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South African Literary Journal
Volume 36 Number 3
South African Literary Journal
Volume 36, No 3, September 2008
Published in association with the Centre for Creative Writing, UCT
Edited by HA Hodge
Special Literary Patron
Dr Z Pallo Jordan, Minister of Arts & Culture
André Brink, JM Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Dan Jacobson
Michael Cope, Geoffrey Haresnape, Michael King, Paul Mills, Stephen Watson
Prof Rosemary Gray (University of Pretoria), HA Hodge, Prof Craig MacKenzie (University of Johannesburg), Prof David Medalie (University of Pretoria), Prof Stephen Watson (University of Cape Town) New Contrast is a peer-reviewed journal published by the South African Literary Journal, a non-profit company limited by guarantee.
ISSN-8: 1017-5415 ISSN-13: 977-1017-54100-8
Business Manager Sonja Wilker Cover painting ‘Tsunami’ by Mimi van der Merwe DTP by User Friendly Printed and bound by Tandym Print
We thank the following patrons and benefactors for their continuing support for the South African Literary Journal: RN Curry, Keith Gottschalk, Roy MacNab, I McGregor, D van Niekerk, Peter Visser, Mrs CA Wood and others who wish to remain anonymous.
And we are making subscriptions more flexible. There are still lots of poems. A number of people. reviews and an interview. buy subscriptions for friends and family to celebrate special occasions. Second.newcontrast. has passed the running of the business to Sonja Wilker and myself. our Business Manager. Michael King. if you have not already done so. our website at http://www. Be patient if you have submitted work to me: I am anxious that your voice is heard. and Mike Cope whose father. Before I go into those. has joined the board. And there are now new email addresses. enjoy this issue: fattened with prose – stories. encouraging you to subscribe if you don’t. by the way. First among the changes is a reshuffling of people. Michael remains on our Board of Directors. Jack. You will almost certainly received emails from me.net/ is now operational. I have almost six hundred submissions in the pipeline. For instance. The website is an important vehicle in our campaign to revive the (financial) health of the journal so that we can afford to pay everybody involved – from contributors to staff. you can . we cannot plan around intermittent funds when we are running a regular journal. although still ‘under construction’. although the old ones still work.Notes Iconography round the corpse of the hero dance the flies of nostalgia Kelwyn Sole We are making changes at New Contrast. Although donors have kept us alive through their generosity and love of literature. and get your friends to subscribe if you already do. was our first editor in 1960. The effect of this encouraging material is that work sometimes takes a while to get published. and various agencies such as the National Arts Council have saved the day for us on occasion.
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new contrast Contents Elisabeth Hallett On the Eve of the Beijing Olympics. August 2008 Johan Geldenhuys Schrödinger’s Cat Danie van Jaarsveld the box Mark Robertson Meeting After Time Danya Ristić The weak spot Alex Smith Very Moreish Microfiction – A review of 100 Papers by Liesl Jobson Arja Salafranca Reviews 100 Papers: A collection of prose poems and flash fiction by Liesl Jobson Ken Barris Dead seal In the quiet mess of dreams Thumbprint Alan Galante No epiphany today What is this image? Consuelo Roland Hygiene of an Assassin Jonty Driver A Lamentation Dan Hutchinson The Starfruit Catch Tara Weinberg The Betting House Geoffrey Haresnape Dr Severance Package Steals A Scene Tania van Schalkwyk The Reader Melissa Butler Mark Your Diary Rosemund Handler Refugee Jenna Mervis Poems are daughters too David Medalie Tussenfontein Michael Boon Bath Time Sarah Frost Chaise longue Robert Bolton Otherwintering Karin Schimke A crime writer’s billet-doux Ron Irwin & Tracey Farren Writing Into Taboo Silke Heiss The Griffin Elegy – Part 6 People 7 10 14 14 16 17 19 22 23 23 24 24 25 26 28 29 35 37 39 41 43 44 52 53 54 55 56 65 83 .
Geraniums blaze on the balcony.H. The city was wide awake Burning electricity From low in the western suburbs A giant beam scanned the sky And lights on top of buildings Flashed incessantly. The big names have moved in – 7 . An unfamiliar drone In a sky that’s fierce and pale.new contrast Elisabeth Hallett With grateful thanks to W. August 2008 I sit in a quiet room Escaping the midday heat. Times full of hope and of hate. Auden and John Clare On the Eve of the Beijing Olympics. These are new and anxious times. Tossing and turning on my mat of bamboo These days I rarely sleep The whole night through. Fanning myself to keep cool. Thinking with apprehension Of the days and weeks to come. The brand-new buildings down the road Are decorated black and gold. One Dream’ Red lanterns hang from lampposts The streets are swept and clean. The message on the banners Proclaims: ‘One World. Helicopters cruise above. Last night I could not sleep So I stood on the balcony.
This latest extravaganza Has driven a culture mad But powerful propaganda Allows no room for the mad. You cannot show your children The house where once you lived For your house. your neighbourhood Is a patch of empty land – Just a piece of real estate – All you can feel is nothingness Not bitterness. The fruit and vegetable man is gone. whose dream? The world I see around me now Is not the world of my dreams. Adidas and Apple – Life on the street no longer matters. The little stalls are all moved on. The joys of things being various 8 .new contrast Starbucks. not hate. A terrible homogeneity Is spreading across the earth. The critics bleat their message But none want to hear what they say For we’re anxious about survival And making do for another day And pride swells in our bosoms For soon we too will be great – On the eighth of the eighth of oh-eight! Can pain become a habit Buried too deep for words? You cannot tell your children If memory is banned. your street. One Dream’ – who says Whose world. ‘One World.
Empty eyes scan one and all As they throng through the arrival hall Tanned and tall. Presidents and heads of state Are pouring in to our Beijing. Rejecting both illusions Taking up my pen to write I seek ironic points of light. fit and strong But why does it feel wrong? Have I been here too long? I drink my Starbucks tea and turn away. When fireworks blaze over the city Illuminating the sky In red and gold and white I’ll rush out to my balcony To witness the splendid sight And bending double with laughter I’ll shout to the heavens my name 9 . The athletes are arriving. The smiling youthful volunteers Know little of their fathers’ tears. A robot mascot’s standing Guard at the airport gate. not by me. These days you’re one or the other Cynical or naïve.new contrast Is a dangerous thing to believe Unless I agree that variety Is determined by you. Under the blue Olympian sky We’re living our romantic lie Imagining harmony In a world of insanity. And as long as I mutter no curse.
It lived its primary half-life cold fitted into the fold and could not go where other cats were grieved by teeming life in full. the fullest foison being partaken of or none at all when at the half it had to crack in two or sturdily remain as one. The fall 10 . The active stuff within its box gave off its radiation in half-lives and full.new contrast And hope that some poor bastard Will go and do the same And in desperate consolation Show an affirming flame. no leak being permissible. 2–3 August 2008 Johan Geldenhuys Schrödinger’s Cat One Edwin Schrödinger conceived a cat that lived and died contemporaneously and could not even chase or smell a rat because of being boxed-up hideously for experimentation’s sake. Beijing. Held by the scruff of neck and shoulders kitty’s relegation to quick or dead depended on a poison capsule that had to break or stay intact.
The other half it’s dead when Schrödie takes a peek. The act of looking brought to sudden close the possibles. So Schrödie thought that. if he did not look. His loath and weary way of looking did preclude exactly no outcome. So looking can kill or may invigorate the cat exactly simultaneously. with as the prime cause poison. the cat was both alive and dead. The list to death already had occurred if kittie was lying in a heap with breathing at a neap tide full of nothing. By booking 11 .new contrast of his poor cat or upright stance in flue of enclosed air gave Schrödinger to pause in calculating if his cat would die or live when opening the box revealed the cause of death or life. leaving intact the sum over the possibilities. The scientist then posited the cat as drawing breath only so long it was alive. Exactly half the time the cat’s alive. So old Schrödie came to dread lifting up carefully or not the top of his posited box to see if the tame fox was bristling in its fur or in a glop of gluey substance lying down in death along the bottom half. The crude result remained a death or life. not an ittie-bittie signal of life at all.
indeed it was no sin. that his poor cat was both into the act of life and post exactly at the time old Schrödie looked or did not look at it and its surrounds. and one will find disembodied transepts of cold reality in blooms and blings of multifaceted living: the meaning of Edwin Schrödie’s cat in box. a crude and coldly prude statistics buff in fact. yet given to his loaths and likes of what he’ll find. whether they be akin to drat of death or joy in life. The wave function collapses when Ed glances inside the box in which his cat resides. Posit human being obsessed by outcomes dressed in statistician’s clothes. A colder fish and clime are difficult by some accounts. Because Ed Schrödinger had been a dude of scientific bent with fewer leanings on to his warm aesthetic side. being obsessed in fact by processes and not objects or. he posited the kitten was both dead and alive. processes as real things. with the dread and gay emotions in the closeted space rife with unintentional meanings. is emanating in the glooming. not on a mat. gleaming. at the least. crashing to ground his finely tensioned lances 12 . it did not bother him.new contrast results.
in tenements of twenty-first hundredth cyclic return of the revolving door keeping the mystic score of comings. Along perimeters of visionary investigation cats are bouncing outside of parameters of measurement or lying down in splats of dead-cat bounces never to arise in greatest wonderment or magical intent to further lives that are beyond the wise precepts of Schrödinger. It only drinks the cup of poison or desists when Edwin views the final possible event of hoard or spill and actualises cattiness in skews or straights of stats.new contrast probing reality inside the hides of his mythical box. goings on the terrine urn. 13 . And yet the kitty survives it all in thought experiments of modern physicists and in this ditty of quantum poetry. Out of the corner of his eyes or full-on he still previews the sum of possibilities inside the dormer where kitty sleeps until its wake-up call of actual observation makes it up as standing tall or in a graceless fall to dusty death.
they could combine to make a lovely box.new contrast Danie van Jaarsveld the box the man inspects the wood that’s in his hands his eye is led along the languid grain where seasons ebbed and flowed in darkened bands. but waits for fire to flare up in his heart for craftsmanship alone cannot ensure a box on which the beauty will endure. he starts to see that if the wood was cut with skilful planning into building blocks. Mark Robertson Meeting After Time I remember that about you: asking everyone to dance. the man has tools with which he’s cut a lot. their width apart determined by the rain. he wants to mark the wood to start his art. 14 . the timber’s true. it flows without a knot. always singing with the songs. knowing all the words. adorned with dovetail joins where they abut.
I knew you loved me when you danced with me. but avoided their gaze when you began to speak. as if others could see that there was thought behind your words. even children. you looked into their eyes when you were silent. loved you with a passion strong as jealousy. every single dance was danced with me. revealing their feelings for you. alone in your room. a secret from another time that only you could tap into. You never ceased believing. Drawing inspiration from the sky.new contrast Those who danced with you would think that only they were your intended audience – ignoring you or blushing. for my part. In those years. telling me instead about prides 15 . Even I believed that. damp corners of rooms made you feel more comfortable. and I. the distant. When you met with people. for a while. But I knew better. resisting the words of Gershwin. bookshelves.
16 . peeling skin revealing flesh. You looked into me. grazed. your eyes dredging mine. marching off without a moment’s hesitation. A weak spot like a sprained wrist that years later gives way under an impromptu handstand. I will lick them clean. digging there until your hands were muddy. Danya Ristić The weak spot There is a place for him in her heart.new contrast of lion who abandon dying cubs to save their mothers’ milk for fitter offspring. I will tend to them. I am a lioness whose young will not be left to perish. I said.
I couldn’t help continuing on to another ‘paper’. buttons. I thought I’d try just one ‘paper’. debts. Simultaneously mundane and sensual. those artful technical lessons musicians learn to hone their craft. gathering her handbag closer to her with one hand and clutching the beads about her neck with the other.’ said the dominee’s wife. seconds of inspired clarity breaking through the commonplace. quite resentfully because I was so tired. The Kleinfontein Christian Ladies Society committee members sat on the stoep of the pastorie and watched me collecting the stuff that called from the street. Before I knew it. a wonky desk and Tupperware with a chicken mayo sandwich from last week. clutching the phone on her shoulder as she unhooked the last roll of white loo paper from the spare bathroom. mieliemeel …’ said Liesbet. mango chutney. uneasy limbo between hope and disillusion. wanting to be looped together and made into a tambourine. the hundred papers contain a seed of quiet optimism. This comparison applies well in the sense of the hundred papers being brief compositions and an exercise in developing an overall skill. things and places all created from finely considered observations.’ said the voorsitter sipping her tea. oil. the papers hover in a palpable. After ‘Shopping List’. Jobson’s 100 Papers is a visceral and voyeuristic anthology of ordinary moments exposed. yet in their tender embracing of a multitude of people. It was bottle tops that day. ‘Bread. ‘That boy is peculiar. hours had passed in a text binge of pets. Although exhausted. yoghurt. According to Jobson.new contrast Alex Smith Very Moreish Microfiction A review of 100 Papers by Liesl Jobson (Botsotso Publishing. laid bare and magnified into engrossing prose poems and microfiction – deeply South African flashes of life. situations. the papers are etudes. 2008) It was midnight after a long day at the Cape Town Book Fair when I started reading Liesl Jobson’s 100 Papers. A traditional definition of etude requires that each lesson focus on working a particular facet of technique 17 . bridgework. ‘He has caramel fingers.
while not below the critical taste. leave me feeling satisfied? In his essay. intensity and honesty about them. for me. 18 . there is a charm about the number one hundred. the papers pass swiftly before life’s humdrum overwhelms the refreshing glimpses they offer. that there is a distinct limit. always personal. and it passed Poe’s test: I couldn’t resist consuming it in a single sitting. Jobson’s anthology felt to me like a moreish poem made of 100 papers. then. to all works of literary art – the limit of a single sitting … it is clear that the brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect – this. but it has renewed impetus and relevance in this age of fragmented focus. a brevity. Did the midnight feast of snack-stories. Sometimes angry. Evidently. The rapidity with which the pieces and the people pass could be unsettling. Taken as a whole. Holding in view these considerations. as regards length. Internet pop-ups and mobile phone novels. ‘The Philosophy of Composition’. Edgar Allan Poe. I reached at once what I conceived the proper length for my intended poem – a length of about one hundred lines. it goes all the way back to Aesop. somehow reminiscent of Raymond Carver’s anthology What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. with one proviso – that a certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite for the production of any effect at all. wrote: It appears evident. often musical.new contrast and a more modern definition suggests pushing the boundaries of technique and structure – 100 Papers seems neither an obvious progression of single-technique workouts and nor does it overtly push limits or try out new structures. which are so uncommonly interesting and evocative they kept me up all night. Jobson’s textual etudes have a compelling mood. as well as that degree of excitement which I deemed not above the popular. a flash fiction aficionado from another century. Microfiction is not a new form.
