kagablog

July 14, 2010

danila botha interviews melinda ferguson

Filed under: danila botha,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:33 am

“I am all for opening the can of worms and confronting the shadow.”

Danila Botha was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She later moved to Toronto, Canada, where she studied Creative Writing at York University, and Humber College for Writers. She volunteered with Na-me-res and Ve’ahavta, organizations benefiting the homeless, which inspired many of the stories in Got No Secrets, her first collection of short stories which was published by Tightrope Books this May, in Canada, and Modjaji Books in South Africa. She currently lives in Halifax.

Melinda Ferguson is brave. Not only did she survive years of full blown addiction to heroin and crack cocaine, she recovered enough to successfully become a journalist, and a writer who regularly shares her experiences in the hopes of helping others.

In her first book, Smacked, published in South Africa in 2005, she was unafraid to show addiction as it really was- a desperate, ugly struggle to get her next hit, an obsession that led to her abandoning everything that had once mattered to her- including her two (then young) sons.

The cycle of addiction and her subsequent recovery are described in depth, with absolutely no vanity or concern on her part for how she is portrayed. I truly believe that Smacked has, and will continue to save lives. Her second book, Hooked, was recently published by Penguin Books, in South Africa.

We had the chance to chat recently about addiction, honesty in writing, and the different reactions this has inspired.

DB: First of all, let’s talk about Smacked.

MF: Smacked was my first book, a memoir published in December 2005. It really captured the harrowing drug journey I went through between 1993 –1999. I literally gave everything up in my life: my family, my two boys, my home- everything- in search of a hit of smack (heroin) and crack. It’s a very hectic story, it goes right down into the darkness of addiction. It was very exposing. It pissed off a lot of people, especially within my own family.

DB: Which must have been massively at odds with how well it did. I can’t even imagine what that contrast must have been like.

MF: Yes, it was received very well by the book buying public. It went through 5 reprints and was a bestseller for many weeks. The reissue of Smacked will be in store on 1 July, (with my new publishers Penguin) and a new cover and a brand new chapter at the end, called Staying Stopped: Ten Steps I Took To Stay Clean and Sober.

DB: What do you think it is about it that resonated so strongly with people?

MF: I think the world is hungry for literature that talks honestly about people’s struggles and triumphs. My book is an everyman story, I was not someone people expected to turn into a junkie. I was a straight A student, a prefect (a hall monitor) at school , played netball and went to university.

I was just a person who went on some bad trips , made crap decisions and found myself homeless.

DB: Yes, I think this idea that addiction doesn’t discriminate, that it could happen to anyone, is a big part of it.

MF: Yes. Mine is a story of struggle and redemption of the self.

By way of sales figures, (Hooked is already climbing best seller charts) it seems many people are drawn to a story like mine.

We live in a highly addictive age and you don’t have to be a ‘Smack head’ to feel things like obsession and compulsion. I also realised not many books are written about the staying clean and sober process. This is one of the first ones that I know of, so maybe I am starting a whole new genre!

DB: Let’s talk about the new book, Hooked, which is the sequel to Smacked. It was just launched this month, right?

MF: Yes, and it was also written as a memoir. It’s subtitled “Secrets and Highs of a Sober Addict” and it really embraces the concept that addiction is much deeper than just using drugs and drinking. It is a state of mind, a psyche and it’s probably one of the most pervasive problems of our age along with global warming and HIV. The book traces three highly addictive Internet relationships that I embarked on as a kind of revenge on a long term boyfriend who cheated on me. They include a Facebook chat relationship with a meth head from Melbourne, Australia, a dodgy rock star from Troyeville ( a suburb of Johannesburg) and a slick, creepy critic from Cape Town . It explores the age of social networking which has literally re-colonised our world. It’s lighter than Smacked, funny, insightful and will hopefully leave the reader begging for more!

DB: Were you ever worried, as a writer who is so direct, and truthful, but is also so incredibly successful, that you would appear to be glamorizing drug use, or the recovery process? I get asked this too, by the way, because a lot of the stories and characters in Got No Secrets deal with drugs and addiction. I’m wondering if you have a good answer.

MF: I have sometimes worried about the effect I have on the reader in terms of possibly glamorizing addiction in a way, but I write about it so unglamorously, for example, in Smacked I open with a gang rape scene. In my experience, drug use is all about darkness and degradation. Many young people have read that book and sworn NEVER to touch drugs, so I think on the contrary it actually de-glamorizes drug abuse. I do worry though that sometimes when people see me these days, I seem so well and my life is going so brilliantly, that people might think it is easy to mess up your life, write a book and get back on track and live the fabulous life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have really had to work hard and struggle incredibly to get where I am today. The more open we are about these things the more we will learn. I am all for opening the can of worms and confronting the shadow.

DB: Has writing been a big part of the healing process for you?

MF: Absolutely. I have grown enormously in self acceptance and forgiveness. I really think the truth will set you free and that we are only as sick as our secrets.

I have many letters from people telling me that both Smacked and more recently Hooked have changed the way they see addiction. Many addicts have been helped to get into recovery with my book, I get letters five years later on an almost daily level, testifying to this.

Writing my truth has definitely propelled me into an amazing space in my life.

this article first published here

July 13, 2010

NOT A GOOD PLACE TO READ BOOKS

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 4:15 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

That evening he ate at the café in Hundertwasser Strasse. It was a greasy meal of sausage, fried egg, peas and chips. Salt on the chips helped, as did tomato sauce with the egg and sausage. The fat Afrikaner woman, whose buttocks engulfed her stool behind the till at the door and made him think of a circus elephant, kept an unfriendly eye on him and her two brown girls. When she spoke it was in a military baritone and the sullenness of her employees served as an eloquent character reference. They knew what she was really like. No possibility of a rough exterior hiding a heart of gold here. Tomorrow he would check the library for any Edward Hopper. Edward Hopper would be happy to pull up an easel in the shelter of a doorway the other side of Hundertwasser Strasse and paint this stark scene. The ruthless lack of compromise under the fluorescent light, the green Formica and the aluminium trim, the red Coca Cola fridges, the wire racks of Simba crisps, yellow and blue, the vast empty spaces, the figure behind the till, the solitary customer – it was classic American, so devoid of value. Edward Hopper would have immortalised him. But, arsehole, how could he have SEEN his canvas huddled in a dark doorway? With the last chip on the end of his fork he slowly and thoroughly cleaned the plate, herding the sludge into a pool away from him. With each sweep of the mop the pool deepened and as he went back for another run it began to spread out. He was aware that three pairs of eyes were trained upon him, detached but interested, as if they were watching work on a civil engineering project. Very, very slowly he raised the chip, dripping. He angled his head sideways and opened his mouth as wide as he possibly could. The chip was entering the jaws and then halted just within the threshold. His hand began to tremble and he made a gagging noise in his throat before letting the fork and chip clatter to the plate. Giggles from the girls and “Ag NEE man! Kombuis toe, kombuis toe!” from the owner. At the till she wouldn’t look at him, barking out the amount he was to pay and then furiously slamming the change on the counter. God she was huge! The weight of just one of those udders! A good four or five kilos.

By contrast the light in Kapp’s Bar was thick and slurred and making the content of the room barely intelligible. Henry sat near the door where the air was less polluted and ordered neat whisky in a beer mug and a quart of stout. The sooner he got a little drunk the better. A dark mood was descending upon him and he felt no interest in the noisy goings-on further down the bar. He only hoped he would not be molested by some pisscat trying to tell him a joke or lies about how many women he, the pisscat, was fucking on a regularly varied basis. He really wasn’t in the mood to listen to opinions on Kaffirs and kormunists. Worst of all would be a sports enthusiast. Please please please spare me rugby. He glanced towards the throng and found to his horror he had already been targeted. An emaciated individual with dwindling fair hair and small close-set eyes intent as raisins in a bun, was staring at him with an interest so unguarded as to be bordering on the lascivious. Henry frantically delved into his plastic carrier packet for the library book, opened it on the counter and turned half sideways on his stool so that his back was to the threat.

“Hello there, man.” Too late. All was lost. He had moved to the stool next to Henry’s. “Hans Castorp.” Henry turned resignedly, dread having dissolved into the numb pain that a condemned man feels. Beyond the crucial point at which surrender takes place it was almost a relief to confront his fate.

“Yes?”

“Hans Castorp.” A pause. “What did you say your name was?”

Ag no man. This is kak. “Er… you can say my name is er, Leopold. Leopold Bloom. I’m trying to read this book, you know.”

“Oh. This isn’t a good place to read books. You should go to a library or somewhere. People come here for company. They don’t actually like you to read books in here.”

“Well, personally speaking, I couldn’t give a fuck about whether anybody likes it or doesn’t like it. This is a public bar, isn’t it? As long as I buy a drink I can sit at the counter and cry, I can stand with one foot on the brass rail and play with myself through a hole in my pocket. I can play dominoes, darts, matchsticks or snooker – if there’s a table, which there isn’t, fuckin’ dump. I’m perfectly entitled to piss down my leg and to puke on the floor. It’s quite acceptable behaviour to break glasses and fall down messy and bleeding. Loud swearing and singing is permitted. Drooling over pornographic magazines stained with semen is a frequent activity. So why can’t I quietly sip a drink and read my book? Tell me that, Frans.”

“Hans. Hans Castorp.” He had a Francis Bacon mouth. It was fleshy and loosely distorted, the lower lip hanging open, partly to facilitate breathing and partly as a result of its own weight. It was the colour of half-cooked sheep’s liver, somewhere between carbuncle red and lead grey. “Leopold, you must understand something. We are a small community here and our view of the world is limited. We are threatened, we feel very vulnerable, when a bohemian like you, enters our…”

“WHAT?!?” Henry shouted, his eyeballs leaping outwards. “WHAT did you say? Did you say BOHEMIAN? Christ Almighty! Can it be possible that you know the meaning of the word? Is it at all credible for a barfly in an abandoned dorp on the edge of the desert, between scoured land and hostile ocean, where human endeavour has failed, whence all vestiges of refinement and artistic appreciation have fled, leaving behind the cripples and the subnormal to serve a brutish clan wrestling a living from this desolate end of the earth – is it possible, is it conceivable, is it within the bounds of logical probability, for such a barfly to be aware of the term BOHEMIAN?” Henry was warming to the subject and becoming ever more excited as he assimilated the implications. “To employ the word implies an awareness of a whole world of ideas totally impossible and alien to your kind. Unless you be one of the cripples left behind. Meneer Catspiss, reveal your true identity.”

