He has lost his job and his wife, and he has become more and more reliant on the solace of alcohol. After hitting rock bottom, Keke is thrust into a spiritual journey. He meets Ami, a shaman from Mali, and travels there, where he is “cooked” and cleansed in a “meeting” with his ancestors.
Only when he is healed, and understands his role in the context of a post-apartheid South Africa, can Keke make a careful comeback to his country to re-join his wife and comrades. The global village, the African continent and South Africa are the platforms where Keke’s life unfolds in the 21st century.
“Mongane Wally Serote is rightly one of South Africa’s most celebrated writers, and there is no doubt that his writing wears it’s polemical and political heart prominently on its sleeve” – Margeret von Klemperer
About the Author
Born in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, Mongane Wally Serote was drawn to poetry and writing towards the end of his highschool career and went on to obtain a fine arts degree in New York at Columbia University in 1979. As a cadre for Umkhonto weSizwe he lived in Botswana and London, where he became involved with the Medu Arts Ensemble. He is the recipient of the 1993 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, and was also given the Pablo Neruda Award from the Chilean government in 2004.
Nelia Vivier from Get It Cape Town caught up with Liesl Jobson to discuss her newly released collection of short stories, Ride the Tortoise. Describing Jobson as a “raconteur of sexuality”, Vivier asked about her candid style of flash fiction, which Jobson said “is about holding the moments”.
They also spoke about the recent surge of popularity in erotic fiction, spurred on by 50 Shades of Grey, with Jobson commenting that she appreciates how “it gave women permission to say, ‘This is what I like’, ‘That makes me feel good’, ‘This is what I want you to do to me’.”
The long-awaited short-story collection, Ride the Tortoise by the queen of flash fiction, Liesl Jobson of Plumstead, is on the shelves. Nelia Vivier gets up close and personal with the author who is internationally acclaimed for her mastery of palm-of-the-hand stories.
Out on the open sea, cold and wet, you catch the spray, the backsplash made by the person in front. It is the meticulous clockwork of a team, as you ride into the wind, over the wave. There is no time to think, only to focus, on the position of your shoulder, the movement of your arm, the turning of the wrist … 17 points in one cycle, experiencing rhythm and precision, like each note of a musical symphony. Knowing at any minute the elemental sea can swallow you whole. In reality, we always come home.
Mfuneko Toyana from the Wits Vuvuzela attended a reading by Jobson at the Wartenweiler Library’s Writing Center last week and commented on how her writing offers readers “the disjointed, jarring confrontations with the self; with the elusive inner being”.
Liesel Jobson writes with an intense, explicit sense of self-awareness that almost overpowers the reader who picks up her book – if not the author herself.
She admitted as much to the audience in a reading of her latest collection of short stories, Ride the Tortise, at the Wartenweiler Library’s Writing Center on Wednesday evening.
Charles Cilliers from City Press caught up with Zinaid Meeran, calling him the “most refreshing literary voice at the Time of The Writer festival.”
Meeran discusses how his latest book, Tanuki Ichiban, is an investigation and rejection of race and categorisation “in all its forms”. Cilliers describes the book as “great comic fantasy” and “a bit of a wild literary romp”.
In contrast to all the talk of Bikoism vs white liberalism, Zinaid Meeran was the most refreshing literary voice at the Time of The Writer festival.
He’s the author of two wildly imaginative novels.
The first, Saracen at the Gates, won him the 2009 European Literary Award, and the second, Tanuki Ichiban, the festival’s bookseller assured me, “is even weirder, but cool”.
At the recent launch of her new short story collection, Ride the Tortoise, at The Book Lounge in Cape Town, Liesl Jobson read from a section of the book in which a selection of her erotic flash fiction had been brought together.
Watch the video of her reading “The Science of Curves”:
Liesl Jobson first became aware of the “the power of bearing witness to one’s own experience” at age 14, when her family moved to Connecticut and she set to writing letters about her life there.
“Writing is a means of making sense of it all,” Jobson told Penny Haw in an interview for Business Day, and this is exactly what she does in her recently released short story collection, Ride the Tortoise:
WHEN she was 14 years old, Liesl Jobson and her family moved from Cape Town to New Canaan, Connecticut, for 18 months. Several successful movies, including The Stepford Wives and Revolutionary Road, were made in New Canaan. It was also where Jobson discovered her love and talent for writing.