Each item is representative of 19 . yet powerful. Short. from pale slugs of teeth detritus that turn pink with the blood coming from gums. In a few witty paragraphs we learn that the captain washes the heart of detritus before replacing the item: ‘The State will not be held responsible for such silliness in future. ‘So pale. it snags… When she gets it right. the slugs are a pale creamy colour. in three paragraphs to be precise. along with ‘tomatoes and peppers flapping in the breeze’ recall in a few. … When she pulls the floss between them. its images stay with you. comprised mainly of flash fiction and some prose poems. deft strokes. Meanwhile ‘Clutter’ delights with its descriptions of items left in a large ceramic jar near the kitchen sink.’ On the other extreme is ‘Button’ in which marital abuse is highlighted in a few. Another equally clever and moving prose poem is ‘Under my SAPS heart’ where a kindly captain at Diepkloof ’s Alien Investigations Unit recovers the narrator’s heart from a defunct fountain. cannot eat and cannot say certain things. the floss slides down without bumping her gums. Another memorable one being the delightfully named ‘Sun-Dried Tomatoes’ in which ‘droopy carrots’ on a clothesline. quick sentences what it means to have a mother who plants ‘father’s socks and shirts in the vegetable patch’.new contrast Arja Salafranca Reviews 100 Papers: A collection of prose poems and flash fiction by Liesl Jobson (Botsotso Publishing. but memorable.’ So opens one of prose poems in ‘The Air of Words’ in Liesl Jobson’s debut collection. This piece is short. 2008) ‘A pale pink slug emerges from between Josie’s teeth onto the dental floss that is wrapped so tightly around her thumbs that they bulge like purple grapes. And such is the power of many of the prose poems in 100 Papers. to the larger issue of why Josie. so underdeveloped it could only be a white girl’s heart’. the central figure in this drama of the flossing teeth. A witty poem that goes deep with its vegetable metaphors.
Anne Schuster was a pioneer in that she published Woman Flashing in 2005.’ Jobson’s flash fiction world is largely a domestic one. What exactly is flash fiction? Experts – and readers and writers differ. growing even as we try to move beyond the mounds of it. Most flash fiction pieces are from anything from less than 400 words for micro fiction. as absolution may be obtained in the end. but the debut of a collection of flash fiction by a single author. a student ‘taught badly’.new contrast some person in the narrator’s life: a gift from an ex-husband. Whatever the reasons. says ‘initial response was overwhelmingly positive’. WW Norton in the US published the volume Flash Fiction in June 1992. the divorced mother. not a lengthy. 20 . Some publications call for flash fiction and set a word limit of 1 500. flash fiction has taken off in a big way. Says Camille Renshaw: ‘Readers discover something brief and intimate in a very short space of time. With origins that stretch back in time to the days of Aesop’s Fables and Ovid. whose children live with their father. infidelity and its effects. O Henry. but 100 Papers marks not only Jobson’s debut. Ray Bradbury. This is one of the most powerful prose poems in the collection. one of the editors. To date it has sold 22 000 copies and is in its fifth printing. with a few recurring themes. which are not always cosy. postcard fiction. sudden fiction and so on. meandering story. practitioners of the flash fiction form have included writers such as Anton Chekhov. and Tom Hazuka. talking as it does of the universal problem of clutter that litters our lives and psyches. At the launch of her collection in Johannesburg this past July. to flash fiction. To my knowledge this is the first collection of flash fiction by a South African author. Some say the growth of the internet has helped to spread its popularity: readers online are looking for a ‘quick fix’. children’s milk teeth. and the milieu of families. Even the name itself is not fixed: it’s called anything from micro fiction. Jobson said that flash fiction was a highly poetic genre and described it as a ‘tricky beast’.’ Meanwhile Randall Brown says ‘Great flash pieces have that “centerlight pop”. Amy Hempel and Grace Paley. to up to 1 000 words long. a collection of flash fiction by women writers. But the listing of all these items has a purpose in itself. love and its rewards. Yet. it’s only since the early 1990s that flash fiction has become so popular.
The opening line. interwoven with the daughter’s memories of girlhood from that time. like playing with a ballpoint.new contrast ‘Pickle’ is one such story that takes a look at a divorced mother whose ex-husband has custody of the children. Tessa releases her mother’s memory and ashes to the wind in poignant prose. It’s an imagining of the picnic to come. In ‘Duet’ the unnamed narrator finds herself in a psychiatric ward after a man puts a gun to her head. the lost time. but it’s a big job looking after her children … There’s a lot of catching up to do for the other twelve days.’ The real present comes after the picnic of course. sending jolly text messages to convey her love on the days she doesn’t see her children. ‘You place a round of Brie. as 21 . and then years after. doing her best. She hasn’t slept in weeks. Seeing them only on alternate weekends. as well as a bit of erotica. ‘she is trying to get it right. Not the click of a trigger. trying to be a mother for two days out of every fortnight.’ What follows is a description of life in a mental ward where ‘a linen basket on castors’ talks. fat as your nipple. and meanwhile the police come regularly looking for her mother’s lover Koos. Jail. called ‘Tits Tessa’ by the pre-pubescent male classmates. That’s the hard part. beside a salad of herbs … hanepoot grapes. ‘My Mother’s Diary’ is a touching look at the narrator’s mother.’ This is a sensitively-wrought portrait of a mother. she likes to finish cartons of ice-cream. not white. in an apartheid South Africa. permanently blah. maybe years. But there are lighter moments as well in this collection. writing as a young girl in 1970.’ This mother has a secret. It’s not an easy time for the ten year old with enormous breasts. leaving the healthy vegetables bought for herself and the kids to go mouldy. the mother tries. ‘The mother is tired. She really is. and after love-making. ‘… I heard a click. I never heard that … The gunman’s finger played with the safety catch of his glock: flick-flick-flicking. This gripping story takes you right within the madness and confines of such a ward. there’s blood everywhere as a fellow patient tries to carve a heart on the narrator’s arm. words are charged with sexual meaning and a delicious playfulness. An excellent piece. pale as your breast. ‘Christmas Eve Picnic. Pretoria’ offers a small moment in the life of two women lovers. Or there’s ‘The Virtue of the Potted Fern’.
’ You must be ruthless as you keep the I-Ching away from the Children of Heaven.new contrast always. 22 . For my money.ucdavis.com/SID/313 (for Camille Renshaw’s comments) www. Research sources: www. and don’t put the Healing Back Pain next to The Story of O. intestine spilling out.pifmagazine.com/features/012605. ‘Like the rules for entertaining foreign in-laws.smokelong. burls of tissue signed in gore. and I felt some resonated more than others.’ Instead perhaps put a potted fern by the bed. The seal’s stiff stare films over.asp (for Randall Brown’s comments) Ken Barris Dead seal A big male seal is washed up on the shore. blind as a rock to what it hosts. sets the scene for what’s to come: ‘It’s not easy to organise a bookshelf that’s been moved from the guest room to your bedroom because your South African relatives are coming to stay. surely a quieter option.htm (for Tom Hazuka’s comments) www. they do not exist.edu/spark/issue3/thflash. Returning to Randall Brown’s assertion that good flash fiction has that ‘centerlight pop’. accelerating images of change. arrange themselves like clockwork in a breathing clock. a pastel riot of tubing.english. its corpse gashed open. but each reader will have their favourites. The pink-coned whelk bore in. Working in the dark. do Jobson’s pieces have that pop? I believe that many do. swirl. some work better than others. Flies buzz around the wound.
image and lyric chased like whorls on the distant stump: and I read its empty chronicle. but then the whisper grows: this does not rhyme. I know the language of the sea is wet though sometimes if its waves are forced or set in certain ways. I hear a sound. but doesn’t: exact in its vagueness. as if they never moved the sea aside for this fast-diving hunter. becomes a thumbprint. this far away. flowing through another past. I try to shape it square or carve it round. a foreign history traced in silence. inventing.new contrast Its fins are rubber. 23 . So much happens there. a shape that could mean anything. the currents may ignite and weave out paragraphs that burn with light. Thumbprint Her face. Its death translates the seal much faster into the silent depth its own hunt loved. or slice it up and beat it into time. In the quiet mess of dreams In the quiet mess of dreams.
earthquake or fire.new contrast Alan Galante No epiphany today Don’t hold inquisition. to an unannealed alloy of a northern sun. as attendant as crows. now. There’ll be no epiphany today. no blinding light and no road to Emmaus either. then ascend to a gently unfolding light. your image now haunts me in milling crowds or silent places. What do you signify beyond revolutionary love? 24 . What is this image? What is this image before me in this new still dawn of uncertainty fathomed across ages and featured beyond deserts and mountains? Not only in wind. I attend the risks. Like a mole crawling to a blind happiness.
the murderer. the misogynist. Your talent is formidable. The torturer. Your originality is gigantesque. 25 . A writer more famous than you – Wild Jack Kerouac – drew A hard line between talent And originality.new contrast Consuelo Roland Hygiene of an Assassin Ma chère Amélie How brave you are! I could not be that brave. Of course you’re absolutely right We should write to Change the way others think Not merely as a doorstop To immortality. Nor put on such a scholarly show And carry it off With such panache. Confesses he can never again Look at a young woman In a raincoat In the same way After reading a certain Beautiful Book. Your unsympathetic character.
So I ask you Is it true that every character holds something of the writer’s self ? Is it you who wins the duel in the skin of misanthropist? Jonty Driver A Lamentation Now that she’s old and invisible She stares frankly at the Bright Young Things Prancing on pavements. All those journalists Hygienically assassinated by A cynical interrogator and Master of ambiguity.new contrast Similarly I will never again look At an obese man without recall to Your fine spirit and its offshoots. 26 . posing in trains And they barely notice her looking – She’s as useless as experience.
She can’t remember where the pain was – She’s as forgetful as flowers. by the time she gets to see him.new contrast Once there’s no one nearby who knows her. pretending She’s waiting for someone to meet her – She’s as patient as sleeping policemen. they don’t even listen – ‘Who’s that old moaner in the raincoat?’ They mutter as they wander away – Inconsequential as argument. 27 . No one cares any more she’s grumpy. in the sun. She takes her place in the doctor’s queue. She finds herself a place on the steps And sits there. where is her book? So what if she sleeps through the programme? When the postman comes (usually late). Now that she’s old and invisible She doesn’t recall quite what it was like When people could see her. Was that the chair which creaked as she rose? Is it the floor which tilts as she walks? Who was it waving from the window? Where are her glasses. She whinges. She stumbles On broken pavements into the dark – Visible only in alleyways. Persuaded by pain there’s something wrong. But. She consigns the letters addressed to her Post-haste to the waste-paper basket Because she’s sure they aren’t hers really. She’s as cynical as circulars.
and the black southeasters wrap manmountain’s angler in white souwester. and grey oilskin. my love. smooth as Demosthenes’ pebble. no lipstick bait of fry. And we. their dreams. and our ghosts still dive for the oyster flesh – the grit is in our shellfish genes. were laid on nights when turtles come ashore: 28 . the leaden containers of sinkers swing. are seethed in sky. and where our burning red crustaceans reify – as kids. greensea waders. from mother’s milk. Now scooping wet pearls in a fisherman’s glove the gales blow grit in your oyster eye.new contrast Dan Hutchinson The Starfruit Catch una eurusque notusque ruunt creberque procellis Africus Aeneid 1 Now sunrise slows and ours (in Zeno’s paradox – with its arrow shafting sea and heritors of solar wind impaling boatdecks of foreshores) dims Aldebaran’s bullseye to Orion’s tripledots … The harbour’s gaffed with fishhooks of anchors. A lightning’s wristy flickering casts gaudy flies that flare and soar and draw us up in reeling cablecars: where our black-figures glaze on terracotta jars. far off. Back there. no float of buoy. the longlashed waves roll down blue to the electric eel’s saffron flash.
who runs at least a fifth faster than my twenty-year old self (which is just under a fourth of my current age). I’ve been told by the men on television that he always gives ‘120%’. Theorem proved. It was I who foresaw their triumph. Lost daisychains – tentacled tantalists – our fletched fishbone dispatched: a roe bowshot from bows unstrung become this conecairned beachrock-stranded metasedimenting coast. I’m proud of her. The cheetah has four legs. I want to see the objects of my prediction. Tomorrow’s buds are blocking my view. He arrived with my YOU magazine today. Fifteen broad men are balancing on top of a double-decker bus. She’s learning a national pastime. He is wearing a fetching green shirt. My head is stuck in a scrum. Eric. My grandson is short enough to peer through the grill. Plus the tail. Three of them 29 . while Bryan only has two. The average cheetah runs twice as fast as Bryan. Now the flowerpot is causing an obstruction. Twice as fast. I need not idealise them like the adoring throngs. Tara Weinberg The Betting House Bryan Habana is on the wall of my husband’s room. Ruthless tactics. Oh. An extra fifth. I’m leaning right over the broekielace railing.new contrast to slip (the storm kelp tossed high as Sappho’s apple) from shellhusk shingle silt past waterfalls of lobsterpots and starfruit catches out of reach. My husband has been too diligent with his Yesterday. here they come! Beneath us on the street is a circus brigade. next to my husband. looking out onto Mowbray main road. My daughter is pushing him out the way. I’m sure I’m forgetting a rule about multiplication. Today and Tomorrow flowers. Percentages have never been my strong point. Perhaps this is why he raced a cheetah last week.