“Castorp. But please call me Hans. No Leopold, you are mistaken to think…”

“Yes yes yes. But you must admit my astonishment is understandable. To find, in the midst of this, this…” He gestured towards the group slowly moving in a circle about a central figure who was rendering a primitive song in a mixture of German and Afrikaans. At the end of each verse the circle halted and there was a chorus of piglike grunting. “Bohemian! Hey, barman, more whisky stout. And a rum and Coke for this oke.”

“Thank you, Leopold. I would like to say it is very gracious of you but I would be a liar to describe your manner as having anything to do with grace. As I was trying to tell you, you are mistaken in thinking the common man, the ‘barfly’, as you call him, is not capable of artistic appreciation. You have fallen into a very, very old trap.” He coughed, tried to clear his throat, and then coughed another twenty or thirty times, his left hand in a fist against his chest. “Excuse me.” His lips spoke and he drew forth a handkerchief of a dark and indeterminate colour. With it he pretended to wipe his nose but was actually using it to receive material from his mouth.

“Hell, man, I hope you’re not infectious.” Henry took a gulp of whisky, laying his trust in the antiseptic powers of the spirit. “I hope you’ve got your funeral policy up to date, ha, ha!”

“My doctor,” he was regaining his breath and his voice, “my doctor assures me it’s nothing. The fog, the fog. Just a bit of lung tissue sloughing off, you know. Irritative secretions draining into the bronchi, he tells me.”

“Doctors! You talk to me about doctors? You do realise all the literary greats, without exception, have held doctors up for ridicule?”

“Some have, yes. There must be something about doctors that offends the literary senses. I wonder what it can be Leopold?”

“I’ll tell you, Schultz. Sorry, Hans. The artist sees a doctor as something of a corpse-fucker. You know what I mean? Self-enrichment at the expense of the helpless. Cynical exploitation of disease and morbidity. Indecent gratification gained without consent. There’s a technical term for a person who fucks corpses…”

“Necrophilia. Yes, a distant uncle of mine was a necrophile and funny enough, he was a doctor, now you come to mention it. A professor of experimental surgery at Gottenhimmelfontein University. He had free access to the dead. I remember him telling me as a boy, I was maybe fourteen or fifteen years old, how he got into it. As an intern he was on duty one sunny afternoon in the casualty department when they brought in this girl, maybe eighteen or nineteen, still warm, fresh and perfectly preserved, like Sleeping Beauty, and they laid her on the table. Riding boots and jodhpurs below a stretch knit top. The vulnerability of her silent wrist stirred something in him. He told me it came as a shock to him to discover his erectile tissue was flooding with hot blood. It was quite involuntary. The transparent blue of her eyelid before he gently lifted it and looked into the black well filled him with tenderness. He described it as an uncontrollable desire to reverse the tragedy.”

“But you’re taking me literally! When I speak of doctors as corpse-fuckers I’m not speaking of those doctors who actually fuck real live corpses, for Christ sake, but rather I’m meaning it in a figurative sense. That’s the trouble when one talks of artistic matters to the unrefined. They’re on a different plane. Philistines. Anyway this pervert uncle of yours was talking shit. When I say ‘indecent gratification’ I don’t necessarily mean some gross aberration of sexual behaviour but rather a breach of morality in pursuit of a vice. When I say ‘without consent’ I don’t necessarily mean rape but rather a violation of trust. NOW do you see what I mean? Hans Christian Andersen.”

Hans Castorp was coughing again so Henry continued with his attack on the practitioners of formal Western medicine, fired more by liquor and the mood that was upon him than by any great conviction. He was contemptuous of lawyers, priests, politicians, even academics and artists. He was contemptuous of the common worker labouring all the days of his life, stolid as an ox. He was contemptuous of society and, above all, of himself. So the attack on doctors, he knew, was really aimed more generally and widely. Or, more specifically, at THE CONDITION.

“Cough, cough, cough! Look at you, man. You’re dying. I can read the pain on your face and in your eyes and some corpse-fucking doctor tells you it’s nothing! What disgusts me is their arrogance and their hypocrisy and the whole feeble deception. Serving humanity? Dedicated? Selfless sacrifice for the relief of suffering? My arse! Status and goods, that’s what drives them. Ever met a sympathetic doctor? No ways. They’re always impatient, glancing at the watch, calculating the price of your sickness against the price of another pair of shoes for the bitch wife with the reluctant cunt. They take … Hey, Jesus!”

Hans Castorp had fallen off his stool and was lying in an impossible position with his mouth dribbling blood onto one of Henry’s black leather Navy boots. Henry felt a little embarrassed by this apparent show of adoration but was reluctant to withdraw his foot as it was cushioning the man’s face from the hardness and the filth of the floor.

“Barman! Barman! BARMAN! You drunken poes, call a doctor!” The circle had broken ranks and was now regrouping about Henry and his fallen companion. A bespectacled, chubby man in his late twenties, face shining with sweat, took charge of the situation.

“Stand back, stand back! I am the doctor here, not anybody else. Make room, give me air to breathe, can’t you. I will not tolerate onlookers. Do you think I am about to give a free anatomy lesson, or something? Give me my bag. I never go anywhere without my black bag. Where is it? Who has got my bag? If anyone has interfered with the contents of my bag I shall have him jailed for at least five years.”

The barman handed over the black leather bag.

“It voz found in ze toilet, Herr Doktor. I voz keepingk it for safe keepingk.”

The doctor blushed like a nice young girl being confronted by her first flasher.

“I… I… It must have been stolen. Somebody else… I’ll call the police if…” He fumbled with the combination until he hit the missing number and drew out a stethoscope, which he immediately hung about his neck. The chain of office seemed to steady him and he again took command. “Never a moment’s rest. A doctor’s life is the most demanding of all the noble professions. Even in the most private of situations I can’t relax. I’ll just clear my head a little.” And, after clenching his left fist and slapping the wrist vigorously, he threaded a vein and slowly squeezed the trigger. “Aha!” He withdrew the needle, upon whose tip a tiny bubble of bright red blood teetered. “Now for some Smarties, ha ha ha!” Half a dozen tablets were shaken into the palm of his hand and thrown to the back of his mouth. Two gulps of beer to wash them down and the doctor was radiating manic confidence. “Now, show me the victim.”

All the while Hans Castorp had lain without motion in his position of supplication.

“You! Get your bloody foot out of the way!”

“Fuck you,” said Henry, but withdrew his foot. The doctor either did not hear or chose to ignore the remark and pulled the patient over onto his back.

“Aha, yes. I know this character. One of my own patients probably. Yes, Catsup or something. Can’t quite recall the history. Remarkably slow pulse, enough to try the patience of any busy practitioner. Not having the case history in front of me makes it damn difficult to diagnose with certainty. The failure of something, possibly one of the vital organs. Could well be the heart but then again the malnourished appearance, slightly distended abdomen and bilirubinous tinge to the complexion would indicate portal-systemic encephalopathy. Yes, now there can be little doubt left in my mind: frankly, this man is in hepatic coma associated with liver disease. Yes, this man’s liver is diseased to the stage where portal-systemic encephalopathy accompanies fulminant acute hepatitis. Undoubtedly. And the aetiology? You may well ask. This coma has been precipitated by frequent and protracted alcoholic debauches.”

“Kak! What about the coughing? What about the blood? Everybody looks yellow in this light, even you, Doctor Pork.”

“Get back! Get back, you drunken oaf! I’m the doctor here, nobody else. Hepatic coma, I say! Treatment, treatment,” and again he foraged in his black bag. A blister pack of torpedo-shaped cylinders was produced and he shouted to the swaying onlookers, “Remove his trousers, can’t you. The patient must receive a prostaglandin suppository per rectum.”

Willing assistants began to roll the man about, unbuckling his belt, pulling up his shirt, yanking down the trousers and underpants to his ankles, positioning him on his knees and his face.

“Prostaglandin?! But isn’t that what backyard abortionists give…?”

“Shut up! What do you know about the pharmacology of modern drugs? I will not have the validity of my diagnosis and treatment questioned by an ignorant layman. Move! You, leave off touching him there. Make room for the procedure.”

He had unrolled a condom onto the middle finger of his right hand, squeezed a sachet of KY jelly onto it and now advanced upon his patient. Henry turned to the bar. He did not wish to witness the atrocity. He should leave, get away from these half-people. Next to his empty glass was Hans Castorp’s rum and Coke, barely touched. Carefully he decanted it into his own, ensuring that it poured away from where the sick man’s lips had touched. Not bad, rum and Coke. He drank it quickly and kicked over his stool before making an exit. The world of Hieronymus Bosch was no doubt amusing to the casual observer but he had no inclination to be painted into it as a minor character.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

July 12, 2010

Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind — PRE-ORDER

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:22 am

Unlikely 2.0, the web-magazine of art and culture, is changing the definition of a literary anthology. Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind will be an extensive examination of all the excitement art can be: the physical embodiment of all things Unlikely. It’s due out in August 2010, but by pre-ordering now, you can get free shipping to the US and Canada and help fund this enormous project. Pre-order it as a Christmas gift, and we’ll let the recipient know it’s coming, that they might feel like they had Christmas in December and August, but the one in December kind of sucked! Or check out the anthology’s submission guidelines at Unlikely 2.0

order it here

Verbode vrugte

Filed under: literature,melissa adendorff — ABRAXAS @ 8:34 am

Verbode gedagtes streel oor jou soos my hand jou lyf onder my vingerpunte voel … soos my gedagtes elke deel van jou in neem, jou donker plekke, jou geheime plekke ontdek en inval … jou geheime plekke wat jy verbode gemaak het vir almal (behalwe vir my).
My verbode gedagtes soen jou lippe wat onder myne ‘n hartseer glimlag uitbeeld. Ons verbode gadagtes maak dat jy ‘n traan oor jou lippe val, en ek kan proe wat jy so goed wegsteek.

