Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Jacana

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Sarah Nuttall reviews The Shouting in the Dark: Elleke Boehmer’s most exciting bio-fictional work since her debut

The Shouting in the DarkBy Sarah Nuttall

This book is for me Elleke Boehmer’s most exciting bio-fictional work since her debut novel Screens Against the Sky (1990). If that first book drew its energy from the depiction of an obsessional mother-daughter relationship, this one burns with an intense and destructive father-daughter relationship. Ben Okri calls it “a secret duel to the death between a father and daughter” and it plays out in a vividly historical sense. Boehmer’s narrator, who the reader has much difficulty not thinking of as herself (much like the narrator John in JM Coetzee’s Boyhood) becomes undone by her – in many ways – terrible father. What drives this story is Ella’s hatred of him, her desire to kill him, her wish for his death, her longing to be an orphan altogether.

Boehmer writes her way into the eruptions and emissions of intense emotion in this book, set in Durban in the 1970s, in ways she hasn’t before. That is, she inhabits her character’s affective life to a degree unreached in previous writing. Ella’s disgust at her father, and her derision for what she sees, as a girl, as her mother’s weakness, animates the prose. Her father spews and spills, every night on the verandah, his vitriol, his right wing politics, the pain of his shattering wartime experiences in the Dutch navy during World War II, his grief for the woman he in fact loved, her mother’s dead sister. Boehmer needed to find a prose form that could enter a highly charged and unrestrained emotional space, and she has done it brilliantly, in a highly crafted way.

If Coetzee’s Boyhood is, as with his other fictional and biofictional works, written with deep, if very restrained, emotion, brilliant verbal economies and narrative taughtness, Boehmer’s The Shouting in the Dark taps into a more expressive turn, which mirrors and mines the affective charge of a South African cultural and public life now avowedly post-TRC and shaped by new orders of private and public feeling, force and anger.

These are extracts from a longer piece that Sarah Nuttall is writing about Boehmers The Shouting in the Dark.

 
Related stories:

Book details


» read article

A Collection of Articles and Reviews of Thando Mgqolozana’s Unimportance

UnimportanceThando Mgqolozana launched his third novel, Unimportance, earlier this year. The stream-of-consciousness novel is an allegorical look at the way we choose our political leaders.

Charl Blignaut from City Press called the book’s release “the best literary news of the week” in April and Fikile Moya from Pretoria News wrote that the book “delivers more than the words and the images on the pages”. Read these and other articles collected by Jacana Media from print sources:

Book details


» read article

Christopher Webb Gets to the Heart of Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer

MarikanaIn a post for Africa Is a Country, Christopher Webb reviews Marikana: A View From the Mountain and a Case to Answer and finds that it “proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that NUM, the police and Lonmin management are to blame for the slaughter”.

Webb delves into the details of the book and shows the meticulous research and interviewing skills that went into collecting a rounded view of events, from the six weeks following the shootings. He says that the authors of the book note that it would be an introductory tome for future researchers. What the book notes is stark: “From worker testimony, it is clear that what ensued is nothing short of premeditated slaughter, as the majority of those killed were hunted down across the veldt. “People were not killed because they were fighting,” notes one striker, “they were killed while they were running away.””

The day after the police shot 34 miners at Marikana a small group gathered outside the gates of parliament in Cape Town. Barely 100 people, holding signs calling for answers and justice, we marched to the police station on Buitenkant, across from the District Six Museum, to deliver a petition calling for the arrest of Nathi Mthethwa, National Chief of Police. The march, for South African standards, was small and made stranger by the fact that few joined us as we passed the rush-hour crowds outside Cape Town station. Commuters looked away as they rushed to their taxis. Later that day I went to a dinner in the very-white, very-gated southern suburbs where the massacre was discussed as if it were a police briefing: a violent mob of uneducated thugs, fuelled by muti and brandishing all manner of weaponry had attacked police who responded with necessary force. A local ANC activist expressed similar sentiments to me a few days later, as he urged me not to place blame until truth had been established.

Book details

  • Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell, Bongani Xezwi
    EAN: 9781431407330
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Alex Lichtenstein Commends Marikana for Giving the Miners a Voice

MarikanaAlex Lichtenstein has reviewed Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer for the Los Angeles Review of Books. He calls the book a “courageous independent investigation of Marikana” and says that it is extraordinary for many reasons, one of which is its demonstration of what academics and activists can achieve when they work together.