the time has come for you to strike not in your race interests. struggling to convert the final sentence. I was five years old when the circus first came to Bloemfontein. Shift the ‘X’ shape 45 degrees and it becomes a ‘t’. My father was attending a political meeting that day at the town hall. The Irishman. reaching down and slapping the hands of the audience. Oranges and pomegranates flew overhead. darling. which equals success. There was an Irishman with a squeaky accent. It was 30 . His side-burns must have made the English quake in their boots. shouted. he added. but in your class interests. Let me elaborate. What’s that Eric? Beer? No. Mielies were popular scatter bombs. became ammunition. then ‘X’ equals losses ahead. But he stood on the podium and said. The middle one is exceptionally ugly. ready for the following morning. and he is very interested in you all. A few men shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. that’s not very manly. you know I don’t drink beer. If ‘X’ is solid. He resembles a donkey. ‘X’ equals warning. He has a shaved head and a chin the size of a butternut. The whole troop is dressed in a revolting green colour. The conductor looks like a veld ranger – a lion-tamer. Instead. His broad grin reveals a set of buckteeth.new contrast are juggling a shiny cup between them. It’s the colour of those cheap green kokies you used to buy at CNA. This is proof that I predicted the World Cup win. Find ‘X’. One man flung a vrot tomato at another. No wonder they dropped the ball so many times. Workers of the world unite!’ The Afrikaans translator told the crowd: ‘The Irishman says you are a good class of people. ‘We should all stand next to each other. real close!’ The crowd was quiet for a moment. a good race of people. according to my father. Vegetables and fruit which had been stacked in crates around the room. Several dozen beards quivered in unison. He was virtually unintelligible. I could not find ‘X’. I found ‘t’. A fight erupted. If ‘X’ is broken.’ Then. He took me with him and put me on his shoulders. over the din. ‘Comrades. sneaking suspicious glances at their neighbours. A skinny fellow is hanging over the side of the bus like a trapeze artist. The room was crowded. ‘Comrades. The hall doubled up as a food market. please!’ and slipped out the back door. Are they being sponsored by a stationary shop? Shoo.
where Bryan could watch over us. the word ‘WAIT SCHMUCK’ appeared clearly among the dark clumps. and it becomes a murky process.’ I told Tessa. I could tell you that Jacob Zuma will die from a heart attack and Wouta Basson from a car accident. ever since my wig had gone in for its monthly grooming. or if you have underwear on at all. The rim of the tea-cup was covered with a thin line of residue. Too many twigs. Aghast at his inability to concentrate. I grabbed her wrist. Oi vey! I knew I should have disembowelled a fish instead. She had also come to deliver my wig. we moved to Eric’s room. Perhaps she is not intending to get married. I stared into Tessa’s drained cup. My grandmother told me of a gypsy man in her native Latvia. Tea-leaves are atrocious with their language. I stroked the tea-cup to appease it. I meditated on the question and winked occasionally at Bryan’s portrait. Oh God. ‘Reach for the cup. who once fell asleep while praying. I dared not venture outside with a balding head. 31 . They fell into the soil and fertilised a tea-bush.’ My granddaughter grimaced. I began the process with a prediction for my granddaughter. Well-exercised eyes are essential to the divining process. ‘Now use the other hand. Tessa. ‘And think of the Final!’ She reached for it with her right hand. I had been closeted inside for a week. To begin my second prediction. the goat meant I should stop buying Woolworths food and the ‘t’ spelt success in the Rugby World Cup by fifteen points to six. fish are polite. Hence. fast asleep. The tealeaves might have told me that. an urn and the letter ‘t’. ‘You’ll marry at forty. perhaps she’s lesbian. he cut off his eyelids. My granddaughter had come to deliver a packet of chamomile tea-leaves. the practice of reading tea-leaves began. But ask me to guess what colour underwear you have on. I swirled the tea-leaves around in the cup.new contrast a frustrating process at first. Tasseography is very imprecise when it comes to prying into the present. The urn told me that my blood pressure was high. While Tessa drank the tea. We repeated the process. On the bottom of the cup.’ She scowled but picked up the cup with her left hand and began sipping from it. Eric was lying on his back. I could make out a goat. I put a pillow under his arm and flung him over to stop the snoring. Its purpose is to predict the future.
I placed a bet based on my information from the leaves. I went to the betting office myself, fresh wig safely installed. When I was newly married, I lived in Pietermaritzburg. I would predict the results of the Durban July. I sent Eric to Durban to bet on a horse. I gave him a tickie and a sixpence. He came back in a state, empty-handed. He mumbled in Yiddish something about being chased by Cossacks. Unable to speak anymore, he wrote me a note: ‘I’ll stare down the barrel of a gun any day, just don’t put me near a horse.’ Even Queen Elizabeth park was out of bounds – he was afraid of the zebras. A dwarf is handling the returns. The reward for my patient divination! ‘Can you prove that you are Frieda?’ he asks, peering over his square spectacles. Suspicious little chap. I hand him my slip and ID document. He’s counting my money in an odd manner. He’s leaning backwards. I wonder what it would be like to age backwards – to be born eighty and grow younger. I would loose all my hair, my speech would slur and I would forget how to walk. Using a walker is preferable to crawling. I am tempted to shout, in the hope of speeding the dwarf up. At my age, I reserve the right to create a public spectacle. I turn away with my loot and collide with the man behind me. He has a shocking hairstyle. Bits of dried spaghetti, it seems, moulded onto his head. We’re leaving Site C. The mountain is closing in on us, accompanied by a smell of sewerage. We pass the Salt and Pepper Pots, where a white Toyota Corolla has stopped and three tourists are inspecting the soles of their shoes. On our left is the Golf Course. A gardener is mowing the Greens. ‘Mowbray! Claremont! Wynberg!’ The gaatjie is shouting as he opens the door, and dangles a leg into the road. The other cars are snarling at him. A Golden Arrow bus is hooting. It looks as if it’s been nailed together from cool-drink cans. I leap off onto the pavement, straight into a puddle of water. The water is so grimy that it is opaque; my reflection splatters over my pants. The taxi swerves back onto the road, nearly knocking over a mama with a face like a dried apricot, carrying a beige petticoat and a boerewors roll. The gold lettering on the taxi’s back window – ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ – disappears into the traffic. Outside Pep Stores, there is a cardboard sign. Scribbled in black permanent marker is the heading:
Dr Ramatsa, Traditional Herbalist, MBCHB (University). It lists a cell-phone number. Below the title, half in black ink, half in blue, it reads: Chest pains, headaches, stomach cramps Men’s problems, Women’s problems Curing HIV Marriage difficulties Economic windfalls Make Bokke win World Cup Fraud. I must not get distracted. I am off duty. Incognito. Today is the big day. I am having a haircut to mark the occasion. I reach the threshold of Jabu Styles Hair Salon. Several painted figures, all with afros, decorate the sign. A smell of vinegar drifts enticingly from the ‘Fisheries’ next door. ‘Molo, bhuti.’ A stout woman, with her braids piled high on top of each other, is greeting me. I return the greeting. ‘Haircut?’ she asks. ‘Cornrows,’ I reply. The woman, whose name is Busi, is extracting some hair-extensions, colour Black, from a box under the counter. She seats me in a chair facing a mirror. The man next to me is wearing a foil cap. He has ordered a full-head peroxide. ‘Gonna see the bokke today?’ he asks, sliding a newspaper under my nose. Thabo Mbeki and John Smit are holding the Web Ellis Cup aloft. His voice has a high, sing-song quality to it. I find it irritating. Goldilocks. Busi jerks my head back, as she begins to fix the extensions in place, platting the threads into tufts of my hair. ‘Are you versin?’ croaks a middle-aged man from the basin. ‘That whole establishment is racist. I supported the All Blacks. They got more black players than South Africa, despite our quotas. See, no politics in New Zealand.’ Goldilocks is swinging his legs, making his chair creak. ‘Ja, I dunno. I think I’ll go out and wave to them just now. Eish, they call it a white sport. But Bafana aren’t bringing us any glory. Chiefs are bottom of the log. They play Ajax at Newlands tomorrow. I’m thinking if I dye my hair gold, it might remind them of the bokke’s cup. Be their inspiration.’ I stopped playing soccer when I was eight. I was hovering near the
goals. A girl was dribbling through two boys in front of me. She passed swiftly to another boy to my right. He stepped over the ball twice. His feet were too quick. I was the slowest and chubbiest child in Peddie. I had a great fondness for pap. I lurched for his ankles using my arms and tackled him to the ground. ‘Rrrugby’ is what they called me. When the round ball expands into an egg shape, it expels stale air. It was the presence of stale air that first alerted me to my Calling. I was working at a petrol station in Athlone. I had just arrived in the city. As I replaced the petrol pump in its socket, I was struck by temporary blindness. That night I dreamed excessively. I saw a fire break out among shacks in Peddie. Cattle writhed as they choked on the air. In the days that followed I developed a pain in my lower arm. ‘The ancestors wish you to restore order’, I was told by an old man, who stopped to buy a Fanta at the petrol station. Since my apprenticeship five years ago, I have been seeing many clients. This project, however, is personal. I asked my apparatus to determine the winner of the Rugby World Cup. I made a bet on it. When I exit Jabu Styles, the street is full of people. Next to the Fraud’s sign is a Rasta playing music from his boom-box. The Fraud herself is not in sight. Her minion, wearing a Springbok shirt, is standing outside Pep Stores, accosting customers as they exit and shaking a metal tin at them. The taxis and buses have been banished. Instead the metro police are patrolling the road. A motorbike sneaks through the blockade. The opening act. Its rider has a watermelon on his head and a South African flag attached as a cape. The main attraction is humming towards us. It is a double-decker bus carrying the Springboks. They’re decked out in green shirts and blonde hair. They’re waving at me. Is my new hairstyle conspicuous enough? The street has turned into a carnival. People are jostling the bus. They are shouting and hugging each other. A teenager in jeans embraces the woman next to me, who is dancing to the Rasta’s boom-box; his hand slips into her back-pocket and extracts a cell-phone. Nationalism is profitable. My cornrows having served their purpose, I pull out a bottle of Jabu Styles Anti-Itch Lotion and squirt the content at my scalp. ‘Bra Thami! Sangoma Thami!’ The Anti-Itch bottle leaps onto the pavement and rolls away. I dare not pick it up. One of my clients is approaching me. ‘I have a proposal for you, Thami! A business venture.’ The man is like a
cuckoo-clock. He’s ticking patiently, bouncing from foot to foot, waiting for my signal to continue. ‘I want to build you a website. My cousin has one. You know, the one who moved to Texas?’ Tick. ‘She’s started a company. A.S.E. African Sangoma Emporium.’ Tick. ‘It could be an online shop, Thami! Sangoma DVD, $40, Immune Booster, $50, Private Consultation, $60. Corporate event, $1500.’ Tock. ‘So what if you get the prediction wrong. You could add a disclaimer: Sangoma Thami cannot be held liable for the diagnosis channelled through him.’ Add to Basket: sue the ancestors! I am redeeming my winnings. They are the product of a personal project remember, so no need to report me to the Traditional Healers’ commission for malpractice. The teller behind the counter is standing on a stool to address the customers. In front of me is an old woman with a dead polecat sitting lopsidedly on her head. She’s causing a slight scene. She screeches, and then whips around so suddenly that I cannot avoid her. She knocks into me. The polecat slides to the floor.
Dr Severance Package Steals A Scene Why go to the trouble of being caught up in cross-fire during a cash heist at an ATM? Why commute on our local Metro in order to be parted from your walkman, wallet and your watch? Why drive your car to the supermarket
and pay for petrol to risk a hijack at an intersection when you can be ripped off in the comfort of your own home? As prologue there will be re-arrangement of your burglar bars without a quote. Then a demonstration gratis of some knotting skills with stout electric cord. Bolt upright in your favourite chair you can observe expert removal of your Hi-Fi, home computer and your new TV. Obligingly you’re freed from all the stress of ownership. And method theatre has replaced the plasma screen. You goggle as the drapery swings awry and hope there’ll be no curtain calls. The thoughtful Thespians have even planned an off-stage epilogue. They toy with your Toyota, hot to stage a getaway.
Diana said to herself. especially as her genes and grooming had formed her to be an action woman. Therefore. one day. this sudden insight was quite a revelation. office blocks and the usual hang-outs of the working crowd. or one of those days when people generally get up to work a lot. Tania van Schalkwyk The Reader One day. ‘I want to be a reader.’ She had been hunting for a job for quite some time now. Remember that you didn’t spend a cent in order to produce this spectacle and your attention was assured from A to Z. escalators and elevators. perhaps a Monday. Anyway.new contrast Don’t fret there was no warning to alert the police. not an intellectual. in shopping malls. 37 . quite late in her life and quite frankly rather late for a Monday morning. she woke up knowing what she wanted to be. throwing off her duvet. up and down various streets. No officer would be so brash as to burst crudely in on a citzen being entertained in the privacy of his own sitting room.
Diana carefully selected what she considered to be readable material. Diana would hunt down those words and read them. past her burglar bars. And what better way to engage in quietness than by reading? Of course. But that’s only because her sister’s the patron of that establishment. Diana had turned vegan by the tender age of ten. universities and their creative writing departments. with much aplomb. she did not have the patience for that. 38 . even corporate functions wanting to turn their event into a sophisticated soiree. hired her illegal immigrant neighbour Jesus to build a portable but plush chaise longue and went about purveying her services to establishments and private individuals she felt to be in dire need of a reader. Everybody was too busy being busy. abseiling. there had been her infatuation with the school librarian. Diana the failed huntress opened up shop as a professional reader. birthday parties. public gardens. like all epiphanies. And so. psycho-babble out there. writer’s groups. Despite her father’s attempt to turn her into a fisherwoman at the very least. Often. supermarkets. No. Not the kind hired by publishers to wade through wads of slush. museums. Diana wanted to be silent. Diana now realised that she did not want to contribute words to the cacophony of ad-speak. Those ones no one had any time to read anymore. this crystal clear call to read had been brewing in Diana’s unconscious for some time now. And then of course. In between all her climbing. Bettina. too busy writing to be able to read. windows and block-out curtains — all those delivery trucks delivering. Diana even managed to publish some of her Betty love poems in Sappho’s literary journal. Diana wanted to save the words that deserved saving. Book fairs. The world needed a reader. The noise levels woke her up and once awake she realised that she did not want to contribute to the pandemonium outside. people shouting at other people. running and numerous sport activities.new contrast It must have been the city traffic seeping in. as being a huntress that fainted at the sight of blood just didn’t work. The world was becoming a billboard with all those words unworthy of books being written. swimming. In fact. looking for a home to cling to. commuter cars commuting and honking. No. she had sometimes attempted to throw words about on a page. her vocation had echoed down the canals of her stubborn ears all her life. schools. Besides.