Verbode gedagtes lei jou by die hand tot binne die verbose kamer, waar, deur all die herrinderinge, niks meer heilig is nie. Jy sien jouself deur my oë, die oë van iemand anders as jy. Jou oë brand met al die trane van al die pyn en al die plesier van al die wêreld in een lyf vasgevang, in een hart vasgevang in een oomblik van verbode lus. Verbode hart in jou verbode lyf wat ek aan raak met my verbode vingers. In daardie verbode kamer staan ons, hand in verbode hand, tong in verbode mond, oortreding van die verbode lyn tussen verbode lyf in verbode plekke … geheime plekke … donker, nat plekke … verbode vrugte in die donker, gepluk … ryp.

Verbode gedagtes strek uit, uit jou oë uit in my verbode gesig in. Agter my verbode masker sien jy iets in my. Ek, wat hier in verbode gedrange vasgevang is; jy wat jouself in voor my gedrang neerlê en op offer. Ek, die meester, met jou geheime-plek sleutel in my verbode hand, verbode skedel, verbode lyf. In ons verbode omhels sit ons in mekaar vas, meester and slaaf, self in self, verbode plekke oopgeskeur, masker afgehaal. Verbode gesigte teen mekaar, verbode lug in getrek deur verbode lugpype wat toe gedruk work onder verbode vongers in ‘n verbode omlyning. Verbode vrugte, nat en ryp val van jou verbode lyf … verbode woorde uitgedruk, in verbode lekker in ‘n verbode sug.

July 11, 2010

Judging new ‘South African’ fiction in the transnational moment.

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:18 am

The end of ‘South African’ literary historiography?

A few years ago, I asked the question, “Does [English] South African Literature African literature, literary works of the African continent. African literature consists of a body of work in different languages and various genres, ranging from oral literature to literature written in colonial languages (French, Portuguese, and English). Still Exist?” (2005) in a keynote address keynote address
n.
An opening address, as at a political convention, that outlines the issues to be considered. Also called keynote speech.

Noun 1. for a Wits University colloquium col·lo·qui·um
n. pl. col·lo·qui·ums or col·lo·qui·a
1. An informal meeting for the exchange of views.

2. An academic seminar on a broad field of study, usually led by a different lecturer at each meeting. dealing with the contested terrain we used to call ‘South African literature’ (often eliding the crucial qualifier, ‘English’). Whether we can or should still talk about ‘SA English Literature’, and whether it does or should continue to exist is partly the subject of this essay. In the Wits address, I suggested that ‘South African’ literature in English, in the (60s Dennis Brutus Dennis Vincent Brutus (born November 28, 1924) is a South African poet. A graduate of the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Witwatersrand, Brutus was formerly on the faculty of the University of Denver and Northwestern University. ) ‘Knuckles Fists Boots’ mode, or in the (70s Andre Brink) ‘Looking on Darkness’ moment, was dead, and that I was glad of it. In the same way that Es’kia Mphahlele (1959: 199) declaimed in the late 1950s against the kind of (South African) writing composed at “white heat, everything full of vitriol vitriol: see sulfuric acid. “, confessing to his exhaustion with it, my reading was that a feeling of ‘enough’ with landlocked, ‘vitriol’ writing had become widespread, even among the adherents of ‘SA Lit’. In its wake, a phenomenon one might call (assuming ‘English’ as implicit) ‘Literature out of South Africa’–writing emanating from the country and written after a decisive transnational rupture –had arisen in defiance of, or in a state of indifference to, the codes and conformities of the earlier historical-political emphases in the country’s corpus of writing. This newer writing was no longer necessarily held within the seam of intercultural convergence, no longer always seeking to flatten out the ridge of that seam yet leaving in its wake the mark of that suture suture /su·ture/ (soo´cher)
1. sutura.

2. a stitch or series of stitches made to secure apposition of the edges of a surgical or traumatic wound.

3. to apply such stitches.

4. . (1) A couple of years later I asked the rhetorical question rhetorical question
n.
A question to which no answer is expected, often used for rhetorical effect.

rhetorical question
Noun whether many of us who had previously regarded ourselves as scholars of South African English Literature English literature, literature written in English since c.1450 by the inhabitants of the British Isles; it was during the 15th cent. that the English language acquired much of its modern form. had not now become, or wanted to become–in the wake of the poststructuralist turn and the death of the author as a revered figure–academic ‘rock stars’ in our own right, more interested in writing in our names on any number of sexy topics (cities, oceanic discourse, jazz, metropolitanisms, whiteness studies, ugly/beautiful aesthetics, self-styling, to name a few) than in the more modest tasks of assessing, describing and evaluating the writings of others demarcated as ‘imaginative SA writers’. I warned, however, that a more broadly cultural imaginary, out of which the newer forms of critical writing necessarily emerged, depended on the continued existence of a literary-imaginative archive, and that if we failed to record and assess the newer writers and their works, even the broader cultural imaginary could well become etiolated (De Kock 2008a).

In that address, I named a selection of the newer SA writers, aiming to shock the audience into a sense of unfamiliarity with their names. Then, the litany sounded as follows: Andrew Brown (2007), Finuala Dowling (2005, 2007), Craig Higginson (2005), Niq Mhlongo (2004, 2007), Henrietta Rose-Innes (2000, 2004), Heinrich Troost (2007), Kopano Matlwa (2007), Shaun Johnson (2006), Lisa Fugard (2005), Fred Khumalo (2006a, 2006b, 2008), Aryan Kaganof (2002, 2006, 2007), Manu Herbstein (2001), Lebo Mashile (2005), Rachel Zadok Rachel Zadok is a writer and a Whitbread First Novel Award nominee (2005). She is a graduate of the Certificate in Novel Writing course, run by the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning at City University, London. (2005), Imraan Coovadia (2006), Gerald Kraak (2006), Angelina Sithebe (2007), Russel Brownlee (2005), Sarah Penny (2002), Gabeba Baderoon Gabeba Baderoon is the 2005 recipient of the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry.

She was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on February 21, 1969. She currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa and Pennsylvania, USA. (2005, 2006), Kirsten Miller (2007). This list was already sharply abbreviated, excluding well-known names such as Zoe Wicomb Zoe Wicomb (born 1948 in Namaqualand, South Africa) is an author. She gained attention in South Africa and internationally with her first novel, You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987), which takes place during the apartheid era. (2001, 2006), Ivan Vladisavic (2001, 2004), Mike Nicol (1994, 2006, 2008), K Sello Duiker duiker (dī`kər, dā`–), name for members of a group of small, light antelopes, found in thick brush and forest over most of Africa. All stand under 25 in. (64 cm) high at the shoulder. (2000, 2001, 2006), Jo-Anne Richards (1996, 2008), Mark Behr (1995,2000), Ashraf Jamal (1996, 2002), Phaswane Mpe Phaswane Mpe, (September 10 1970 – December 12 2004), was a South African poet and novelist. He was educated at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was a lecturer in African literature. His debut novel, Welcome to Our Hillbrow, was published in 2001. (2001) and Rayda Jacobs (1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006); it also excluded Afrikaans and African-language writers, in whose ranks there were literally scores of new proponents of literary worth, and poets (apart from two exceptions), who, I added, had always outrun out·run
tr.v. out·ran , out·run, out·run·ning, out·runs
1.
a. To run faster than.

b. To escape from: outrun one’s creditors.

2. literary reckonings, and still do, existing for the most part in a kind of nether-space of literary semi-visibility unless they take to the stage and sing like troubadours for people’s entertainment. Dramatists are equally marginal for reasons peculiar to the pedagogies of teaching literature in classrooms.

this article continues on thefreelibrary.com

July 10, 2010

helgé janssen’s tell tale reviewed by ruby bogaard

Filed under: helgé janssen,literature,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 5:17 pm

It has to be said that Helgé Janssen’s book Tell Tale is a most poignant study of 80s sub-culture in South Africa. Something that tends to be overlooked when one is dredging through the messy remains of apartheid is that alongside race and gender, creativity was also denigrated and crushed. Janssen remained and still is an example of fortitude in the face of this denigration. His tale of Ampleby gives credence to his own creative endeavours as well as to the individuals that he encountered.
How to classify this work! I remember finding Tell Tale under Gay Literature in one of our more prominent bookstores and my first reaction was FINALLY! However, I felt some annoyance as it should also have been placed under mythology, psychology, history….. Perhaps the work is autobiographical in its examination of Ampleby’s life, but as with the individuals he portrays, this character takes on a dimension that allows the reader to engage with him on a personal level. This personal engagement is enhanced by the honesty with which the tale is written, which in turn allows for engagement on a level that in Jungian terms is called the collective unconscious. To me this makes the work highly relevant to our time, as it is a record of what became one of the struggles under apartheid.
The crushing of independent creative thought has to be one of the crimes against humanity. Yet, Janssen weaves this tale through the interstices of time, threading back and picking up the slipped stitches. There is a postmodern eclecticism to his writing style as well as a blade-like precision. He makes no apology for Ampleby, but at the same time is not out to ‘shock’ his audience with crassness. The tale is as it is in its objectivity, yet is interwoven with magical silver threads. He has spun a wonderful yarn and if he is a tattle tale telling a tall tale, he has done so spectacularly. Sequel due when………………….?

July 8, 2010

alain on the slave and power

Filed under: literature,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:49 am

The slave is a kind of animal. Somehow he must be forgotten; and what he thinks is of interest to no one. Otherwise everything would have to be changed. The gods of power and of order do not look down that far. If they did they would find their own negation, their precise negation. For, by an effect which the tyrant is always dimly aware of and which he avoids by means of his ministers of all degrees, divine power expires at the point at which consent is no longer an issue. No one tries to make a slave believe anything, except that what he believes does not matter. Force, become this explicit, negates itself. Animals are governed like slaves in agrarian existence, not without a kind of religion; but good sense warns us that the slave cannot be made a god; for we can invent a kind of animal thought; but the idea that a slave might be able to think, must be absolutely denied. This denial stands as an absence and a voice in ancient thought, and also in all thought of empire; for slavery has its part at every level of such thought, but it is shameful and hidden. The slave is a naked man.

