brabazan Bar and Lodge, where the book is set, and practises a newly emerging art form in South Africa. Her boots were seriously to die for, if you have fetishist leanings. “Isn’t she beautiful?” asked Schonstein. “Spirit raises the whole notion of identity.
The book is about identity, costumery, dressing up, character. It asks who am I when I’m myself? And who do I want to really be? Am I a famous author, or just a wannabe famous one? Who is who? These questions emerge in these characters,” she said.
The author commented on how her observation of people informs her characterisation. In an earlier incarnation she worked as a customs officer for the then Rhodesian government. Watching incoming passengers at the airport, she had just a few seconds to observe the essence of each person. The questions flashed through her head: is this truth? Is it you? Or is there another story going on? When a burly man’s suitcase was exposed containing lacy intimate wear that was clearly not for his wife or daughter left behind in South Africa she learned that everyone has “many truths” concealed about them.
And yet that was not all … the audience was treated to a superb presentation of a range of paintings that informed the characters that people this novel. Inspiration came from artists including Van Gogh, Velasquez, Botero, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Francesca, Goya and Hopper. Schonstein’s deep understanding of beauty and identity translated into a rich launch for Banquet at Brabazan.
- Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein
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