Diana soon went bankrupt and into liquidation. bombing non-eco-friendly golf estates. recycling her old business cards into postcards. whom she sorted out promptly by using voodoo to turn him into a baboon. acting the role of a reader. for her niche market of sceptics and scientists. Melissa Butler Mark Your Diary This is the International Year of the Potato. Each year brings new sets of focus: International Year of the African Child. Languages. and copiously reading of course. No. complete with brain wave monitors and machines that measured the cone and rod movements in her eyes.’ She also offered a full scientific lab service. It is also the International Year of Sanitation and the International Year of Languages. and enjoyed an enforced early retirement on the island of Mauritius. that she was actively engaged in the art of reading and doing a rather splendid job of it too. She spent the rest of her days saving all the other monkeys from hunters hired by international research laboratories. Potato. Diana lived a happy ever after life. So they could make sure that she was not just laying there looking embroiled in a book. 39 . Sanitation. donated all her books to wannabe writers. International Year of Microcredit.new contrast Diana told potential clients that. the world was not interested in her brand. These are all important things. Unfortunately. ‘The dying art of reading adds a certain je ne sais quoi to even the most mundane happenings. the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. Apart from a minor squabble with a pesky beach voyeur named Actaeon.
the Turning Page of Holding Hands. International Decade for Action. Decade. Then. This is not for the world. Week of First-World Military Spending. There is Africa Malaria Day.new contrast There is World Space Week and the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Year. International Anti-Corruption Day. World Memory of Our Future. There was the International Decade of the Woman. There are also special days: World Water Day. World No Tobacco Day. both in March. we might end up with: North American Fear Day. Week. Day. World Tuberculosis Day and World Meteorological Day fall right next to each other on the calendar. Surely we can define time in more interesting ways: International Moment of the Flooding Questions. World Book and Copyright Day. instead of the Day of the African Girl Child or the International Year of Ecotourism. or the Decade of Maintaining Instabilities So We Can Say We Are Trying to Solve Them. World Philosophy Day. Portal to Finding Homes. Only Africa. the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. These seem so obvious. Even if we did stick with standard units of measuring time. IMF Regulations Day. perhaps we could institute the Decade of Inverting North and South. Phase of Opening Gardens. 40 .
new contrast Rosemund Handler Refugee He sees no runaway no self-absorbed aging white chick bristling with Authenticity but a soul mate transmutes an evasive twitch to gold wills his visibility asks to walk with me friend he says not my friend shows me the contents of his bag a pair of new boots a gift for his son in Cameroon I know only Joan Baez’ distant rainforests tells of his son beloved mistake shaking his head that a careless night 41 .
new contrast should yield such abundance walks easily alongside my closed ear his longing impervious resisting my resistance to his need for an open body that will close tight over him for a while parsimonious I say goodbye now he’s had all I can spare perhaps we’ll meet again not altogether insincere he asks softly for my number I wish him a good life cross the road half-turn think about waving 42 .
scrape words off her lines test them for weakness. on her back. reform her clothes when you step out. 43 . hold her hand while you feel for lumps in her text. You push and prod her inherited breasts for unusual swellings count her ova as syllables – find the rhythm disturbed and irregular in the polycystic verse. I hate that you know her secrets. I want to comfort my poem – say everything is going to be all right. I watch you scrawl a prescription I hold her hand while you finish. legs bent and spread. and stares into my eyes – mother it hurts inside.new contrast Jenna Mervis Poems are daughters too You say it so politely gently turn the page: please take off your clothes I accompany my poem on her first visit into the consultation room. You ease cold hard reason into her body. analyse the meaning. I sit dumb through the interrogation: Are you regular (no) Is your flow heavy (yes when it comes) Is there pain (there’s always pain) Beneath the questions is another narrative. She turns to me. Help her reshape.
”’ Libby likes to talk Afrikaans. one by one. All I know is that it just doesn’t come out as well as it used to when I baked everything in the old Aga stove at Tussenfontein. for some reason I feel responsible. “Ons ken hom. has never been to Australia. ‘Johanna and I were the only ones who knew how to get that stove going. ‘Do you remember how temperamental it was? But we understood its moods. I feel violated.’ Whatever the topic. As ons praat. Her new life is for informing: Sam. on her annual visit to South Africa (Libby has been living in Sydney for fourteen years) is divided sharply between her new and old lives. visiting Libby’s sons. Danny and Wayne. The water is chilly on his skin as the afternoon retreats. Or the eggs. where he spent huge chunks of his childhood and adolescence. despite repeated invitations. sighing. In her presence. ‘What 44 . ‘I still bake. Her old life is for reminiscing. Mis’ Libby. dan luister hy. Sam returns to Tussenfontein.’ says Libby. ‘Maybe it’s the butter. she’s proud that she still speaks it with a good accent. I don’t know.’ She looks at Sam with those cloudy blue eyes that he has known since he was a boy. He hears the sporadic beating of wings as. Her conversation. “Ons ken hom. the guineafowl settle for the night in the bluegum trees. It might even be the oven.” Johanna used to say. sooner or later Libby will make a loop back to Tussenfontein. David Medalie Tussenfontein The shadows stretch over the swimming-pool.’ says Libby.’ she says. ‘but nothing tastes right any more. ‘Or the flour.new contrast For some reason.
Their short. has qualms. ‘Do you remember. She lived in a townhouse in Johannesburg for twenty years.’ She sighs. making a rare joke. their discarded wings lying like scraps of silver in the moonlight. But Libby’s memories are rural. or whether this is an overflow of the affection she felt for the young boy who used to come to Tussenfontein to play with her sons. ‘they abolished the rain. But at other times. Libby sold the farm after her husband’s early death – neither of her sons wanted to go farming. When a smell or a song or a saying takes him back to something warm. he’s inclined to think that nostalgia is just a story we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to admit that we will not be able to find our way back. ‘And what baking we used to do!’ Libby is famous for nostalgia. he has no choice. Rain before the tenth of October is a pasella. followed by fourteen in a flat in Sydney. however.’ Sam remembers the arrival of the first rain: the dank.’ she says. especially when the night wind is very cold. but she’ll always be a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife. She squeezes Sam’s hand and puts her arm in his. That’s what my father used to say. and the stars seem more than usually inhospitable.’ she says. ‘how we used to wait for the first spring rains to soften the ground so that the ploughing could begin? You can’t really expect rain before the tenth of October – what used to be Kruger Day. He recalls the sudden emergence after the rain of the flying ants. But now it seems as if the spring rains come later and later every year. 45 . He understands the impulse to be nostalgic. For decades they have all lived urban lives. And that means nostalgia unabashed. But Sam isn’t sure whether it is the adult Sam. Even the weather is changing. She knows no other way.’ says Libby. And that’s because we were never there in the first place. frenzied lives used to distress him. It’s years since any of them have had anything to do with Tussenfontein. Sam. She knows that nostalgia is what helps us find our way back – that it’s all we have. though. whom she sees once a year. forgiving smell of it. With Libby. of whom she is so very fond. ‘Spring is such a dry season on the highveld. ‘When they abolished Kruger Day. He can interact with her only on her own terms. he feels that Libby is wise.new contrast roasts we used to make in that old stove!’ she says.
The names of other farms in the area are self-explanatory: Brakdam. Oom Arnold to the Afrikaans kids. She has never been an Auntie or a Tannie. She stays. there’s a curious absence of melancholy in her nostalgia. A dark thread is woven through them. the lamingtons brushed with coconut. because she insists on it. Her memories are sturdy children. Her memories are not curdled by time and.new contrast ‘Oh. But we could still cook and bake.’ Libby is notorious for nostalgia. Libby’s meringues and lamingtons are waiting for them in the shade of the gazebo. the emigration to Australia. it wants to hold him in an awkward embrace. as Libby seems able to do. before she visits Sam in his flat. nor does Uncle Arnold. and do you remember the thunderstorms at Tussenfontein?’ asks Libby. He cannot slip in and out of the past. she bakes for him. Sam’s are different. covered with a white cloth to keep the flies away.) Whenever the boys emerge from the swimming-pool at Tussenfontein. thick with dark chocolate. cut from the belly of a comatose mother. Noukrans. Tussenfontein: no one knows the origin of the farm’s curious name. Sometimes the electricity would be out for days after a storm. The meringues are wispy and sticky in the centre. But Sam notices that although she’s full of love for the past. Libby doesn’t know what the name means either. their kitchens. They have been able to survive a widowhood when Libby was in her forties. thanks to the Aga stove. her having to sell Tussenfontein. they are not disfigured by it. ‘They were the most dramatic I’ve ever known. Libby never arrives empty-handed. She likes her tea with lemon and without milk. and. She brings gifts from Australia. the move to Johannesburg. but Libby. It tugs at him. Stilgat. squeezing lemon into her tea. Blinkpan. She presents Sam with the tastes of his childhood: meringues and lamingtons. although they speak of loss. 46 . is always just Libby to all the children. He can make no sense of it. But Tussenfontein? What does it lie between? It doesn’t feel like a between-place: during all the years of Sam’s visits to the farm it feels to him as if everything starts and ends there. with friends or relatives. and she uses their stoves. (Libby’s husband is Uncle Arnold to the English-speaking kids. on her annual visit to South Africa.
‘How expensive things have become!’ she says. Sam has to make do with the reservoir. within a relatively short time. Libby’s memories are. Sam tries to account for this. tractors. Look at these electrified fences. humane society. Above them the first stars press through a violet sky. In Australia they really look after their old folk. These security systems. On Tussenfontein we didn’t even lock the doors of the farmhouse. of course. And she speaks of it as a tourist would – a disparaging. Uncle Arnold bought one. a dairy. the bottom too dark and deep ever to be seen. ‘I don’t know how people manage. ‘And the way you all live!’ she says. sudden cacophony of indignant geese. And in Sydney I walk alone at night. And yet she seems to have had the smoothest of passages. I don’t think I could bear it. But for Sam the heart of it is the swimming-pool. Libby is able to face 47 . I take public transport. horses and cows. ‘In gilded cages. if he wants to swim. They swim until it is dark. I go wherever I want. Sam discerns a curious paradox in Libby. and a lethargic Kreepy Krawly scours the bottom of the pool: as soon as they came on the market. with the eyes of a visitor. she has learned to see South Africa as if from a distance. how. there is a pump which prattles away. She adheres more closely to origins than anyone he has ever known. On his parents’ farm. combine harvesters. The water tastes of chlorine. She dwells on the past to such an extent that in some ways she may even be said to dwell in the past. unimpressed tourist. you have to shower to wash off the remnants of the greenish water. It’s a very caring. The new South Africa she knows only as a tourist.new contrast Tussenfontein is the only farm in the district that has a swimmingpool.’ She looks out of the window. of the old South Africa. the sides of which are slippery with slime. especially the elderly. Yet she has adapted with remarkable ease to a new country and a new continent.’ It’s astonishing to Sam to see how rapidly she has transformed herself into an inhabitant of another country. The farm has everything that farms should have: sheds and other outbuildings. Perhaps. In the distance they can hear the sound of the milking-machines and a brief. he and Danny and Wayne. After you’ve swum in it. She was almost sixty years old when she emigrated – an age when many would baulk at such a grievous uprooting. he thinks. But Libby has the bluest pool he’s ever seen.
It’s completely obscured by the trees. returns to the couch. and receive gifts which she’s brought all the way across the Indian Ocean: a tablecloth one year. and I never knew it. There is loss. show her the improvements they’ve made. She has even become friendly with the new owners. who welcome her warmly. ‘The bluegum trees are simply enormous now. She has no family members in that part of the world any more and very few old friends. serviette-holders another. But no: she visits the farm every year. isn’t it. and it just collapsed. There was a strong wind one day. and it must be heart-breaking to find other people living on the farm and in the house in which you grew up. ‘Oh. she sets time aside to pay a visit to Tussenfontein. turns around. yes – the house has got burglar bars on all the windows. They’re Australian trees. ‘Funny. Let me see – what else has changed? Oh.new contrast the present with equanimity because her relationship with the past is not a vexed one. She always finds it difficult to sit still for long periods of time. You can’t even see the house. and in which you spent all your married life. And now I live in the country where they come from. Her movements are quick. Or is it because Tussenfontein is sealed into her heart. It would be understandable if she made every effort to avoid going there. nor is she suspicious of it. Everything says Made in Australia.’ She sits down. but she isn’t intimidated by it. perfectly preserved? Is she nourished by a dream so tenacious that it defies even the contradiction of passing days? It never ceases to amaze Sam that. crosses her legs. And they’ve 48 . It didn’t even cross my mind. you can’t any more. ‘You remember how you used to be able to stand in the vlei and look up at the house? Well. that there were always bluegum trees on Tussenfontein – and it never occurred to me to wonder whether they were indigenous or not. great loss. decisive – even in their apparent aimlessness. For her it’s like mourning the death of one whose devotion and loyalty have always been and will always be beyond question. Sam wonders whether her nostalgia plays a part in that – whether it’s her way of making the past docile. Mr and Mrs du Preez. She tells Sam of the changes she has witnessed at Tussenfontein.’ Libby walks to the window. and you remember the shed with the green door – the one beyond the dairy? It collapsed. whenever Libby comes to South Africa.’ she says. but there is no mistrust. Libby is enamoured of the past.
and he flicks it away with an habitual gesture. He cannot understand why Danny prefers them to him. ‘But she’s almost blind now. by default. Wayne is skinny and pale and asthmatic. Sam resents them. is his friend. But it cannot be. coarse and loud. When he resurfaces.’ she said to me. it feels to him as if it were one of his homes. maar jy woon so ver!”’ Danny is a year older than Sam. But Sam would prefer to be friends with Danny. She showed it to me. while he’s in the middle of a sentence. but there is no indication that that is ever likely to happen. ‘Johanna is still alive. Libby’s sons are adopted. and does a full length underwater. Danny turns away from him. mesmerised by Danny’s dark head. And although he didn’t actually live at Tussenfontein. by the way he flicks his hair off his forehead. Nothing would persuade him to return to any of the places he lived in as a child or a teenager. in Libby’s swimming-pool. by his tawny neck. He is smitten.’ says Libby. to make Sam replete with the satisfactions of his friendship. But Danny scorns his friendship. One summer twilight they are all at the pool – Danny. “Mis’ Libby. therefore. “Hau. dives. The first thing Sam discovers. is the cruelty of unequal affections. two of his friends.’ Sam doesn’t know whether or not he should admire Libby for being able to return to Tussenfontein. He wants nothing more than to be Sam’s best friend. She carries a gun in her handbag – a little silver one. he doesn’t ask Sam to finish his story.new contrast closed in the stoep. Lettie du Preez tells me that she’s learned how to shoot. so Wayne. Sam and Wayne. The second thing he discovers is desire. Wayne a year younger. Danny’s friends are thick boys. He would like the haughty Danny to favour him. so they don’t resemble her or Uncle Arnold or each other. His thick brown hair falls over his forehead. One day – and it really is as sudden as that – he finds that it’s not only Danny’s attention or interest that he seeks. Danny is tall and lithe and dark-eyed. So he could be friends with either of them or with both. He sits with the older boys. pretends that he’s amused by their 49 . He tries to talk to Danny and. crestfallen attentions. by his honeybrown torso and long legs. for Sam is not even vaguely satisfied with Wayne’s beaming.