The greatest human fact is that the slave does think; and the fable is his witness. We smile at the way the fable makes animals talk and think, through bold use of metaphor, which purposely cannot be believed, and so cannot offend. For animals do not talk, and men are not animals. Everything being false, the truth can show itself. This essential form of fiction is well explained by the fact that, under the rule of power, which never relaxes, no truth can be told. The very fiction of talking animals expresses the play of force as it would be but for hypocrisy, and therefore simply as it is, for hypocrisy is a cover, but it changes nothing. And this itself is the slave’s discovery, which only the slave could make. However little the rest of us may profit from the existing order, we still do not expose it.

Each soul saves itself as best it can, and there is no absolute slave. But the least amount of power excludes friendship. This severe and desertlike view shows well enough that power is not a god; and it shows more; it shows that power was never a god. It is a great moment, and eternal in each of us, when we deny justice absolutely. And the spirit stands behind man, always behind him, casting shadows and shadows of shadows, never anything more.

Alain (émile-august chartier)
The Gods

July 7, 2010

Okot p’Bitek (1931-1982)

Filed under: literature,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 6:58 pm

Ugandan poet, anthropologist, and social critic, who wrote in Luo and in English. P’Bitek was one of the most vigorous and original voices in East African 20th-century poetry. His satirical monologues dealt with the conflict between European and African cultures. In his most famous poem, The Song of Lawino (1966), p’Bitek introduced a style that became known as “comic singing.”

Stop despising people
As if you were a little foolish man,
Stop treating me like saltless ash
Become barren of insults and stupidity;
Who has ever uprooted the Pumpkin?
(from ‘My Husband’s Tongue Is Bitter,’ in The Song of Lawino)

Okot p’Bitek was born in Gulu, Northern Uganda, into a family of Luo people. At that time Uganda was a protectorate of the British Empire. P’Bitek’s mother was a gifted singer, composer, and leader of her clan. Under the influence of his mother, p’Bitek grew up learning the tales, proverbs and songs of Acholi folklore (sometimes referred to as Lwo or Luo). P’Bitek himself was an accomplished dancer and drummer. P’Bitek attended Gulu High School and King’s College, Budo, where he wrote and produced theatre and opera. After a two-year course at the Government Training College in Mbarara, p’Bitek taught at Sir Samuel Baker’s School near Gulu. While still a student, p’Bitek published his first poem, ‘The Lost Spear’, based on a traditional Luo folk story.

As a member of the Uganda national soccer team, he toured Britain in 1956, and stayed there to study. His first novel, Lak Tar Miyo Kinyero Wi Lobo (If Your Teeth are White, Laugh!), p’Bitek published in Luo in 1953. P’Bitek took a diploma in education in Bristol, and later he studied law at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth and social anthropology at Oxford, where he completed in 1963 a B.Litt. thesis on the traditional songs of Acoli and Largo. Returning to Uganda at the age of 33, he joined the staff of the Department of Sociology at Makerere University College in Kampala, the capital city. Two years later he became a tutor with the Extra-Mural department. P’Bitek also founded the Gulu and was appointed director of the National Theatre and National Cultural Centre in Kampala. Later in 1968 in Kenya he founded Kisumu Arts Festivals.

As a poet p’Bitek made his breakthrough with The Song of Lawino. It was first composed in Luo in rhyming couplets and was translated into English by the author, who according to his own words clipped a bit of the eagle’s wings of the original Acholi poem “and rendered the sharp edges of the warrior’s sword rusty and blunt, and also murdered rhythm and rhyme”. Although the work was turned down by several British publishers, in 1966 it became a bestseller. A separate American edition, by the World Publishing Company, was issued in 1969. The Luo original was published in 1971. P’Bitek’s friend and colleague Taban lo Liyong published in 2001 a new translation of the poem, The Defense of Lawino, which aimed to be more faithful to the Acholi original.

“It may seem ironical that the first important poem in English to emerge in Eastern Africa should be a translation from the vernacular original,” wrote Gerald Moore in Transition (no. 31, June-July, 1967). Like p’Bitek’s other long poems, it was written as a story, narrated by one person. Lawino, a non-literate woman, laments her fate. “Husband, now you despise me / Now you treat me with spite / And say I have inherited the / stupidity of my aunt /”. Her university-educated husband has adopted Western ways, rejected her, and taken another, Westernized woman. Lawino claims that he has lost his manhood by reading books: “Bile burns my inside! / I feel like vomiting! / For all our young men / Were finished in the forest, / Their manhood was finished / In the class-rooms, / Their testicles / Were smashed / With large books!”

The Song of Lawino was followed by Song of Ocol (1970), in which Lawino’s husband respons to her. “Mother, mother, / Why, / Why was I born / Black?” says Ocol eventually in ‘What Is Africa to Me?’, revealing his true alienated character. Together these books form a polemic, oratorical account of the changing times, dramatized through the accusing voices of marriage conflict. However, p’Bitek’s narrators are not only representatives of certain opposing values and attitudes, but lively personalities, with their deficiencies, humor, bitterness, and need of understanding. Skilfully p’Bitek inspires his readers to make conclusions and to create a synthesis after reading both collections. The author himself belonged to the generation, that had absorbed early native culture during the colonial period, but then had received a British education. P’Bitek’s own choice was to take a stand against Western infiltration and defend Acoli traditions and customs.

Two Songs (1971) included Song of a Prisoner, apparently inspired by the assassination of the Kenyan politician Tom Mboya, and Song of Malaya, about hypocrisy and sexual morals (malaya means “prostitute”). The book, dedicated to Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), the murdered prime minister of the Republic of the Congo, was awarded the inaugural Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1972. All these early collections were published by the East African Publishing House. P’Bitek also published a collection of Acoli traditional songs, The Horn of My Love (1974), and a collection of Acoli folktales and short stories, Hare and Hornbill (1978). His major academic studies were Religion of the Central Luo (1971), African Religions in Western Scholarship (1972), and Africa’s Cultural Revolution (1973). P’Bitek was a frequent contributor to Transition, a journal published at Makerere, and other journals. His essays varied from literary criticism, such as ‘The Self in African Imagery’, to articles on anthropological, sociological, and philosophical questions. P’Bitek’s direct poems and his academic works caused much debate. He attacked both reactionary modes of thought and the uncritical acceptance of modernization, and was criticised by British observers for his Afrocentric views and cultural nationalism, and by feminist observers, who had trouble in accepting p’Bitek’s one-sided satirical portrayal of African women.

Uganda became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1962 with Milton Obote as prime minister. After criticizing the government of Uganda in Zambia, p’Bitek became persona non grata in his own country and moved to Kenya. His disillusionment he expressed in the poem ‘They Sowed and Watered’, in which a lamb named Freedom is dead, the cynical people laugh bitterly, and a young boy who cares, is killed. “The peals of laughter / Poisoned arrows / Hit the boy like swords of steel / And blood from his heart / Anointing the land.” The rest of his life p’Bitek spent teaching in Kenya and in the United States. Obote was overthrown in a miliary coup in 1971, and Idi Amin seized power. During his reign a huge number of Ugandans were killed and the economy collapsed. In 1971 p’Bitek became a senior research fellow at the Institute of African Studies in Nairobi. He also lectured in sociology and literature at the university. The Amin years P’Bitek spent in exile, and then returned to Makerere as a professor of creative writing. He died of a liver infection on July 19, 1982. His daughter, Jane Okot P’Bitek, is also a writer, whose Song of Farewell (1994, a volume of poetry, was dedicated to the memory of her father.

For further reading: The Last Word by Lo T. Lijong (1969); ‘Introduction’ to Song of Prisoner by E. Blishen (1971); A Reader’s Guide to African Literature, ed. by Hans M. Zell and Helene Silver (1972); Homecoming: Essays on African and Caribbean Literature, Culture, and Politics by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1972); The Poetry of Okot p’Bitek by George A. Heron (1976); Uhuru’s Fire: African Literature East to South by Adrian Roscoe (1977); ‘Okot p’Bitek: Literature and Cultural Revolution’ by S.O. Asein, in Journal of African Studies 5.3 (1978); Twelve African Writers by G. Moore (1980); Thought and Technique in the Poetry of Okot p’Bitek by Monica Nalyaka Wanambisi (1984); ‘Okot p’Bitek: A Checklist of Worls and Criticism’ by Ogo A. Ofuani, in Review of African Literatures 16.3 (1985); New Poetry from Africa: A Poetry Course for Senior Secondary Schools, ed. by R. Johnson, D. Ker, C. Maduka, O. Obafemi (1996); Postcolonial African Writers, ed. by Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne (1998); The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry, ed. by Gerald Moore and Ulli Beier (1998); Oral Traditions As Philosophy: Okot P’Bitek’s Legacy for African Philosophy by Samuel Oluoch Imbo (2002) – For further information: Okot P’Bitek (1931-1982)

Selected works:

* Lak Tar Miyo Kinyero Wi Lobo, 1953 – White Teeth (translated in 1989)
* Oral Literature and Its Social Background Among the Acholi and Lango, 1963
* Song of Lawino: A Lament, 1966 (originally: Wer pa Lawino)
* Wer pa Lawino, 1969 – Song of Lawino: A Lament (transl. by P’Bitek, 1966) / The Defence of Lawino: A New Translation of Wer pa Lawino (transl. by Taban lo Liyong, 2001)
* Song of Ocol, 1970
* Religion of the Central Luo, 1971
* Themes in Acoli Funeral, 1971
* Two Songs: Song of Prisoner, Song of Malaya, 1971
* African Religions in Western Scholarship, 1972
* Myths and Nation Building, 1972
* Africa’s Cultural Revolution, 1973
* African Culture in the Era of Foreign Rule, 1885-1935, 1974
* The Horn of My Love, 1974
* Hare and Hornbill, 1978
* Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol, 1984 (reprint edition)

this article first appeared here

Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967)

Filed under: literature,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 6:15 pm

Nigerian poet who wrote in English. Okigbo died in the civil war in Nigeria, fighting for the independence of Biafra. His difficult but suggestive and prophetic poems show the influence of modernist European and American poetry, African tribal mythology, and Nigerian music and rhythms. “Prophetic, menacing, terrorist, violent, protesting – his poetry was all of these,” S.O. Anozie wrote in Christopher Okigbo: Creative Rhetoric (1972).