“While living there, I realised how much I liked to tell people what was happening to me in letters,” she says. “I loved writing letters and I loved getting letters. But I recognised that I was far more interested in what I was writing to people than what they were writing back. I guess that’s when I first came to an understanding of the power of bearing witness to one’s own experience. It’s when you tell your own story that you learn to understand what has really happened. Even if you don’t put the full spiel out there, writing is a means of making sense of it all.”
Written and illustrated in 1973 by one of South Africa’s most famous artists, Gerard Sekoto, Shorty and Billy Boy is a book for children as well as art lovers and collectors:
The manuscript of Shorty and Billy Boy formed part of a private collection of South African artist Gerard Sekoto’s sketches, artworks, letters and memoirs repatriated to South Africa from France. The story was clearly written and illustrated as a personal exercise and possibly a sentimental souvenir of his own childhood memories, but has not been published until now. Sekoto may well have composed it as a gift for children of friends, as he was often engaged in making greeting cards with accompanying illustrations. There are other unfinished stories and musical compositions in the estate collection, but Shorty and Billy Boy is the most complete.
Shorty and Billy Boy tells the tale of two troublesome dogs whose thieving ways take them to the far-away town of Porcupine Hills. Here they meet all sorts of interesting characters, but continue their mischief until Billy Boy is caught red-handed and sent to jail. Here he dreams about the kindness of others, and comes to realize that good deeds are the true measure of freedom.
The Gerard Sekoto Foundation has approved a number of editorial changes made to Sekoto’s original text, where the aim has been to preserve the integrity and flavour of the unpublished story, while making it more accessible to present-day readers. The South African context of the tale has been accentuated, and obsolete language and minor inconsistencies have been removed. The result is a timeless and engaging story that retains Sekoto’s unique spirit and imagination.
About the author
Gerard Sekoto (1913–1993) is acknowledged as an iconic and inspirational figure. Sekoto came from a leading academic missionary family, and had a good education compared with many of his peers. Art was not formally offered to black students, even in missionary schools of the 1920s, so Sekoto was forced to teach himself his craft. Sekoto left South Africa in 1947 for France, where he lived in exile for nearly 45 years. While there, Sekoto continued, through his art, to reflect the intrinsic humanism with which his art is associated. The French Government awarded him the Chevalier des Artset des Lettres shortly before his death in 1993. He lies buried at Nogent-sur-Marne, outside Paris.
“Flash fiction is my natural way of making sense of the world,” Jobson said in conversation with novelist Margie Orford. “But I noticed that I was flashing around certain reoccurring themes.” She combined some of these shorter pieces around similar topics into longer stories, which now form part of Ride the tortoise.
Orford said that Jobson’s short stories are excellent and stripped down to their essence. She compared Jobson’s style to “two skeletons next to each other, stripped down, with only their two hearts left”.
Jobson revealed that she had mined personal experiences to write her stories, but that, at the same time, she did not want to expose her loved ones too much. “I’m just glad they’re still speaking to me,” she joked.
Orford quizzed Jobson on the background to certain stories, for example the one with which the book opens, about a bassoon player in the police. Jobson said that she had really been a flute player in a township police band. The cross-cultural atmosphere in which she worked for two years was superb material for a story. As a crime writer, Orford said that she was jealous of Jobson’s apt description of the police station.
For the title story, “Ride the Tortoise”, Jobson drew on her experience of her firstborn baby’s illness while they were on a trip, staying in an old castle in the unforgiving Namibian landscape. The story about a friendship that forms between two women when the one teaches the other to row and the tale of a pet parrot that gets eaten are both also based on real events.
Although the spark for the stories came from Jobson’s own life, they are all fictional. Jobson emphasised the universal nature of themes she writes about, saying that anyone who has shared similar emotional experiences will be able to relate to Ride the Tortoise.
* * * * * * *
Carolyn Meads livetweeted from the launch using the hashtag #livebooks:
Mervyn Sloman introduces @liesljobson, mentions have been waiting for Ride the Tortoise, worth waiting #livebooks