Next time Wayne comes for a visit. the son who emigrated to Australia. the high. Libby. Once again Libby urges Sam to visit her in Sydney. bald dome. The water is chilly on his skin as the afternoon retreats. Sam wonders whether it’s because Danny has given her a daughter-in-law and grandchildren. I don’t know why. What it means is that she has chosen Danny. Libby always brings photographs of Danny and his family. 50 . But Danny no longer looks like Danny.’ she says. There is a large whitish scar on his forehead where it was gashed open that day at the swimming-pool. you must come too. ‘I make meringues and lamingtons for them. There is nothing he can recognise of him in these photographs except the full lips and the imperious curve of the nostrils. Danny has an attractive blonde wife and three children. look very much like their father. He turns. ‘But there’ll always be a bed waiting for you. He and Sam have been together for eight years. musical. one by one. in the well-worn custom of grandmothers. Wayne. Wayne runs towards the pool.’ she says. while Wayne has not. He is still thin. But she chose to go to Sydney. diffident. ‘let’s …’ But he slips as he jumps in and hits his head on the side of the pool.’ Libby has never attempted to justify her decision to emigrate. He hears Wayne calling him from the other side of the pool. brags about her grandchildren. over Wayne. They are athletic. He suffers from migraines and seizures.’ he says. but he ignores him. She could have stayed in Johannesburg. modest. still pale. a small. But they don’t taste as good. as far as Sam can see. The shadows stretch over the swimming-pool. lies face-down on the water.’ Sam isn’t sure why he doesn’t want to visit Libby in Sydney. white shape. She has one son in Australia. Wayne comes into the room. one in South Africa. the guinea-fowl settle for the night in the bluegum trees. After all. academically inclined. The children. ‘My flat is small. Sam. ‘Hey.new contrast flaccid jokes. the one who stayed behind. There is a crunching sound that Sam hears for the rest of his life. He hears the sporadic beating of wings as. who also live in Sydney. Sam finds it disconcerting to see the fleshy face. almost unbearably gentle. He is vulnerable. ‘Just like I used to make for you at Tussenfontein.
He imagines her reminiscing about Tussenfontein as she shows him her life in Sydney. just as she possesses the past. therefore he can be nostalgic for the summit of Kilimanjaro.’ ‘I can guarantee you one thing.’ says Sam. ‘Wayne has promised to help me persuade you. wide dispossession. bending over the table. He feels drawn to her tonight in all her simplicity and all her complexity. taking plates and glasses out of the side cabinet. He will live and die without making the ascent. ‘Some of that old Tussenfontein hospitality. for instance. as a species. And he shrinks from it. he thinks. Uhuru Peak. But he doesn’t know if he would be able to bear Libby’s nostalgia in Australia.’ ‘One day. And she’s his present too: as Wayne’s mother. then perhaps we should make a concerted effort to long only for places we have never actually been to. really looks at the stars. ‘One day I’ll surprise you and just turn up. the great blocks of ice. Libby and Wayne both look up. Anyone who looks at them. He has seen photographs of the grey shale. nothing except an irredeemable between-ness and a high.new contrast she’s an utterly well-meaning and ever-affectionate embodiment of his past.’ says Libby. He looks back and sees Libby bustling about. will know that there are no returns and no enfolding days. smile at him as he re-enters the room. And it seems to him like a double proprietorship. she is. People have named them and serenaded them and measured their distances. While Libby and Wayne lay the table. so to speak. he thinks – as he has thought before – will not be nostalgic. If.’ says Libby. It’s as cold and eerie as being on the moon. he goes out onto the balcony. ‘I’m not going to let up until you come and visit me in Sydney. And he feels a sudden surge of warmth towards her. Yet it’s one of those nights when they seem to shrink from him and all his kind.’ 51 . The top of Kilimanjaro. The stars are as clear as they are ever likely to be in the city. his mother-in-law. we can’t do without nostalgia. like a two-fold entitlement: Libby owning the new.
sweat. and calls to passing girls Now connected by water and nakedness Safe in water as in the womb of Our mothers 52 . not shy of me as I of them You see I had never bathed with Zulu men before They entered the water laughing and sighing At me I wondered Did my shyness show? A fear to declare I looked a little different? This whiteness felt so out of place so raw so awkward At last the water brings closure to this whiteness Clothes discarded in a heap Cool water enfolded our dust filled naked bodies It was so wonderful as we sat in the water Resting in soft sand. the directness of it You could tell it was men only There were six of them strong with purpose Deliberate and sure.new contrast Michael Boon Bath Time Every day at five pm I watch them go to the river Fully clothed men with cloth and soap Tired feet in tired sandals over hard heated ground The way they walked. river passing us just below our chins. dust. As it did it took the day in the field with it Labour which had clung to our bones now quietly leaving All day we had been together Connected by cotton. one day I joined them We had worked all day in sun and dust picking cotton Now it was time to bathe To release from our skin dust of earth We arrived each to his place A rock by the river They stripped.
She half wishes there are curtains to draw against the white light that striates her paper-thin skin. The summer is insistent. deep in water How the water binds us Nothing hidden all bare and laid open As the clothes we left behind on the rocks Sarah Frost Chaise longue She reclines – sips lapsang souchong from a cracked Delft mug. 53 . A crumpled lily leans from its vase.new contrast Deep in conversation. brown. only the thin pane of glass keeps it at bay. The window behind her empties into a riot of roses. The quiet of the house descends like a Cy Twombly wave thick. green and languid. submitting to a reflection on the polished mahogany table. Peonies spill onto soft grass. like river water it tastes of smoke.
Robert Bolton Otherwintering jonkershoek 2003 and there you hung snagged in the july whip-end of a long-slung male orbit careless of centres but already before the vivid unlight had clotted fatal in the cold-plumbed cottage bowel otherwintering elsewhere at that converge of matter and the old untongued unword swollen in you tight and pumping in that dark and silvered room unsparked and dormant of chemistry at that cusp (and haltered) of an accustomed gloom and the raw light unhooked from the kloof ’s high clench you would feel the season’s grind to local stillness and the solstice start to teeter on your deep shoulder’s buried axe 54 . it dusts her hand golden with pollen as she plucks a drooping leaf.new contrast Fragrant.
buffalo mozzarella. the aromas of love in a peach-skin winter hotel and feasts of quail egg. 55 . She was all characterful authenticity. cherries. in his office. discreet sexuality. She lived on his screen in vivid black and white. Russian. on his desk. preserved fig and ginger. He deleted their story and returned to manageable mysteries. her human need for ‘common decency’. Polish. Spanish and Italian.new contrast Karin Schimke A crime writer’s billet-doux He wrote a believable manuscript. cured meat. At his desert laptop his distant amanuensis shaped herself between his words. The least thing he wanted was her fleshy expectation. imagining for them both the hush of touch. celebrating her amber curls and sharp green eyes. bread sticks. A wife in hand was better than his hand in a flaming bush. untranslatable into German. He was famous enough for her demands to jeopardise his plot. one of his best creations. He adored her above all in his vast cast and made love with her like he solved crimes: not really. behind his door: unpublishable. responding in accent with silent intelligence. but a secret one. that author. French.
even autobiographies of prostitutes. Nor does it deserve to be. We are often more prepared to ‘listen’ to a character in a novel. reality shows and autobiographies are smashing down the doors of long kept secrets. We also go to seek meaning in a parallel world. In this post modern media age. At the moment there is an almost compulsive cultural movement to tell secrets. Respectable writers keep themselves clean of tabloid charges. But other genres. feel obliged to elevate their readers above the gore. why did you go there? TF: We don’t only go to novels for escape. 56 . Novels are a powerful source of inspiration and support. They won’t take their readers into basements on their days off. The pertinent question seems to be. and quietly admit that we are afraid. Why do you think this is? TF: It is an age of revelation. we read a made-up story in a more defenceless way. Even state cover ups are mutinously exposed.new contrast Ron Irwin & Tracey Farren Writing Into Taboo Interview between literary agent Ron Irwin and Tracey Farren. Just as children in therapy share secrets with a teddy bear. In literature this is concentrated in the non fiction arena. ‘Why go there if the newspapers do?’ RI: So then. Nothing is sacred. the crime writers climb right into the shadow side of the human race. Humiliating documentaries plot the crafty efforts of powerful people to hide the truth from the world. the newspapers and screens bombard us with offensive truths. Often fictional characters show the metal that we wish we had. author of the novel. incest. Whiplash (Modjaji Books) RI: Your immersion in the daily life of a street prostitute is an unusual fictional foray into taboo territory. I think. or offer ingenious solutions in dead end situations. We go to seek sustenance in imaginary characters. Respectable fiction writers still seem to skirt the edges of dangerous subjects. Tabloids. In terms of fiction. There is a host of first hand accounts of child abuse.
to dig up bad memories. to fathom the shifting figures in the mist. Otherwise. indestructible. As a writer. even a blaze of light to sign a way out of human abuse. of their potential to be different. I unearthed its purity. imaginary way to open our eyes wide in the dark. joyful. It incites the guilt of our early Sunday school lessons. where we incorrectly heard that 57 . why a girl came to cut herself every afternoon. Fiction is a safe. and perhaps after that. regardless of the stink. Pitch dark writing is depressing. so can we. But it is not enough to exhume. go back to that compelling question. that if she can survive. the why as well and the how. In digging around in fictional graves. I doggedly followed my fictional character into harrowing scenes in order to witness her brilliant turnaround. Even more astounding than that. After writing Tess’s story. if not a crisp portrait.new contrast Fiction has this wonderful potential to crack open closed caskets in the mind. why a prostitute came to risk death on the streets. hard look at the problem first. ‘Why go there if the newspapers do?’ Taboo fiction should balance the despair of the nightly news. I think it should show a glimpse. In real life it is not possible to heal without having a good. I am far less afraid of the dark. I’m not talking Hollywood. Whiplash convinced me that writing into repulsive places is valuable if we can surface with something ebullient. It should show why the victim toppled into the trap. It invokes helplessness and humiliation and a sense that all we have left to look forward to is death. My intention was to show. or why the monster grew. but I have full faith in the glamour of their spirit. During the writing of Whiplash. I’m saying that they should have a shimmer of contradiction. Why a man came to have sex with his daughter. I came across the shocking resilience of the human spirit. It should give what their daily mirror doesn’t give. Taboo writing should take the shame of our world and work with it. I still feel a gut twist of compassion for people who suffer. and prove to myself. I think it should also give a glimpse. eons in hell. It is not enough to show details of destruction. writers can explore the truth about who we really are as a race. RI: Are you saying that such fiction stories should have happy endings? TF: No.
The self hating Tess is asked to believe it. When she tries. Why? TF: That question should best be asked of Tess. yet heavy criticism of its own message. This is what happens when the blessings of heaven spark off the madness of earth. Each turning point involves a shocking incident. but enacts painful sacrifice over and over again. It’s as if Whiplash is saying that agony brings gorgeous metamorphosis. wild changes occur. In the context of heaven. But the deeper logic of the book mocks the 58 . Once someone has decided to let the light in. Tess’s redemption is not sudden. She makes some dumb choices. A flash of immortality. While she is discovering her beauty.new contrast we killed Jesus on the cross. can help people connect with the illustrious self that exists beyond the body. It takes trauma for her to remember her sacred self. We really need to look beyond the crucifixion. life changing. ‘Is this social realism or magical realism? What genre is this?’ It is both. The effect is electric and yes. even tragedy can flick the switch of consciousness. It’s the magical effect of bringing innocence to guilt. incurable sin and driving the world harder towards its demise. The surface logic of the book tells us that no experience is wasted. Tess was humble enough to invite these breakthroughs. RI: Whiplash lifts dramatically in the last half. she persists in punishing herself out of habit. Merely opening awful secrets runs the risk of strengthening the idea of omniscient. but certainly not subtle. Forbidden ground fiction doesn’t need to end happily. RI: But her ‘miracles’ are often terribly traumatic. Whiplash argues that the essence of all people is incredible beauty. I wanted to show what happens when people step back from their delusions about who they are and ask for wisdom from their deeper. but in some subtle way they should go beyond guilty confessional. even in fiction. divine selves. The book contains a veiled. wondrous way. Help often arrives in a startling. these small miracles are perfectly realistic. Do you think you wrote a realistic ending? TF: An acerbic film critic read Whiplash and said. She yearns to resurrect. Tess changes the hard way.