Thundering drums and cannons
in palm grove:
the spirit is in ascent.
(from ‘Sacrifice’)

Christopher Okigbo was born in Ojoto in eastern Nigeria, which at that time was still Britain’s colony. His father, James Okigbo, was a primary-school teacher. Okigbo’s family was Roman Catholic, but his grandfather had been a priest of the river god Idoto. Okigbo studied at Umulobia Catholic School and in 1945 went for his secondary education to Umuahia Government College. Like other major Nigerian writers, including Wole Soyinka, Elechi Amadi, John Pepper Clark, and Cole Omotso, he entered the University College of Ibadan. Okigbo first planned to study medicine, but changed his major to Greek and Latin. He edited the University Weekly and translated Greek and Latin Verse. After graduating in 1956 he worked among others as a teacher and an assistant librarian at the new University of Nigeria. Fascinated by big business he tired to create career at the Nigerian Tobacco Company and the United African Company. He then served for two years as private secretary to the Federal Minister of Information in Lagos. In 1962 he became West African Manager for Cambridge University Press. Later he worked as an editor with the Mbara Press of Ibadan.

Bright
with the armpit dazzle of a lioness,
she answers,
wearing white light about her;
and the waves escort her,
my lioness,
crowned with moonlight.
(from ‘Water Maid’)

Okigbo published his first poems in the student literary journal Horn, which was edited by J.P. Clark. As a poet Okigbo made his breakthrough in 1962, when his works appeared in the literary magazine Black Orpheus. In the same year he also published pamphlet, entitled Heavensgate, and a long poem in the Ugandan cultural magazine Transition, which was published in Kampala. Okigbo’s early poems reflected the divided cultural heritage of his country, although first influences from Virgil, Ovid, Eliot, and Pound seem to be stronger than the oral literature of the Igbo. Heavensgate marked his return to the African part of his heritage and self-renewal through the goddess of the earth:

Before you, Mother Idoto, naked I stand
before your watery presence a prodigal

leaning on an oilbean
lost in your legend…

The1960s was a period of great political upheavals in Nigeria. The country became an independent republic in 1963 and four years later the eastern Ibo tribal region attempted to secede as the independent nation of Biafra. Although Okigbo followed keenly the social and political events in his country, his early poems moved on a personal and mythical level. Path of Thunder (1968) showed a new direction – its attack on bloodthirsty politicians (“POLITICIANS are back in giant hidden steps of howitzers, / of detonators”) and neocolonial exploitation (“THE ROBBERS descend on us to strip us our laughter, of our / thunder”) was also in tune with the rise of radical movements in the late 1960s. Okigbo won in 1966 the poetry prize at the Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, but he refused the prize because he did not believe that art should not be judged on racial basis. At the outbreak of the civil war Okigbo was working for an Italian business organization called Wartrade. With Chunua Achebe he planned to found a small publishing house. However, the events in his country made Okigbo change his plans, and he abandoned his job.

Okigbo joined in July 1967 the Biafran army as a major, refuring more secure posts behind the lines. He was killed one month later one of the first battles of the civil war near Nsukka. He was posthumously decorated with the Biafran National Order of Merit. The poems Okigbo wished to preserve were published posthumously by Heinemann as Labyrinths in 1971, with Path of Thunder, added. Okigbo left behind a wife and daughter, from whom he dedicated Labyriths. Forebodingly he had written in ‘Elegy for Alto:’ “O mother mother Earth, unbind me; let this be / my last testament, let this be / The ram’s hidden wish to the sword the sword’s / secret prayer to the scabbard -.” According to some sources, Okigbo was working on a novel before his death, but the manuscript has not been found.

Often recurring images in Okigbo’s poems are dance (“dance of death”, “iron dance of mortars”), thunder (“thunder of tanks”, “the thunder among the clouds”), and sound of drums (“the drums of curfew”, “lament of the drums”). Gradually Okigbo started to see himself as a singer-musician, who speaks with the ancient, pre-literate language of drums: “I have fed out of the drum / I have drunk out of the cymbal…” In ‘Overture’ (1961) Okigbo was a “watchman for the watchword / at heavensgate” and in ‘Hurrah for Thunder’ a “town-crier, together with my iron bell” (from Paths of Thunder, 1968). Okigbo shared with T.S. Eliot a vision of a spiritual quest, which takes the poet to the realm of ancient myths and to his spiritual self: “Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand…” Okigbo used often repetition, the rhythm is songlike, and the words flow melodiously, as if the poet were listening and interpreting distant sounds. From the four elements Okigbo chooses water, the dwelling place of Idoto: “Under my feet float the waters: / tide blows them under.”

For further reading: The Chosen Tongue by G. Moore (1969); Whispers From a Continent by W. Cartey (1969); The Trial of Christopher Okigbo by Ali A. Mazrui (1971); Christopher Okigbo: Creative Rhetoric by Sunday O. Anozie (1972); The Breast of the Earth by K. Awoonor (1975); Don’t Let Him Die: An Anthology of Memorial Poems for Christopher Okigbo, ed. by Chinua Achebe and Dubem Okafor (1978); World Authors 1970-1975, ed. by John Wakeman (1980); Critical Perspectives on Christopher Okigbo, ed. by Donatus Nwoga (1984); Dance of Death: Nigerian History and Christopher Okigbo’s Poetry by Dubem Okafor (1998); Postcolonial African Writers, ed. by Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne (1998) – For further information: Christopher Okigbo: An Overview; Christopher Okigbo

Selected works:

* Heavensgate, 1962 (Mbari Publications)
* Limits, 1964 (first published in Transition, July-August 1962, Mbari Publications)
* Silences, 1965
* Path of Thunder, 1968 (in the literary magazine Black Orpheus)
* Labyrinths with Path of Thunder, 1971
* Collected Poems, 1986

this article first published here

arthur koestler on the slave mentality

Filed under: literature,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 3:05 pm

Despite all my feelings of self-respect I cannot help looking on the warders as superior beings. The consciousness of being confined acts like a slow poison, transforming the entire character. This is more than a mere psychological change, it is not an inferiority complex – it is, rather, an inevitable natural process. When I was writing my novel about the gladiators I always wondered why the Roman slaves, who were twice, three times as numerous as the freemen, did not turn the tables on their masters. Now it is beginning gradually to dawn on me what the slave mentality really is. I could wish that everyone who talks of mass psychology should experience a year of prison. I had never believed that saying that a dictatorship or a single person or a minority can maintain its ascendancy by the sword alone. But I had not known how living and real were those atavistic forces that paralyse the majority from within. I did not know how quickly one comes to regard a privileged stratum of men as beings of a higher biological species and to take their privileges for granted as though they were natural endowments. Don Ramon has the key and I am in the cage; Don Ramon, as well as I, looks upon this state of things as entirely natural and is far from regarding it as in any way an anomaly. And if a crazy agitator were to come and preach to us that all men are equal, we should both laugh him to scorn; Don Ramon with all his heart, I, it is true, only half-heartedly – but all the same I should laugh.

Arthur Koestler
Dialogue with Death

July 6, 2010

chief omoseye’s bolaji’s introduction to hector kunene’s “through the tunnel”

Filed under: free state black literature,literature — ABRAXAS @ 1:38 pm

For a large number of people around the world there is something universal, irresistible and quite burnished about the genre of poetry. Hence poets, in a medley, and cornucopia of languages, are found in virtually every conceivable nook and cranny of the world.

Take an all-time icon like TS Eliot for example; a man whose name is synonymous with the acme of poetry. The United States can claim him as their son; but so can Britain where he blossomed as a world revered poet. But actually the truth is that the whole world now lays claim to TS Eliot.

In Africa many of the all time great poets have been inspired one way or the other by TS Eliot and other elevated poets. One of the most trenchant examples is western Africa’s Christopher Okigbo who wrote the type of poetry that echoed TS Eliot at his best. Polished, intellectual stuff. But the whole continent pulsates with such refined poets – like Denis Brutus, Wole Soyinka, Echeruo, Lenrie Peters and Dambudzo Marechera.

Other great African poets over the decades who seem more spontaneous and really inspired by their fecund (African) roots were the likes of Kofi Awoonor, Niyi Osundare, and Okot p’Bitek. In South Africa, a number of poets have done great things for their communities and the nation at large as regards being excellent bards, and galvanic catalysts. Vonani Bila springs to mind immediately – him and his many poetic anthologies; Aryan Kaganof, Karen Press, Kgafela oa maGogodi, Lesego Rampolekeng. These are people who, to harp onto the cliché, “live and breathe poetry”

In the Free State there are those who have given their all for poetry over the years; probably not as heralded as their more illustrious brethren elsewhere, but quite distinguished people quand meme; including the “veterans” and the very young. In this wise names that easily spring to mind include Raselebeli “Magic” Khotseng, Job Mzamo, Neo Mvubu, Jah Rose etc.

This is Hector Kunene’s first work comprising poetry; his first book actually. Here is a young man who exudes unbridled dynamism, confidence and eloquence, a gentleman with quite a flair for words; so much in love with the genre of poetry that it practically hurts! (laugh) It is easy enough to say that this book contains about sixty two that are infused with the characteristic passion, candor, confidence and brio of the author, Hector. But I’d rather say – let us celebrate this collected work of a new young poet! Vito celebratio est. Thank you.