Lichtenstein talks about the importance of capturing the oral histories of the miners in a timely fashion, before the official statements from various parties are used to form a dominating narrative of the events. He says that the book “offers the most detailed reconstruction to date of the events leading up to and including the massacre of August 16″ and that it “speaks directly to a longstanding debate in South Africa about the nature and exercise of working-class power”.

Less than five months after South African police shot down 34 striking miners at Marikana, North West Province, on August 16, 2012, life goes on in South Africa, although perhaps it would be an overstatement to say that things have returned to normal. As Peter Alexander and his colleagues note in their stunning and timely postmortem investigation of the massacre, in South Africa “one has to go back to the Soweto Uprising of 1976 to find an example of government security forces murdering more protestors than at Marikana.”

Book details

  • Marikana: A view from the mountain and a case to answer by Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell, Bongani Xezwi
    EAN: 9781431407330
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

James Whyle Explains How Cormac McCarthy Influenced The Book of War

The Book of WarLitnet’s Janet van Eeden interviewed James Whyle, author of The Book of War, and reviewed the book, calling it “a masterpiece of exquisite prose”.

Whyle explains how Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian inspired him to look up first hand accounts of South African wars that had occurred over a hundred years ago:

James, you give full credit to Cormac McCarthy for inspiring your harrowing novel, The Book of War. What made you decide to pay tribute to him in this novel, and how did the marriage of your “kid’s” journey coincide with the Eastern Cape Frontier Wars? What made you choose this era in particular?

The point was not to pay tribute to McCarthy. A homage to Blood Meridian without a Judge Holden figure would be a bit like a homage to the Mona Lisa without a smiling woman in it. The point was to try and understand and bring alive South Africa and its history. McCarthy opened a door on to a way of doing that. The era is/was a hundred years before I was born.

When I learnt that Blood Meridian was based on first-hand accounts of events occurring a hundred years before McCarthy was born, I wondered what a parallel search would throw up in South Africa. I came upon two accounts of what has been variously called – as South Africa contorts itself about its history – The Eighth Kaffir War, The War of the Prophet, The Eighth Frontier War, The Eighth War of Freedom and The Eighth War of Dispossession. The books I discovered were: What I Saw in Kaffirland by Stephen Bartlett Lakeman and Campaigning in Kaffirland: or Scenes and Adventures in the Kaffir War of 1851–2 by William Ross King. (It must be noted that both titles contain the Arabic word for “heathen”, the word that Osama bin Laden used about George Bush, a word as toxic in present-day South Africa as the Latin word for “black” is poisonous in America.)

Book details

eBook options – Download now!



» read article

Janet van Eeden “Intereview”: Lauren Beukes and Zoo City

Zoo CitycarrotJanet van Eeden chatted with Lauren Beukes about Zoo City, which van Eeden calls “a parallel reality on speed”. Beukes talks about keeping her word-muscles flexed, precognition and writing dystopian South Africa. Van Eeden also reviews the book, giving it a straight up carrot:

Your writing is exceptionally descriptive. You create images which drip with cool street-smarts. For example, your description of Vuyo when Zinzi first meets him is that he is wearing “pointy shoes like shiny leather sharks”. We know immediately that this is a man not to be trusted. I deliberately don’t read other reviews or interviews about a writer or the book I’m reviewing so I don’t pick up things by osmosis, as it were. I know you were a journalist and write for an animated series which I’ve seen, but your acutely accurate use of words makes me think you have a background in advertising. Maybe the best way to frame this question is to ask you how you got into writing in the first place and what made you decide to write novels set in a dystopian South Africa?

Advertising?!? You cut me deep. I’ve never worked in advertising. (Apologies – it’s just that you make every word earn its keep, as advertisers do. JvE) It’s more the case that I’ve been writing professionally, practically every day, for the past 13 years. Those word muscles have had a lot of flexing (and I type like a dervish on amphetamines).

With Zoo City I was very much influenced by noir’s president-for-life, Raymond Chandler, who packs a ton of information into a couple of words of character description.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, since I was five, and I found out it was a viable career, that you could get paid to make stuff up. I took a detour along the way into journalism and I still juggle script-writing with novels, but I think that’s only helped my fiction, both in terms of journalism exposing me to strange and interesting things and developing an ear for dialogue (nothing like transcribing hours and hours and hours of interviews) and trying to keep my scenes short and punchy and filmic.

Book details


» read article