Through her own graze with death. the supreme invulnerability of the soul. disembowelled and dumped with her head almost severed from her neck. Tess comes to believe that her essence will remain intact. I didn’t have the courage to write about sex slaves. She 59 . Death. I understand that she is influenced by early shame and constrained by her self concept. They would stay with her either way. no matter how much her body is raped. I Have Life: Alison’s Journey written by Alison Botha. battered or burnt. There are teachers along the way who actually say this to Tess. The only way I can bear to think about it. she could find alternative work. But she does have a degree of education. She is free in that she operates outside of the gangs. But Tess had to have some choice to make the writing emotionally manageable for me. is that these people will escape their carnality.new contrast idea that pain is necessary. Alison was stripped down to an acute awareness of her perfect power. is a release from hell. I can only mention. the South African woman who was raped. but there is a natural human delay in her ‘getting’ that sacrifice is truly an insane pastime. She made a decision at the level of her soul. for instance. In the bookshop the other day. As you say. but I built a philosophical contingency into Whiplash. She felt her head lurch back and realised that her throat had been slit. again. She replaced her stomach and propped her throat closed. The most beautiful thing about this scene is that she felt no fear! She felt the presence of loving beings who asked if she would prefer to live or die. but what about people who have absolutely no choice? What about young girls. RI: Tess is a prostitute by choice. In those cases of utterly obscene suffering. Her story is not nearly as appalling as the worst reality. It is true that many of our women and children are abducted and used as sex slaves. Tess was psychologically primed to feel like dressed-up genitalia in the service of men. in these cases. I opened the book to the moment when she felt around in the rubbish and realised that her intestines were lying among dirt and leaves. who are forced into prostitution by gangs? Where is the ‘shimmer’ of hope in their predicaments? TF: I didn’t have the strength to go there as a writer. I picked up the book.
it doesn’t matter if we say Buddha. RI: Tess is often blatantly insulting about the Church and the bible and you openly slate the original sin doctrine. I don’t care. This is all just a matter of language. I stood lightning struck in the book shop. Why then do we feel guilty instead of cleansed? It has something to do. She may well be an 60 . What Whiplash tries to show is that feeling dirty leads to dirty acts. Women tend to turn it inward and self destruct. Jesus. Ironically. impeccable wisdom.new contrast assembled her body parts and crawled very slowly to a road. Shiva or simply Soul. Is Whiplash antiChristian? TF: In the West we have created a religion that has us born as beautiful babies with a dirty debt. she said the loving beings were a figment of Alison’s hyper-stressed neurology. Angels. we believe that Jesus came to show how evil man can be. Mohammed. the language to me is irrelevant. separate from you? TF: I felt very much as if I was the conduit and a witness. Madonna. God refers to a presence of a loving. Christianity nurtures guilt from a pitifully early age. They act out this belief. When I told a friend about it. Tess collapses the holy trinity into one entity and demands more female deities. the writer and the reader. I make use of the word ‘God’ because it is culturally appropriate. they are all the same loving life force. It makes them believe that they are dark and dangerous. RI: How would you define the spirituality in Whiplash. thrilled by this real life testimony of not quite dying. of course. Neurology. I am sure. They behave atrociously. with taking the blame for a good man’s slow death. Unfortunately guilt makes people very ugly. That may be a cop-out. Self hatred tends to breed violence in men. Instead of interpreting Christianity as the story of Jesus who came to show that life on earth is only a short. He atoned for human cruelty. rather hallucinatory episode in the lovely luck of eternity. RI: You speak of her as if she is a real individual. though? TF: As I said. He died slowly from his punctures. Tess makes an excellent effort to do just this. (not the singer). It is a spiritual book deeply grounded in profanity. As Tess says.
She does the same with my ‘normal’ South African fear. in an eerie way. Our country is. freckled thing with a horrible family background. I listened as Tess dictated. I also had a wonderful editor. world famous for rape! RI: Tess does have an incredibly authentic voice. Tess quickly corrected me. slangspangled voice. Although I have never suffered from sexual violence. She absorbed elements of the women I met while doing research in the street. Maire Fisher. Tess developed a personality inflection similar to this lovely. Maire was disconcerted about Tess’s terrible grammar and punctuation sins. after all. She asked me. I constructed a semblance of a physical character from a memory that I had of a little girl I knew when I was five. How did you achieve this pitch perfect character? TF: First of all. I do know what it is to be a girl child and a mature woman. Tess expresses my ‘normal’ feminine dilemmas to a cruelly extreme degree. Occasionally I fell to whimsy and sneaked in my own vocabulary. carved her from throat to pubis and buried her in the dunes. I literally heard her stroppy. but she formed in my mind as a twenty six year old woman with a slightly hoarse voice and a gap between her teeth. She was a feisty.new contrast expression of unconscious aspects of myself. It was an hilarious process. I don’t know if she is dead or alive. It is the role of readers to receive the stories and. I have a strong sense that the voiceless knock gently on the consciousness of all of us. play a part in healing of the living and the dead.’ I replied. She was cheeky. My family moved away from the city and I heard much later that she had become a prostitute. tragic woman. All South Africans. both women and men. At first. It is the particular job of writers to transcribe their words. effervescent and incurably kind. ‘Why doesn’t she join adjectives?’ ‘She doesn’t say it like that.’ She had flat cut hair and incredibly long legs. There was a woman on the road I secretly called ‘Grace Jones. it is normal to live in constant dread of attack. must register the despair of the people who suffer from it each day. ‘Why doesn’t she use speech marks when she is quoting?’ 61 . One day a client picked her up.
’ I said. much less a white prostitute. Tess would never use the word ‘follicle. we tend to think. Our recent apartheid history makes down and out white characters difficult for South Africans to understand. White people in South African novels are usually middle class subjects.new contrast ‘She only has a standard eight!’ Maire didn’t fight. RI: The voice is consistently white working class with a Cape Flats overtone. A poor white prostitute elicits little sympathy. You had apartheid on your side and you still didn’t make it. Her failure must be personal. These places.’ Because whites have enjoyed structural support. In a way. Tess’s psychological damage has overruled her ‘natural’ class positioning. Tess dreams with all her black class compatriots. There seems to be a dearth of fiction from South Africa that champions the truly down and out white character. in an ironic. Her failed whiteness makes her a powerful expression of how 62 . Instead she welcomed Tess wholeheartedly into her psyche. we assume epic personal failure. but she lives just above the breadline. Society’s reckoning places an extra layer of shame on Tess. uh-uh. But also. Tess could be a yuppie. She buys cheap pills and counts the change. She could so easily have been a comfortable yuppie. She dreams of a nice job and a nice house and a trolley full of luxuries. ‘No. this puts Tess at the bottom of the national grid. When a white man begs for money at the robots. She had inequity in education on her side.’ ‘Damn. Her subjective experience of abuse has destroyed her self respect. she dreams of being worthy of her white skin. ‘Go away. perverse way. you are right. So hair follicle became hair ‘pore’. Then she would call me up and say. might prove too shocking for the market. She uses blow job money to pay the rent. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what difference it makes that she is white? TF: You are right. Perhaps this is because most novel writers are middle class white people! Or perhaps this is because they don’t excavate the dangerous places that can bring white characters down in terms of class. Tracey. after all.
Also. on the other hand. Her ho-hum. How did you set out to represent sexual acts in a novel that seems to be far more about violence than sex? How close is the connection to real life? TF: Sex in the novel is a job. she makes sexy shapes. has stared straight at her heartbreaking past and laid it down as spiritual bedrock. she is risking her life 63 . or rebels breaking family rules. dehumanising nature of relationships in this game. especially the black refugees from other African countries. She flashes her g-string. But the woman is an interchangeable receptacle for their urges. Interesting. Fantasy does play a role with the clients. affirming her ‘nothingness. Many of them have experienced terrible things. But we stay in Tess’s mind. that the only relevance Tess’s whiteness has in this phase of her life. they have faith in themselves. In fact. Tess’s white skin is just as at risk of being stabbed or shot. Madeleine. I deliberately did this to emphasise Tess’s monumental mistake about who she is. is that it compounds her shame and lengthens her journey towards self worth. Race on the road is quite irrelevant. She gets a strange. almost bored thoughts defuse the eroticism of the scenes. un-erotic kick from reducing them to a desperately desirous state. She lives in similar conditions to the black people in her block. but she suffers more. they are excited by the idea that they are masters with money.new contrast the influence of the mind is stronger than external circumstance. RI: You said that you will not be writing about sex for a long time after its many representations and manifestations in Whiplash. I needed to show the utilitarian. runs from buried memories. Tess’s art is eroticism.’ compulsively flogging her body. No woman of any colour can go to the police for protection. Tess. Tess’s Congolese friend. she tickles their nipples. Sex work is illegal in South Africa. On the street. She mocks them secretly and dehumanises them in return. I’d say then. they are all unfair game for the police to exploit. Tess gets a sense of power from their need. Sex in the book is all about body parts. But the truth is. Externally. Street prostitution is not the context for friendship or sudden love. Yet many live proudly.
I found it just as upsetting as some of my readers might. denying her true power with each copulatory act.new contrast for a few bucks. In fact. It explores a different form of taboo. but given the amount of men that she went with. the violence is down played! There are some higher class or ‘indoors’ prostitutes who say that they supply love to their clients. caring claim almost makes her into a modern day saint! Perhaps she did have an extraordinary calling. She went on to give tips to ‘mainstream. I became just as tired of the mechanical. It is about a little farm girl and her friendship with a dangerous psychopath. 64 . It digs around in the uncomfortable terrain of forgiveness of the insane. Personally. Veronica Monet. in Sex Secrets of Escorts: Tips from a Pro said that she shared a spiritual connection with her men. My next book is almost entirely asexual. married women’. but her sharing. loveless sex as a jaded street worker. The women on the road get sliced. it would take a phenomenally strong consciousness to counteract the daily reiteration that she is only worth what her body is worth. I don’t want to write about sex for a while unless it is loving. as to how to keep their men happy at home! There is no question that she is a specialist in sex. I’m afraid the violence in the book is all research based. beaten with bricks and burnt with hot pokers. None of it is fabricated or exaggerated. This real life character presents a difficult dilemma for feminists and people like me who believe that she is selling out.
new contrast Silke Heiss The Griffin Elegy – Part 6 A Particular Kind of Love 65 .
smelly journey – though at daybreak I’ve zoomed along before the streets have woken with my work-mates – gone now. sharpened by a sensuous trace of memory from our last encounter. I say. awaiting my unreserved praises (which I’ll have stolen from Theo without remorse). Now. I thread right through. I’ll be courteous. veering my bike with determined hands to dodge a car. kiss troubled times 66 .’ What did Melissa call it? Courteous! A courteous lust. It’s a hazardous. imagine Manja’s limber spine on this new day. I steady myself. turns desire away. Your lines – despite my recent release from your stuff – play on: ‘Thighs swollen like a bee’s full of pollen. unversed. jam a hem of vehicles: each car a stitch in place. your nipples imprinted with the softest tattoo. then I make my way. is illiterate. a blueprint of the knowledge shuddering through my vast. What I am. 2 This new humility’s partly your doing.new contrast 1 I wait till nine for the traffic to be over the worst. lost life. I think. Certainty is out. Delivery vans and trucks negotiate the slender lanes. Courtesy is what I’ll ask from Manja. I’d rather give a plaudit to me flying over the crossing. aware of the road’s curved edge (guiding rainwater when it gushes down the slopes). and so is ‘Try again’ – that’s frumpish. unspoken thoughts run wild. Stay on the track you’ve taken. though it may take more than feeble nostalgia to calm my hopes of soon fulfilling a fierce lustfulness riding with me. pedalling fast. brother. Excellent terms.
’ says Manja. ‘you’d better bring your bike inside. love’s more laborious than this. I tell myself. 67 . showing off her neat. is poised. Would you like some tea with muffins?’ I nod. fit pins. or at least cautioned me. What’s happening now is not the same as anything I recognise from times before. you’re a match for this. I know. too often uttered word. Now right into Bedford. The ramshackle gate with its handmade latch requires both hands. Could she be in two minds about my visit? Come on. which leads to Nottingham Road. I can’t gauge Manja’s expression. I weave my Raleigh through the parched. She knows that everything’s changed. ancient things. an under-used emotion. thinking of her plum-soft belly – yet suddenly the moment freezes. which in another age may well have stopped. I shudder with love’s knowing. Don’t want to deny her. are we in love? No. Manja takes refuge in avoiding the truth. overgrown little garden. As I un-strap my helmet and wiggle off my gloves. where I dismount. Could my inflated being have misread the signs? 4 ‘Did you expect me earlier? Or later?’ I enquire. ‘So what brings you here at this hour? You’re sweating. Manja opens the back door. we stare at one another across its frame. She grins with mischievous camaraderie. An animal’s gaze shows on her face that’s lost its mask.new contrast 3 unworthy of recall good-bye: ’cause the present shines. Perhaps the cold shadow I sensed just now never occurred. I ask myself.’ She’s wearing floral shorts. I heave my bicycle up the steps through the door. ‘Ahm. as she fiddles with the lobe of her ear.
’ she begins casually. conceals a pot beneath a cosy.’ Manja’s dark. but she says nothing in turn. ‘did your mom say?’ ‘She’ll never read it. The fragrance of the tea reminds me elementally of gentler times. 68 . hums a little tune. I’m here to stay a while. aligns her legs. ‘What. Then she steals a fallen crumb from my thigh. Her emphatic fluid movements as she performs the mundane rites somehow temper my booming desire with lighter notes. kneels down at the lounge table.’ I reply. gleaming eyes dilate. Manja shifts towards me. I guess.new contrast 5 She waves me through the kitchen towards the living room. positions cups and plates. ‘it gives her something to press to her heart and fawn over. I sit down on the tiles. though when these might have been I could not say.