* Omoseye Bolaji is the author of books of poems like Snippets, Reverie, and Poems from Mauritius

Why Hyperfiction Didn’t Work

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:43 am

by John Miller

Every writer can with no trouble kill his hero in just two lines. To kill a reader, someone of flesh and blood, it suffices to turn him for a moment into the hero of the book, into the protagonist of the biography. The rest is simple . . . (Pavic 307)

Hyperfiction, ironically, looked good on paper. In fact, in quality and possibly in quantity, the published body of criticism discussing hyperfiction has probably exceeded the corpus of major works in the genre itself. In the context of postmodern narrative theories and experiments, the advent of electronic hyperfiction stirred excitement among both authors and critics, who saw in electronic texts a medium that might allow the realization of a more interactive, reader-centered experience of narrative fiction. In 1991, J. David Bolter wrote that hypertext “reifies the metaphor of reader response” (158) and heralded its potential for “liberating the text” from the “hierarchies” with which print “attempt[s] to impose order on verbal ideas that are always prone to subvert that order” (21). Others variously trumpeted, tempered, or despaired of such claims. Sven Bickerts, for example, wrote in defense of the hierarchies whose overthrow Bolter celebrated: “‘domination by the author’,” Bickerts insisted, “has been, at least until now, the point of writing and reading” (163). Most critics – ever suspicious of the many subterfuges of authority – preserved a note of caution amid their general optimism about hypertext’s potential to revolutionize reading. Michael Joyce, both a theorist of hypertext and a pioneering author of hyperfictions, nevertheless declared the wedding of fiction and machine “as yet a marriage without issue” (178).

Underlying all of these positions was the presumption that hyperfiction allows readers a larger role in the construction of the fictional text than does print fiction. In describing the structure of hyperfictions, Bolter invoked the same metaphor Wolfgang Iser uses to describe the experience of reading print fiction. For Iser, the fundamental experience of the reader of fiction is that of a “wandering viewpoint” traversing a series of moments between what has been and what is yet to be read. According to Bolter, hyperfictions are organized “topographically,” and the reader moves through them as if exploring a multi-dimensional space. Rather than presenting itself as a journey from one point to another, a hyperfiction presents the reader with something more like an unmapped patch of countryside on which features are linked by a network of paths. Whereas a print text lays out a single route through its territory, a hypertext encourages the reader to explore in multiple directions. Where the text goes and when it ends become choices the reader gets to make. Thus J. Yellowlees Douglas explains that she decided she had “finished” Joyce’s hyperfiction afternoon, a story when, after four different expeditions across the text’s topography, she experienced “a sense of having both literally and figuratively plumbed the depths of [its] narrative spaces” (172).

According to Iser, fictional texts make interpretation possible – in fact, necessary – by withholding information, thereby creating “gaps” the reader must fill. For Iser, texts are more or less “literary” to the extent that they provide readers with interesting and challenging opportunities to actively make meaning by filling in these gaps to construct a coherent whole, a process Iser calls “consistency-building.” Such gaps are the primary structural feature of hyperfictions. From most points in a hypertext the reader can choose any of several links to move on to or explore. At any point in a hyperfiction, then, the reader seems to have more choices to make and more, or at least more obvious, gaps to fill than in traditional print narratives. In reading such a linked text, the reader’s freedom to organize the reading of the text is in certain respects greater than that of a the reader of a print text because hyperfiction itself explicitly offers the reader – in fact, requires – choices not offered in linear texts.

In this freedom, however, may lie Pavic’s trap. Iser’s model of active reading requires the reader to decide when the text does or doesn’t make sense, where to ask questions, what questions to ask, and how to answer those questions. This work, he argues, “is the province of the reader” (111). Hyperfictions, however, pose many of these questions for the reader. Consequently, they may actually discourage the reader from posing his or her own. As J. Hillis Miller suggests, hyperfictions appropriate from the reader a function and a responsibility which have hitherto been fundamental to the act of reading (37). By forcing them to make choices at certain points in the reading process, hyperfictions may discourage or distract readers from locating gaps of their own and of thus interacting with the text to make meaning.

Furthermore, while asserting that the text needs the reader’s help to be made into a meaningful whole, Iser’s model of reading is predicated on the reader assuming that the text can be made whole. As theorists of the “technologies of the word” such as Walter Ong have noted, the very physical structure of a printed novel, its text stabilized securely between its covers, asserts narrative closure. Gaps can only exist within a structure which is presumed to be otherwise coherent: gaps have to be gaps-in-something. Thus, Iser’s reading process must begin with a presumption of – or willing suspension of disbelief in – the potential coherence of the text.

The identification of gaps in a printed fiction, then, is an act of reading against the grain, of resisting the text’s assertion of closure and authority. Unlike print fictions, however, hyperfictions make no such assertions. Unlike the book, they are mutable and in fact virtually immaterial. Their gaps are conventions of their form. Hyperfiction readers expect multiple, ephemeral narratives and a lack of coherence and consistency. Stuart Moulthrop argues that, in contrast to a print narrative, a hyperfiction “is a system which is already present as a totality, but which invites the reader not to ratify its wholeness, but to deconstruct it” (“Reading From the Map” 129). But such hyperfictions present themselves as already deconstructed, like predigested food. A hypertext, writes Joyce, “yields” at every link. Consequently, both Iser’s “consistency-building” and Moulthrop’s deconstruction appear equally pointless to the hyperfiction reader. The very centrality of gaps in hyperfiction diminishes their significance. As Espen Aarseth notes, in hyperfiction “these devices are naturalized and therefore do not cause the subversion they might” (86); in Joyce’s afternoon “the reader becomes not so much lost as caught, imprisoned by the repeating, circular paths and his own impotent choices” (91).

Bolter and others saw in hypertext a critique of textual “consistency.” Moulthrop (again invoking the figure reading as journey) describes hyperfiction as “an information highway where every lane is reserved for breakdowns, a demolition epic in which the vehicles continually come apart” (though, in this essay too, Moulthrop cautions that hypertext does not represent “quite the revolution some fear and others crave”) (“Traveling” 74). Terence Harpold likewise sees the point of hypertext in its failure to cohere: rather than connecting strands into a non-linear, web-like coherence, hypertextual links represent “dilatory spaces” which disrupt narrative coherence, whether constructed by author or reader. Alluding to Iser, Harpold claims that hyperfiction “greatly complicates metaphors of intentional movement that may be applied to the act of reading” (129). But such complications are not only possible and common in print narratives, they have significance only in the context of the coherence asserted by print. By presupposing a lack of authority, hyperfiction deprives its readers of the opportunity to make that critique themselves.

Ultimately, by foregrounding gaps, hyperfiction diminishes the significance readers assign to the words on the screen. The conventional reader response to puzzlement in a hyperfiction is not to read the words in front of you more carefully, but with a mouse click to exchange them for new ones. Because each piece of hypertext presents itself as a question to which the reader knows there is no answer, the reader soon becomes discouraged from doing the hard work of looking for answers. Hypertext thus participates in contemporary electronic media’s general discouragement of careful, concentrated acts of reading by constantly offering viewers quick cuts to new texts. Like mass media, hypertext threatens to turn readers into mere viewers.

Because print promises – however often deceptively – to make coherent sense, it becomes the reader’s responsibility to try to hold it to that promise and catch it when it reneges. Moulthrop claims that “[b]reakdowns always teach us something” (“Traveling” 73). But hyperfictions don’t break down: they are broken to begin with. Reading them is less like driving in the breakdown lane than wandering the wrecking yard. The argument that hyperfiction usefully “reifies” the interactivity of reading begs a question: if print narratives aren’t fixed to begin with, why break them?

this article first appeared here

July 5, 2010

danila botha book reading in halifax

Filed under: danila botha,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:50 am

Danila Botha will be reading from her new book “Got No Secrets” in Halifax, July 7th at 7 p.m., featuring musical guest Jenocide (ilovejenocide.com).

If you were stuck on the East Coast and unable to attend Danila’s Spring launch and Toronto readings, you now have the chance to hear her read from her incredible new book “Got No Secrets.”

“Got No Secrets” has been described as: “dark, relentless, and unflinching. Danila Botha’s is a bold new voice” -Julia Tausch

“These stories grab you by the throat and don’t let you go, bearing witness to lives in which self-destruction and hope are like symbionts, each feeding the other” -Nino Ricci

Come out and listen to Danila’s beautiful fiction, and support one of Canada’s newest literary voices.

Date:
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Time:
7:00pm – 11:00pm
Location:
The Company House, Halifax NS

tommy trantino – they called me “dr.T”

Filed under: corpses,garbage,literature,politics,signs of the times — ABRAXAS @ 9:56 am

Thomas Trantino (born c. 1939) is an American convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for the execution style shooting deaths in 1963 of two police officers in Lodi, New Jersey. Trantino grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was expelled from school for playing hooky, became a drug addict in his early teens and served the remainder of his teen age years in jail. Responding to reports of a disturbance at the Angel Lounge on U.S. Route 46 in Lodi on August 26, 1963, Sgt. Peter Voto and P.O. Gary Tedesco were dispatched to follow up on the call. Voto entered the bar — leaving behind Tedesco, a probationary officer who could not carry a weapon — and was immediately ambushed by Frank Falco and Thomas Trantino, who were there to celebrate a successful robbery. When Voto did not return, Tedesco went into the bar and was also ambushed. Both were tortured and killed execution style. Falco was shot while resisting arrest and killed in Manhattan by officers of the New York City Police Department. On August 29, a funeral for the 21-year-old Tedesco was held at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Roman Catholic Church in Garfield, New Jersey and a separate service for 40-year-old Sgt. Voto was held at St. Joseph’s Church in Lodi, with more than 1,000 officers representing 40 different departments in attendance, a memorial described as the largest such funeral in New Jersey police history. Governor of New Jersey Richard J. Hughes flew in from Trenton, New Jersey to offer his condolences to the respective families. Trantino was placed under arrest after turning himself in at the East 22nd Street Station in Manhattan on August 28 after 66 hours in hiding; he was arraigned and the case was adjourned until September 17 with Trantino held in jail without bail. Trantino’s attorney described both of the accused killers as “gentlemen”, saying that Trantino had never killed anyone and that the half-Jewish, half-Italian Trantino was called “Rabbi Tom” because he was so kind to others.In his summation at the trial, held at the Bergen County Court House, prosecutor Guy W. Calissi said that Trantino had pistol whipped Sgt. Voto, forced him to undress and shot both Voto and Tedesco after the second officer entered the bar. Trantino’s attorney argued that both officers had been shot and killed by Falco and that Trantino — who had been previously jailed on a robbery charge and had a history of addiction to narcotics — had been too drunk to have committed the crime. On February 19, 1964, the jury of seven men and women took 7 hours and 20 minutes to find Trantino, and their failure to recommend mercy meant that the death sentence would be ordered. Trantino’s attorney Albert S. Gross recommended a life sentence, saying “isn’t a lifetime in prison enough?”On February 28, Bergen County Judge Joseph W. Marini sentenced Trantino to death in the electric chair to take place in the week of April 5. At the sentencing, Trantino’s attorney argued against the death penalty, stating that “legalized murder was no better than criminal murder”. Trantino was originally sent to Trenton State Prison where he sat on Death row. After New Jersey abolished the death penalty in the state in 1971, Trantino was sent to Rahway State Prison. While in prison at Rahway, Trantino pursued an interest in poetry and art. His paintings were described by The New York Times in a 1973 article as being reminiscent of Pablo Picasso. The firm of Alfred A. Knopf agreed to publish two books of his works.

In 1974, Trantino was one of five prison inmates found to have organized an illegal mass meeting attended by 200 inmates in which the subject was believed to be criticism of the prison’s administration. The group of 200 had started meeting and refused to disperse for 30 minutes after guards ordered them to end the meeting, citing the explosive security risk arising from such a gathering. The five leaders, including Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, were transferred to other prisons around the state. Trantino’s sentence had been commuted on January 17, 1972, to a single life sentence, which would make him eligible for parole in 1977, after serving 15 years in jail. Under the Parole Act of 1979, the parole board could require the sentencing judge to set restitution as a condition of parole, With Trantino being the first case under the law after two previous parole applications had failed. The New Jersey State Parole Board was willing to release him once arrangements were made for making restitution to the survivors and Judge Theodore Trautwein took responsibility for setting the amounts as the original sentencing judge had retired ten years earlier. In September 1980, 500 police officers protested at the steps of the Court House in Hackensack, joining the families of the slain officers in arguing that Trantino should remain in jail and that compensation would not be accepted in exchange for the deaths of the two police officers.
Judge Trautwein refused to set a restitution amount, saying, “It would be a gruesome, illogical, self-evident act of futility to order the restoration of the victims’ lives.” Without the restitution arrangements, Trantino’s parole had been rejected and he remained in jail beyond the judge’s death. Trantino was finally released in 2002, after spending 38 years in jail.

July 4, 2010

PEEPING TOM

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:14 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

There is irony in everything man does. Henry opened a quart bottle of Windhoek lager and seated himself in the easy chair before the open door. Over the brown and black confusion of rock and sand a vague haze hung beneath the sky. He was inclined to agree. The way life worked out one couldn’t be blamed for suspecting the gods of mockery. The Missing Link! That was a good one. To devote your life to hunting for a missing link was downright foolhardy. Whoever found the Missing Link? Other than raving Christians or such similar intellectual suicides?

The sky was changing. The blue of the morning had seeped away imperceptibly until there was nothing left except a brightness. Now he saw that the brightness was a fine mist reflecting sunlight. The door swung half closed and then slammed back against the porch wall. The first rush of cold Atlantic air had reached the land and was condensing into fog.

He got up to close the door, to stop it banging, to shut out the draught. He walked over… He reached out, thinking only of closing it and returning to his beer. It was before his hand touched the handle that the idea burst like a soap bubble in his head. It must have been there, floating, and these circumstances had caused it, just at this moment of accumulation and alignment and auspiciousness, to go… POPF!

The lever handles both had a small screw securing them to either end of the spindle that operated the latch. His Swiss Army knife had a blade that was serrated like a saw, hooked like a bottle opener and square cut, with a flattened tip like a screwdriver. But this tip proved to be too broad for the slot in the screw head. The only time he called upon it for assistance and it didn’t work. Fuckin’ rubbish. How about the bradawl? For getting Boy Scouts out of horses’ arseholes. He normally used it to clean out his pipe bowl or for scraping dirt from under his fingernails. Too sharply pointed. The tip of the knife blade?

It was only necessary to remove the one handle in order to withdraw the spindle still attached to the other. With a mixture of excitement and fear he began to repeat the wardrobe procedure. The fear of embarrassment. More than embarrassment? Like posing in front of a mirror, practising different smiles, searching for the best profile, throwing back the head and giving a deep chuckle, only to catch a movement in the glass that signified the presence of an observer. The hot flush, the humiliation, the utter impossibility of saving the situation. And if he were to be caught in THIS act his anguish would be intensified to an excruciating degree by a feeling of guilt. What right did he have to move the furniture about like this? What right did he have to slide the spindle through the top escutcheon plate into the dark privacy of this lock? How dare he thrill to the sensation of enjoyment, so smug and proper? Was he entirely without shame, that he would risk exposure as a pervert and a thief?

Yes.

He pressed down on the handle, ever so slowly, until it could turn no more. Then, inhaling deeply, he pushed inward. The door did not move far before stopping; but far enough to be beyond the point where the dead bolt would have held it almost immediately if it, the dead bolt, had been turned into the striker plate. Now, he knew, he was REALLY living dangerously. Having got this far he couldn’t turn back, even though the risk of disaster was appallingly high. He was going to try to push the door open no matter what the consequences, and not knowing what he was pushing against made the consequences multiply in his mind like yeast spores cast into a bowl of sweet warm water. One inch, two inches. The resistance was not formidable, something was sliding. Six inches. A foot and progress was halted. He stood perfectly still, listening and trying to imagine the nature of this new world he was trying, uninvited, to enter. There was no sound at all and no light either.

He stepped into the threshold and eased his head between edge of door and frame. The light from behind him was just sufficient to penetrate the gloom and reveal a passage not much wider than the doorway and maybe three paces in length. The interior was cluttered with a jumble of murky shapes so haphazard that he at once guessed this to be some kind of store. Withdrawing his head he bent down and groped for the obstacle. It was a cardboard box and pulling and then pushing he moved it further away form him and was able to half open the door. The air smelt dusty. He had better not sneeze.

Now he was actually in the passage he realised the voices had been heard through two doors and not one. The mystery was solved. His room was part of the house, connected by this passage and they had merely closed his door and turned this dead space into a cupboard. With a twinge of annoyance he saw that he had reached the top of a false peak. Towering ahead lay the true summit. He moved sideways between the piles of boxes, stacks of picture frames and household junk to the real door. For an instant a mad impulse urged him to grasp the handle and … But no, don’t be a stupid shithead. Caution, caution.

In the centre of the door was a circular hole the diameter of a Coke bottle. Bending down he found himself looking through copper gauze and a metal grate into a room whose casual lack of formality, its flagrant untidiness, sent the blood to his face, and he prickled with a painful surge of emotion. This was a disgraceful intrusion. To run his slimy eyeball over this disarray was a violation. He shouldn’t be doing it. The large table was spread with books and magazines in piles, a toy truck, shells, a toilet roll, pencil case, place mats and salt and pepper. This must be a dining room or part of a large kitchen. Just as he was thinking there was no one at home the little girl came into view, sat down at the table, opened a book and began colouring in. Long fair hair swept back in ponytail and a white Alice band to catch any loose strands. The chair was too low and her chin cleared the table by a mere six inches. Elbows spread out either side of her work, head slightly inclined, eyes downcast, for the moment her features were immobile in concentration. Then the boy appeared beside her with a suddenness that could only be explained if he had been on the floor. He reached for a crayon and the girl’s eyelids flickered and she said sharply “You can’t use purple.”

“But you’re not using it.”

“I’m going to use it just now. They’re my crayons.”

“I let you use MY crayons.”

“I said NO!”

“Stinky fart-face.”

Hostilities had been established and things were warming up.

“Mummy! Tell…”

“Alright, both of you, go and do a wee. We’re going for a walk.” The mother had crossed the stage. A brief appearance. The children abandoned the fray and enthusiastically fled from his view.

By jamming a wad of newspaper between the leading edge of the door and its frame he was able to close it without clicking home the latch. He returned the wardrobe to its rightful position and replaced spindle and handles before lying down on the bed. The woman had a powerful effect on him. He could deal with a cockstand in this, the customary fashion – a temporary problem, a temporary solution – it was manageable. But as he allowed his imagination free rein a question arose in his mind. Was he or was he not capable of committing a rape? Well, of course he was, under the right circumstances, Homo sum, and all that. The textbook case studies portrayed individuals with a poor ‘self-image’ given to violent outbursts. He might have a warped image of himself, yes. But bursting out violently? No. Apart from verbal attacks aimed at the gods, when his eyes would protrude alarmingly and he would snarl and groan with rage, he was a mild and gentle creature, contemptuous of the bullyboys jostling each other as they trampled the streets and the aisles. He detested machismo, especially the South African version, so why such violent fantasies? Why the ripping? Why the rape? Why the force? When he read the nauseating details in the paper why the arousal? If he could be sure that there was no possibility of retribution and that he would feel no remorse would he abandon himself to the urge, to the primal drive to get in? It was highly unlikely. His self-image would get in he way. To inflict terror, humiliation, pain and despair would require a great deal of hatred and he did not hate himself. In fact, he realised with amusement, he felt an inordinate amount of compassion for himself. He was too compassionate to be a rapist.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

migrate #11 on sale at all the better bookstores now

Filed under: art,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:35 am

July 2, 2010

itch

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:58 pm

http://www.itch.co.za/

Towards the digital future

Filed under: dye hard press,literature,new media politics (k3) — ABRAXAS @ 12:17 pm

01.07.10

According to this year’s Reading the Future report, only 26% of UK book buyers had heard of a Kindle, only 41% knew what a Sony Reader was, and an overwhelming 70% said they had no intention of buying an eReader.

From a South African perspective, these figures were an eye-opener, particularly in view of many South African readers’ resistance to the concept of ebooks. Local resistance isn’t a surprise; after all, it has probably been only in the past couple of years that internet publishing has come to be widely accepted as a legitimate medium.

Modjaji Books, a relatively new small publisher in Cape Town, has already included ebooks in its offering, but local take-up has been minimal. However, Modjaji owner Colleen Higgs is confident that South Africans will at some point start buying ebooks, and she wants Modjaji to be ready when it happens.

A huge factor contributing to this state of affairs in South Africa is on the one hand low internet penetration, at about 7%, and on the other hand the lack of availability and cost of reading devices.