I can’t but chuckle: ‘Your eyes are so wide!’ ‘Because. ‘I couldn’t have said I love you. Our breaths like foam on the deep join. wasn’t that your fight? That’s the courtesy. and stall our courtesies a bit to touch the ribs of a sole’s skeleton. smooth and jagged stones clutter the window sill. ‘Careful. The table moans as it shifts across two rows of tiles.’ I reach for her hand. grazing my knuckles in play. joins me on the bed and covers up.’ she replies. She shivers. her nipples hard as crystals. The sun patterns her flank with clusters of light. Theo – born from family into friendship. 69 .’ Manja remembers. ‘I ate that as a main course. an aura of hair’s around her entire form. ‘I apologise. but I stop her by the charm of touch: my fingers at her temples draw rivers of love. as sensitive to breakage. Her arm extends to touch my shoulder – I flinch. Again. she withdraws.’ she says defensively. ‘for being inconsistent.’ I murmur.’ she whispers. that’s the breach with the lie of humanity. The fine rigging’s a poem of engineering. ‘This tells anyone you’re from the sea.new contrast 6 I catch her hand before she’s able to draw it away.’ I say. ‘Oops.’ We move to the bedroom. and bones. I pull back. she yelps softly. its walls bedecked in loops of seaweed. of my love streaming – it’s water instead of blood: I understand you. 7 I sit down on the bed. beneath our fluttering lids the morning amplifies. that’s where you were wise. ‘You were always perfect. shells. the oceans in our eyes collide and mingle. our lungs encompass all.’ Her hand tugs slightly in mine.
decidedly sobered. the better to exploit my scratching. hugging me. I give her slack. 9 I apply for a job at a newly-formed publishing house for women. looks away. The range of Manja’s moods is worrying. you look inside. She’s dressed for fetching Travis. then guffaws outright. ‘I’ve always been too scared of you to laugh at you. we men?’ 70 . The Fox in this paper’s exactly what I want.new contrast 8 ‘Long ago. My chances are slim. go make some tea. languidly flicks her tail while I dial. The next moment. ‘you didn’t agree to be my wife.’ She locks her yellow eyes in mine. where’d we be. Would my statement do such damage? Or was it perhaps a memory with origins I may be unaware of ? To mend the morning’s beyond my power. but there’s nothing better going right now.’ I say to Honey. but at least she still downs my tea. the key symbolises ownership of something again. ‘Without them.’ she tells me.’ She giggles. A faithful friend. I go for a brief spin and decide there and then to buy. and my vision’s fine. ‘A good thing’s that the money’s come through from the sale of Bene Vento. she sinks back on a pillow. a sudden change in her expression takes over. ‘She’s pretty. His expression’s knowing. I’d like to say I’ll be now what you wanted then. taking refuge in her silky coat. ‘Raymond!’ I shout into Dad’s garage. ‘You judge the soul. The seller’s an adroit old biddy. ‘If only people were like you. unfortunately.’ I remind Manja.’ he comments. A sharp knife seems to have cut all access to the life that sparked between us moments ago. It’s a thrill.’ She bends her head.
’ A pause.’ ‘I won’t mention it on the occasion. these walls won’t hold more than that. reading. silent.’ she changes the subject. My commission spurs him finally to order a generator. ‘So.’ She slaps down the paper with its thickly printed sensation of the shameful rape charge and shower. his lone-wolf gaze so gloomy. turning her head away from journalists’ investigations exposing the misdeeds of the powerful élite.’ she continues. A letter: ‘Human flaws aren’t seen as blameworthy. The vision stirs me. minutes later I notice her grey re-growth.’ 71 . but I wonder. I take them to him.’ Mom says. with whose wrongs they can identify. ‘I don’t expect you to be lauding Theo’s faults. who go on rewarding themselves for mistakes.new contrast 10 ‘Dad. ‘I’ve selected twenty-five pictures. Then she says. ‘Dad’ll put up rails. That’s settled. I see my Mom anew: old. vote for the ones sitting in the same boat. it never fails to assure me somehow. and there.’ ‘It’s sickening. they’re merely a means to determining who your real friends are. ‘d’you think you’d be able to make a metal griffin?’ He waits for further explanation. it reflects on us badly. ‘You’re staying on in that rented room then?’ Amanda. shouldn’t you treat his ideas on … ownership with more circumspection? A solution would be to cut that part. be more discerning. the Eskom bosses whom ‘it won’t help to blame’. And those who vote. asks rhetorically as I meander about the living room. 11 ‘To think we helped to bring about the state of the nation as it is now. I tell him of the mould Melissa wanted re-cast and. when her photos arrive. ‘to have leaders who’re so weak.’ I say.
Manja. perhaps he’s learnt. restored from a strange illness. But eventually he managed to appease her with that promise. entitled ‘Colourful Leaves’. I conclude the talk’s got to be about David. and Gila says. by the sound of it – though Manja’s look is far from re-assuring. who’ve grown devoid of faith in love. the little house overflows with guests. which attests.’ 72 . ‘Ag. ‘I’ll rather play you these. Karl the son is present. perhaps.’ Schumann pieces. Join us Fri 4 early sup @ 6pm my plce. won’t you please play us a Mazurka. Willem squeezes her shoulder with his broad knuckles white as teeth.’ Karl hisses and grinds. Manja speaks.’ She closes the book. slinky discords. I’m glad it wasn’t in vain. ’t reminds me so of my Bohemian roots. with a fey expression and arbitrary. too. then Manja says. I admit.’ (Why’s she bringing that up?) ‘He also went insane. which I’m delighted to hear. ‘Thanks for that interlude. then several lines of chaotic-looking score – but what do I know? – yield a complicated. so we sit outside.’ On Friday night. ‘’Twas tough. counter-pointed piece. swatting gnats from the vlei. ‘His wife was also Clara. hissing laugh. to some damage. ‘Willem ’n G in town with kids. And if he’s persisting. with unexpected. The evening wears on. albeit by rules for divorcees.new contrast 12 An sms from Manja reads as if she weren’t aware she spoiled my attempt to court her again. The younger children chase a polystyrene cup the wind’s jacking high up into the air. For court her I did.’ 13 She swigs her wine like lemonade. I suppose.
Willem speaks as if he were exempted from normal daily necessities.’ we hear his scratchy voice. ‘but my modus operandi’s simple: give whatever it takes to make Karosella self-sufficient. showing that beneath his free exterior’s a man who’s shy to admit weakness. so we have tea. My dream.’ Willem reveals. Rosie and Ella lay blankets and mats on the burrs outside. I’ve read him up a bit. ‘Ambitious ideal. Thanks to you. That’s my plan. and Gila coughs. 73 . ‘Why not?’ she says.’ Willem insists. Why should my children benefit from the lion’s share when I die? That’s what’s wrong around here. Gila’s lips remain characteristically straight. keep control – which surely applies to paperwork and staff alike. ‘I’ve news.’ Willem goes on. ‘Maybe it sounds or feels contradictory. agreed?’ ‘Then surely you ought to divide it now. the load and fret of mere survival – apparently it’s Gila’s lot to administer. Gila?’ asks Manja. To be a real community.’ I say. ‘I’m dividing Karosella among all who live there now. though I’m tempted. ‘He was a happy man.new contrast 14 The children beg to stay a while longer. while thinking: absurd.’ my old ECC chum revs. ‘We’re fine.’ Willem snuffs my query from beneath a brow like smog.’ ‘And you. her eyes flit briefly to her husband. if I read you correctly.’ I don’t dare snicker. Like me. Canopus. ‘when we finally pay off our debt. and Karl indicates the stars’ positions – ‘Sirius. downing more wine. Ric. while Travis. manage.’ I counter. 15 ‘Community in Epicurus’ sense of that word. ‘otherwise it seems unfair.
’ he says – without a trace of shame.’ replies the strange boy. ‘But I noticed. that’s how I’m seething. one of them whines. I almost hiss like Karl. shadows from the neighbour’s spotlight shining through a hedge completely camouflage his face. emitting that eerie swish through his teeth.’ ‘We wear our masks.’ For a moment I’m stumped. But whenever she looks at you her eyes go sad. worst: our loss of spirit in the face of truth. no silent girls. more to myself than to him. then he asks. Willem’s naïveté constricts my breathing. ‘Are you and Manja married?’ He looks straight at me. I think you’re cool.’ I manage to say. ‘Okay.’ Willem declares grandly.new contrast 16 ‘Kibbutz principles should function just as well at Karosella. despite his self-consciousness. blandly make a weather-comment. ‘I shouldn’t say this. ‘Not sure you read us carefully. then burst: ‘What the hell. agree the sky’s all right here. Then. as if there were no debt to carry.’ he says. the epidemic with its ironic name. ‘Whatever made you think we are?’ I query. But with them it’s no better – the sisters are putting blame on one another for some offence. shacked-up hard times. but I dismiss his guilt. We size each other up. I escape round the back – and who should I find there but Karl with a chillum? At my approach he whirls around.’ 74 . no New South Africa with its time-bomb brew of disillusion. ‘Is it that bad?’ I say. the other glowers. bitterness.’ 17 Karl says nothing. so I join the children before I say something uncouth. at assigning the role of oppressor to me – ‘and I thought preferably I ought to let you know. ‘You think I’m a fool.
Sweetness. hey. She likes to live by such activities. 75 . I hear I haven’t made the interview stage for the job I sought. The story of Travis’ father’s a no-go zone. ‘Don’t bore me.new contrast 18 Days after this exchange. ushering us out. ‘He does.’ Manja snaps at him when he persists. angels. horsies. can’t shake off that weird boy’s awful verdict. Silence is fine by her. rejected. Now a thumping silence ruffs her brow. his hands alive. then says: ‘It looks a bit like Dad. She listens to Fine Music Radio. beak like a blade. she bakes stars. Travis stares. 19 ‘You’re buying that for Melissa?’ Manja asks pointedly. even as I know I’m dumb to give it any credence. But then Mom suggests. it defends her against Dad on the floor of the garage.’ ‘If your dad looks like that. which falls predictably flat.’ Raymond burbles. Wresting and wrighting. boy. Mom?’ It’s as if Amanda. I keep my distance from Manja.’ is my jovial retort. the more cut off. the more unqualified I feel.’ Looking forward. she makes no further overtures. ‘Wouldn’t you like to have Manja and Travis as guests for Christmas?’ ‘I’ve nothing against it. or so I’d thought. visibly affecting Travis. Raymond and myself had had our tongues cut out by politeness or fear of Manja who’d have us smother the sense of something scandalous. he hammers the griffin: bird face evolving. The longer I’ve no work. trying to make light by grinning awfully. dismissing the question for Manja’s sake – till now. you’ve got problems. useless. who appears caught between the devil and the sea. you don’t want to turn jealous. ‘Watch yourself. the innocent blur – tricked to purpose by custom – of days.
I can’t find words with which I might approach the unhealthy taboo which Manja’s imposed – for what reason I’ve no clue. For now. ‘Lay out the crackers. Manja leads him to the bathroom.’ Becoming less able to broach the question the longer I delay. She’s desperate – but not due to my presence. then check his mother’s face. breaking rank. The thought perturbs 21 and fascinates me. I promise Travis I’ll read him ‘Panthers’ – a gift that reaches him (it was once Theo’s book). a smile’s round her lips. She joins us on the burnt white grass. A short while later we hear the little boy’s laughter. as it dawns on me that an eagle poster at her place. her eyes on the gulls calling and soaring above. and says distractingly. dears!’ Manja and I lock our gazes. as well as Manja’s. Unbelievably. I try to meet Manja’s eyes. ‘Your hands!’ she clips in a foreign voice. and I regret our involvement. This leaves me in no doubt that Karl had a point. while I remain with Mom to deck the table. whoever that may be. I’m resolved to puzzle this one out. disturbs our twosome. partly responsible for the disaster. wine and stuffed turkey unify our chapped souls round the dinner table. Travis’ eyes flow pathetically to her.new contrast 20 ‘Do you see your Daddy at Christmas?’ Amanda chirps. ignoring the question. But poring over the glossy plates with him. ‘They’re pleased with the beaches so packed. I can’t but be mindful of Hedy’s lessons. 76 . and they emerge from their unseen healing session. is there in lieu of a photo of his real father. Amanda coos. my regrettable needs. they’ve Christmas too. over Travis’ bed. Raymond disappears. feeling angry.
new contrast 22 We see Amanda – with her now established cap of grey. I lie on my mattress. to have a link to timeless. though sound sleep it is not. and yet by some trick I do it. I simmer. 23 I sleep through Old Year’s Eve into the New Year. or other medicine. now it’s Manja’s turmoiled piano notes I hear. ‘Oh come let us adore him!’ She persuades Manja to play ‘Away in a Manger’. Manja’s weeping. in the tissue of memory. semi-conscious. somehow. or ghosts like you. Not I. joining Travis. to shades persisting. 77 . ‘Eric! Eric!’ The call’s neither here. when we’ve all gone home. then she grasps there’re stranger comforts than whiskey. who copies Tom Waits and hilariously cocks his head: ‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles. that’s the way the bee bumbles. But surely a proper conversation requires more reciprocity. Why.’ A solicitous host. who can escape the nip of History? ‘Eric!’ What do I say? Some people think it’s natural to chat with God. because he likes that carol most. as it turns out: Manja’s soon wearing her endearing pout. nor there: I know who. Theo. intangible zones. exhausted by life’s unending crap. Woken by fireworks displays and passing impromptu choirs. pills. which she’s clearly decided not to re-dye – sit at the piano. Mom’s at first bewildered. which Travis performs. and when it’s done. But later. Astonishing to be human. Mom stumbles for rescue pills and Dad brings whiskey on the rocks – an effective combination. this script of the soul’s a code so uncannily composed.
lately all her work is selfless. her posture’s brazen.’ she’s probably thinking. then – as I’d hoped – she plays a piece. ‘Let’s see how he pleads. Her face the other day. Go into her garden. 25 Manja’s miffed about the tuning.new contrast 24 As dawn breaks. I think she’d benefit if she’d tone it down a bit – her strange moods might be more controllable if she let go. ‘why waste the money?’ But she leans over the instrument and presses some keys. am calm and bide my time. I think of the sensitivity she showed towards Clara’s family. ‘Okay. ‘it’s time you faced the facts.’ Perching on the stool. just like you. Theo. but I’m taking her on. Later. was so severe. extract some weeds. Not to have music would be a serious omission. and I play terribly. I wait. Mom gives me her tuner’s number. ‘Even if I were willing. were wandering here to the lighthouse on the pier. I think it was her calling those ‘Erics’ that rolled like waves. No doubt there’s guilt. It’s my gift to Manja. I re-enter her house and say to her. ‘I’d like you to play at Theo’s exhibition. and I’ve thrown out my blinkers – she guesses as much. opening and closing doors between this and other spheres. I wish the piper in his kilt. ‘You’re not earning. she’s mine. If only I could play something.’ she bites. and I call the next day to book him for a job at Nottingham Road. thoughtful. your Mom’s the one for that.’ At that.’ Manja’s laugh is harsh. anything.’ she sulks. I wonder who that father is. I call home. I stride into Travis’ room. when Travis mentioned his father. gather burrs. Searching. truth be told. who used to greet each year. Turning 78 .
The griffin caught his fancy. it’s got to end. After learning I was pregnant. For him. I see him as an angel. And now you’re amused?’ ‘No. I feel aware of an ugly. perhaps it wouldn’t.’ I call through the house. ‘not true. but I’ve no patience now. He gave me all I ever desired. does that appal you? He was living in Spain. ‘Perhaps it would. I was so glad he’d changed my life. what your dad’s done 79 .’ 27 ‘Wouldn’t it interest that man to know he has a son?’ I retort.’ she grimaces. ‘I feel abused.’ ‘All you ever desired. I don’t expect you or anyone to want to be with me. his dad.’ ‘Truer than you think. always battling an enemy. I lied to him. You’re just like Theo. I see she’s reaching out. Travis was a holiday affair. I don’t even know his father’s surname. beyond our reach. He doesn’t see things like you. Manja.new contrast 26 towards the Bateleur in full flight on the wall. ready to sacrifice my time and precious composure to be your friend – but your lack of trust. doesn’t smell danger at odd perceptions. deep-seated burning: the temper I never had. the hours we spent together were probably not significant.’ She sits. He thought I took the pill. ‘I’m there for you. But my powers as mother – I trust those.’ I say. ‘the facts. ‘Give me.’ she nods.’ I echo.’ As I swing round to glare at Manja in the doorway. ‘just nervous when you shout. By dint of my horrible nature I can’t. without knowing it. ‘You might think I’ve denied Travis his story. That’s all. Somehow. Doing your best not to be nice. ‘but then again. his intuition’s ten times sounder than mine.
speckled the waves with kite-boarders. Now I’d welcome it – however. ‘I’ve never scorned you. ‘It’s all too much. alarm me as she turns away. so I tidy Manja’s garden.’ I say. cowed by what experiences. strange dreams. production-line juice. the unending.new contrast 28 reveals the soul of my child’s missing father to him. and bus after bus lumbers down the tongue of land we live on. ‘how’m I supposed to survive such questions? They pierce me. Boisterous dogs on their apportioned sides yank kelp.’ She’s risen again. and a part of me conjures up a vision of the cold. I’m impressed by how she masters such fuzz and chaos. My eyes are suddenly itchy with grit. you know. its bland serenity and lack of fire. puts out her arm a second time. She strokes Travis’ dolphin. put in some pots. she murmurs. very quietly. Her lip tremors as she confesses: ‘I can’t go on. in the net of sad. including yours. 29 The holiday period’s made the beaches dark with people. brother. want to sleep all 80 . I’ve yet to live my knowing. sleek life I’ve lost. but the sobs that suddenly shake her. then she drops the gesture. plasters for the scrapes. her fingers hover close to my bare arm for a moment without touching. Then. Silence. caught.’ My intention’s to speak. like you. learn not to be afraid of others’ scorn. swimmers. I admit I was embarrassed when he said it. what pain? As forlorn as you were. It doesn’t help to witness Manja’s tears. ever. relieved those tots aren’t my concern. while she ministers to Travis and his friends with heaps of hotdogs. ’t would be no use now to look for positions. high-pitched din – which sends me scuttling back to my place.
or else I won’t stop crying.new contrast 30 day. Who’s it for?’ Travis asks when we arrive. implication. am I paying. I. to find the voice with which to utter truth in the wind.’ ‘Let’s see the statue. I want to return quickly. ‘I need your help. Despite myself I have to clear the way. cut tracks through eerie dreams and thickets of love and hate. a choice. Griffin’ reads my squiggle. the receptionists smile and save our story. but her mother in Seattle swears she’ll pay. What debts. is there a choice for me? My Fox slinks home. but when I fetch her. like a skeleton. apathetic.’ I interrupt. She’s awash. I’m terrified she’ll do something. sloughed off my selfish fear of complication. It’s an ordinary January afternoon for all but us. Then we say good-bye. ‘I’ll be back soon. There’s a link between Manja. 81 . I wonder. The challenge is enunciation. telephone Manja: ‘I’m almost there. she howls as if she were a windblown rock of holes and points and edges. Seagulls fly with wings I wish were mine. Let there be no more denial. I’m free.’ We’re both in shock. Somehow during this year I’ve lost my ennui. who mews as I drive him away from the scene. The salty southeaster slams the door of the car on Travis. Travis. I think. to try such truth by uttering.’ But it’s too late. The traffic crawls along. We pull up at the clinic gate. 31 I’m hesitant to sign accountability for her fate. Yes I have. Manja behaves like a robot. Theo. the waves of crime and rape and Aids all seem to go right through. one-handed: calling Amanda to say. drowned by her sorrow. ‘E.
A Life Stripped of Illusions and The Fire in Which We Burn.za/ Arja Salafranca. Lovebirds. and coedited Glass Jars Among Trees with the poet Alan Finlay. an anthology based on tabloid headlines. and in the journal African Writing. His latest book is So Far. She has had fiction and poetry published in a number of local and overseas anthologies and journals.co. She has written a play. a children’s book in fifty languages of Africa. UCT. and had short stories published in Oshun’s Twist anthology. and was refused a visa to re-visit South Africa until after 1991. She keeps a blog at that fantastic site representing all aspects of SA writing and publishing. which was part of the 2005 PANSA Festival of Contemporary Theatre. His poems have been published in both South African and English magazines. has lived in South Africa since the age of five. Spain. England. Dean of 83 . relationships and memory. He was one of the judges of the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007. English Lecturer UCT. majoring in African Literature and Psychology. He has published five novels. Selected Poems 1960–2004. and several short stories. he became stateless in 1966. She has published two collections of poetry.new contrast People Alan Galante lived most of his life in the shadow of Table Mountain before moving to Norfolk. She lives in Johannesburg where she edits the Sunday Life section of The Sunday Independent. CJ (‘Jonty’) Driver was born in Cape Town in 1939. After leaving her career in the IT industry. She obtained a BA degree from Wits University. Book Southern Africa at http://alexsmith. Comparative Literature. death. exploring themes such as exile. a century of essays by South African women. Brasenose College. and a biography. the latest included in Twist. Berkeley. Alex Smith’s first novel Algeria’s Way was published by Random House’s Umuzi imprint in South Africa in 2007. born to a Spanish father and a South African mother in Malaga. The resulting non-fiction novel Drinking from the Dragon’s Well was published by Umuzi in 2008. Consuelo Roland has published a novel called The Good Cemetery Guide. Alex is currently working on Orphan’s Lullaby. President of NUSAS in 1963 and 1964.book. In 2007 her essay entitled ‘Was Ayn Rand Wrong?’ was selected for inclusion in The Face Of The Spirit. Russian. which was short-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Award 2006. the HSBC/SA PEN literary awards anthology African Pens – New Writing from Southern Africa 2007. Classics and English. she completed a Creative Writing Masters degree at the UCT and is now a full-time writer. six books of poetry. Oxford (Rhodes Scholar). After a Creative Writing Masters at UCT in 2005 she moved to China to work on a novel and teach English at a university in Hubei Province. Daniel Hutchinson.
His debut novel. HA Hodge is a poet. taught history at UCT in the 1970s. as co-author.new contrast Humanities. Johan has recently published. He is a novelist and short story writer. horses. Geoffrey Haresnape has published four collections of poetry. Her husband is Chinese: they have one son. Hugh has a BA (Hons) in Russian Literature from the University of Essex. Danya Ristić is content as a freelance editor and student of literature. African Tales from Shakespeare (1999). Danie van Jaarsveld is a motor sport photographer who spends most of his life traipsing around the country after race. a large free-range mole snake and other dependents. dogs. She is currently completing her first novel. She lived in Cape Town and taught in Athlone. Also a novel Testimony (1992) and short ‘stories’. as co-author. Elisabeth writes occasional poems and stories. Jenna studied Journalism at Rhodes University and obtained her Masters in Creative Writing at UCT. Her articles. a few frosties while indulging in outdoor slow food preparation. He hosts the Monday Off-theWall poetry gig in Observatory. Geoff has been a compulsive writer for many years. columns and essays have been published in most of South Africa’s top newspapers and many of its oldest and best-known magazines. An engineering degree from Wits and a healthy interest in computers structured his thinking. University of Hertfordshire. a style guide to business English. guinea fowl. was published in 2006. but it is from under a thorn tree in the corner of the garden where he soaks up life – and. both published by Pharos. Robin Hallett. plovers. The Write Stuff. She lives in Cape Town. He is also interested in applied mathematics. the most recent being The Living and the Dead: Selected and New Poems (2005). more often than not. He is content. Hence his interest in quantum mechanics. Jenna Mervis is a freelance writer and designer. Cape Town. the younger two of his four children. Karin Schimke is a journalist who left newspapers and political writing when her first child was born. Elisabeth Hallett has been living in China on and off since the early 80s. currently in Beijing. JDU Geldenhuys is a semiretired banking terminologist. rally and off road racing cars. David Medalie teaches English at the University of Pretoria. He lives on a plot outside Johannesburg with his wife. Elisabeth is a freelance editor for Oxford University Press on a big Chinese dictionary project. A new collection of his short stories will be published in 2009 by Picador Africa. She acted as commissioning editor on a collection of literary erotic short stories by some of 84 . and is currently finalising a new edition of the Business Dictionary. Director International Centre. The Shadow Follows. Bridgetown and Salt River when her father. Now lives and writes in London. editor and computer programmer.
She received the Prix de L’atelier in ’62. Scotland in September 2008. Penorent and Sharp! and online at litnet. and works at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.new contrast South Africa’s best women writers. He lives in Cape Town. a maker of furniture. and two collections of poetry. He is currently at an investment management company in Cape Town. Mimi completed her diploma there working in the afternoons and evenings over three years. They have two lovely children and live in Stanford.za. Mimi van der Merwe grew up in Malmesbury. After teaching for a while. as well as in the collections Honest Betrayals (Fenomeen Publikasies 2000). she went to Brussels in ’59 and then to Paris the following January. She studied there for two years under Bersier at the Ecole Superieur des Beaux Arts with an ‘uitruilbeurs’ from the French Government. in 1953. He is happily married to Esme. the most recent being the 2006 Thomas Pringle Award. Robert Edward Bolton’s work has appeared in the journals Carapace. In 2007 he was a teaching intern at Michaelhouse. Mimi lives in Pretoria where she teaches painting and etching. They have two children. a collection of short stories. was written during her MA in creative writing at UCT. He is also a partner in an architectural practice. and was published by Penguin in 2006. Tracey Farren’s Whiplash was the first novel he represented to publishers in South Africa after leaving full time lecturing to start his own agency. She married Paul Schoon in ’65. sport. Madlands. Melissa Butler is an early childhood teacher and a teacher consultant with the National Writing Project in the USA. for a short story published in New Contrast. a man of husbandry who writes. completing his Honours in English in 2006. Her first novel. Ken Barris has published four novels. By Word of Mouth: Seven Stellenbosch Sonnets (Stellenbosch Museum 2001) and uit die stof die see die skald se handevuurvoet tracks en die verstuite trein van wat verlange (Fenomeen Publikasies 2001). Mark Robertson read English and Mathematics at Rhodes University. Ron Irwin is a literary agent based in Cape Town who teaches part time at the UCT Creative Writing MA. near Hermanus. His interests include photography.co. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and two children. and film. She has written short stories and poems which have been published here and in the United States. Vlerk. music. He has won various literary awards. When Mevrou Ten Kate started an art course at the Tech at that time. and will be starting an MSc International Strategy and Economics at St Andrews University. 85 . Rosemund J Handler lives in Cape Town. She read for BA Tale (French & English) at Stellenbosch. Michael Boon is a practical man. Small Freedoms (Suider Kollege Uitgewers 2000).
86 . surfer and mother of two teenage children.A. in Creative Writing from UCT for a novel. She is also an editor for E-Brief News in Durban. Tsamma Season. majoring in English and History. She studied psychology at UCT a long time ago. She is a 3rd year BA student at the University of Cape Town.new contrast Her second novel. she enjoys playing soccer. Tania van Schalkwyk is the cross-continental spawn of a Hamburg sailor boy and an Indian Ocean mermaid. She has an MA in English Literature from UKZN. Uneducated in America. Sarah has been writing poetry the last fourteen years. Currently lost in Words. of course. Tara Weinberg was born in 1987 in Cape Town. Silke Heiss has an M. Raised in Arabia. This dream. Born in Africa. is subject to the pull of the sea and the children. Katy’s Kid. Tracey wrote freelance pieces for local print media and published several short stories before attempting her first novel. Her dream is to write a long drama every two years. Her third novel. Her thesis compares the poetry of Ingrid de Kok and Joan Metelerkamp. She is a member of the Live Poets Society. teaching at the College of Magic and eating Gatsbys. will be published by Penguin next year. Besides writing. Tracey Farren is a writer. which won second prize in the Ernst van Heerden Creative Writing Competition 2003. was published in 2007. Whiplash. Sarah Frost is a single mother with a toddler son. also by Penguin. The Griffin Elegy continues the story and characters begun there.
address. Word DOC. and contact number must be on every page – use the document header or footer. Email submissions must be an attached ODT. Branch code: 02-00-09 Account name: South African Literary Journal Ltd Account type: Current account Standard Bank Account number: 070508666 Credit card facilities are available on-line. 7735. Multiple pages must be numbered. Inform us if your work is accepted elsewhere before you hear from us. Submissions may not exceed six pieces including up to two of prose. If you are submitting the same material to another publication at the same time. South Africa E-mail Editor: ed@newcontrast.Editorial and subscription address New Contrast. PO Box 44844. please say so in your covering letter.net All submissions must be typed.newcontrast. which may be zipped with others for transmission. If your work is accepted for publication you will received two free copies of the issue in which your work appears • • . RTF or TXT document E-mail submissions to ed@newcontrast. Each piece must be in a separate document. Adderley Street. Cape Town. Your name. email. Please do not send original manuscripts as they cannot be returned by us. Please note it can take up to three months to receive a reply.net Email Business Manager: email@example.com Subscription Rates 2009 Check website http://www.net/ Renewals: SADC ZAR210 Renewals: Rest of World ZAR400 New subscriptions: SADC ZAR250 New subscriptions: Rest of World ZAR440 Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to the South African Literary Journal (address above) Electronic transfers to Standard Bank. Claremont. Guidelines for contributors • • • • • • • • • • Postal submissions will be accepted although e-mail submissions are preferable.
co. Then fusses off through the grass dragging black hairy tail to rearrange his stamp collection and water the tomatoes.za . licking whiskers made of bent wire.Jane Fox Ghostwriter and other poems TASMANIAN DEVIL Old cross bachelor hunched in the sunlight betrayed by his translucent flaming ears potters down to the water lowers naked terrorist face and laps. Unpublished Manuscript Press Available better bookstores (ie those that stock poetry) or contact snaily@pulsar.
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