Nerine Dorman, a local e-published author, says: “I’ve encountered a lot of resistance from South Africans to reading books onscreen. Perhaps a factor is that we’ve still not embraced the digital revolution that’s sweeping through the US and parts of Europe, where the technology with the various reading devices is readily available. It’s all fine and well to buy a device but if it’s not supported in South Africa, there’s no point investing in it.”

But as Dorman further points out, this resistance is not limited to readers.” I don’t think a lot of South African authors have considered epublishing because the industry here is still in its infancy.” She admits she herself initially looked down on epublishing but is now convinced it is a viable option. “People are buying books. Authors and publishers are making money. It’s a win-win situation.”

What is needed in South Africa, clearly, is a greater understanding of ebooks, as well as greater visibility and marketing – plus affordability of reading devices.

Arthur Atwell, m.d. of Electric Book Works in Cape Town, says most publishers realise ebook growth is inevitable, though the nature of the growth may be unpredictable. “A growing market for ebooks needs a retail champion to promote them, as Amazon did with the Kindle. South Africans haven’t had that yet, though online retailer Kalahari.net has been making great progress since launching an ebook store in March. E-ink ereaders are still too expensive for most South Africans to purchase in addition to a computer, so what little evidence we have suggests most South Africans who read ebooks are doing so on computers. This will need to change before we see large-scale take-up outside of higher education.”

And with encouraging signs such as Amazon reducing the price of the Kindle, perhaps this take-up will not be as far ahead as many may think.

first published on thebookseller.com

June 27, 2010

THE OXYASTON DUCTS AREN’T WHERE THEY SHOULD BE

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:39 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

“This is a dwarf but massive tree,” said Albert Adendorff, retired professor of Applied Palaeontology and part time curator of the Luderitz Museum. He laughed ironically. “You might think that I attempt to make an ironical paradox by speaking in funny contradictions, but let me assure you all, even you my little friend,” and he patted the head of a three year old, “there is a giant hiding beneath this, this … this miserable excrescence.” And it WAS a miserable excrescence, Henry silently agreed. A pretty good description for the heap of rubbish around which the party was grouped. Two families, two older couples, and himself. The same heap of rubbish he had seen in the station garden at Aus, only this one was bigger and more rubbishy. Henry was recovering from his disappointment. When he had shown Bergson’s map to Professor Adendorff the old man had pointed to one of the red circles and said, “This is easy. I can take you there tomorrow.” It had been abundantly obvious, as they arrived, that there was no possibility of a duct in this area. No rocky outcrop promising the possibility of a cave, no gaping fissure leading down into darkness. Just this big expanse of barren waste littered with flint and dominated, if one could use such a word, by the abominable floral specimen. There was certainly no point in lugging Lady Provider out here. Bergson had made a mistake.

“That is most without doubt the origin of the Linnean nomenclature. According to the binomial system of classification the first word, in this case Welwitschia, denotes after whom the plant is called. Gottlieb Welwitsch, renowned adventurer. ‘Mirabilis’, the second part of Welwitschia mirabilis, is the descriptive component and very accurately captures the general demeanour of this amazing plant.”

His English was easy and polished from much use and the German accent was an embellishment to his speech, lending a professorial ring to his words.

“Welwitschia mirabilis, the giant dwarf. This is not my field of speciality. My speciality is fossils, and I have spent my life studying the structure and evolution of extinct animals and plants, not living ones. Nevertheless, I cannot fail to be fascinated by Welwitschia mirabilis. Consider how it has been driven underground by the rigours of the desert climate.” They dutifully regarded the specimen, the object they had trailed some two kilometres over the gravel plain to behold. Even photographs were taken. “The stem is more than a metre in diameter and stands about a metre above the ground. There will be two to three metres of stem below ground before the taproot begins. The crown, if we may use so regal a word, is flattened and saucer shaped, protruding from the ground like an inverted elephant’s foot, the hard, dark brown wood cracked and warty and more resembling a clump of rock than a living tree. Please be so kind as to note the two semicircular grooves from which the leaves grow. Yes, these are leaves.”

“Are you sure this isn’t refuse blown inland from the harbour?” Henry felt obliged to show interest and ask a question. After all, the old boy was genuinely enthusiastic about his subject and wished to share his knowledge free of charge.

“No, no. This is positively identifiable as Welwitschia mirabilis. You see, the plant produces only two leaves throughout its life. They are persistent, continually growing out form the base, like tough leathery paste being squeezed from a great tube. The ends of the leaves are constantly blackened and worn away by the desert sun and searing winds and, in fact, the entire leaf blade becomes torn into long thong-like shreds, resulting in this tangled mass lying before us.”

“Does it have any uses?”

“No. Unfortunately not. And it is of great interest that you should ask the question, for it adds to the exceptional nature of the plant. It has been found to be entirely useless. No part of it is edible, the wood cannot be worked and as fuel it is impossible: it will only smoulder, giving off a foul smelling black smoke that attracts flies and mosquitoes and irritates the mucous membranes. Even the Bushmen were unable to fashion something from it. Their name for it was Tamboa, meaning God’s mistake.”

They had been standing around the tree for some fifteen minutes, looking at it from all angles, marvelling at its ugliness and its uselessness, and now the children were restless and wanting to go back. Henry fell into step with the professor as they trudged over the flinty, broken ground to Luderitz.

“How long did you say the tap root was?”

“Ah, yes! The taproot. Now the tap root has been estimated to reach a length in excess of one kilometre, but of course no one has ever been able to excavate the full depth due to…”

Henry liked the professor. He was mild mannered and humorous; correct but lacking in pomposity. His interest in this ridiculous plant was academic but not entirely serious. Surely that was an essential ingredient. To think that anything was particularly serious was to be deluded. As if sensing Henry’s train of thought the professor cut short on the tap root and said,

“I devoted my life to the search for ‘the missing link’. Fossil proof that man had developed directly from the same source as anthropoid apes… and I found it, the proof. Did it bring me recognition? Did it bring me contentment? It brought me nothing but trouble. I was driven from the university, branded as a lunatic and a fraud. And my senior colleagues then stole my work and claimed credit for the discovery. The last ten years of my career I was forced to spend at Fort Hare University, searching for the Missing Link that would prove beyond doubt that the black races of Africa evolved from a different type of ape – an inferior ape. Ha ha ha! Can you believe the stupidity?”

“So you were a failure?” Henry was surprised at the lack of bitterness in the old man’s laugh.

“No. Not in my own eyes. In the eyes of others, maybe yes. But that is of very little real consequence. Not so?” And he gave Henry a challenging look, as if to say, “You don’t look as if you care too much about what others think of you.”

“But what about science? What about the pursuit of knowledge? How can you still believe…?”

“But I don’t!” Behind his spectacles his eyes sparked fiercely. “Human behaviour stirs different emotions in me. Sometimes I am uplifted, at other times I am sickened. There is irony in everything man does. Do you know what amuses me most?” But they had reached the road and the group gathered in a knot about the professor. One of the older women was asking him about the salt surface that substituted for stone chips and tar.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za

June 22, 2010

HE FINDS ACCOMMODATION WITH FRAU KLEE

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:08 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

In the morning he awoke early and by six o’clock was splashing water on his face and admiring in the mirror the ravages of time. Then a long hot shower and careful examination of his organ for signs of disease – no chancres, pustules, blisters or purulent discharge – it was probably too soon, anyway. He dressed in the change of clothes he had brought with him, packed his belongings as well as some of the hotel’s, and went to the dining room for breakfast.

Again he ate heartily, and before setting up and checking out he experienced an excellent bowel movement that left him feeling buoyant and optimistic. With light step, as if earth and its trammels had little power to restrain him, he set forth in search of Frau Klee.

Miraculously, the mist had dissipated and the sun was shining from a desolate sky of the palest blue, bathing the houses and the brown land in brittle light. He caught sight of the sea and it was a cold bottle green turning to dull, dustbin black further out. The type of sea to make you thankful not to be floating on it, he thought. This is a bleak part of the world, that’s for sure. He spoke to a man getting into his car and asked for directions, but drew a look of total vacuity. Nietzsche Strasse? Nietzsche. Nietzsche? Repeatedly shaking his head he closed the door and drove off. Fuck it, they only LIVE here. Can’t expect him to know the names of the STREETS. Half-witted kraut. He continued downhill.

The coffee shop loomed up and he opened the door to the tinkle of a small but very sharp bell and was immediately accosted, or maybe welcomed, by the manageress, a severe woman in black skirt to calf, white long sleeved blouse with frilly lace bib fastened high at the throat with a brooch of large proportion – sodalite set in silver, a bright blue oval as vivid as washing blue. She looked at him enquiringly.

“Good morning. Could you please direct me to Nietzsche Street?”

“Nietzsche? Nietzsche?” Jesus, here we go again. She pronounced it strangely, like it was some hybrid fruit: a cross between a litchi, a banana and a naartjie.

“Yes. You know, Nietzsche, as in Thus spake Zarathustra? God is dead? Syphilitic insanity? No? Hegel, Kant, Schopenhauer? Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche. Jislaaaik!”

“Ah! NIETZSCHE.” The light of understanding radiated from her eyes and face as if a minor nuclear explosion had taken place within the confines of her cranial vault. She happily explained, even accompanying him onto the pavement to indicate at which building he must turn left. He thanked her and proceeded on his way, lamenting the obvious – his German pronunciation lacked authenticity. Bloody Goon Show! His grasp of the language was based on the teachings of Milligan and Sellars, and, of course, his dear uncle Fritz. And war comics. Okay, left into Wagner and left again.

Nietzsche Strasse was a narrow street leading steeply upwards, with two and three storey houses stacked against the hillside in tiers. A delivery boy closed a gate behind him and mounted his bicycle.

“Ek sê. Môre. Weet jy waar’s Frau Klee se huis?”

“Ja, daaarsô. Nommer elf.”

It was a big, rambling sort of place, somewhat dilapidated but comfortable looking. He climbed brick steps to the porch and rapped with the knocker. The brasswork was clean, if not gleaming. With this climate brass must need polishing every second day. Presently the door was opened by a pretty coloured woman in maid’s uniform.

“Frau Klee?”

She giggled. “Frau Klee is nie hier nie. Sy kom twaalfuur terug.” Damn! That meant he couldn’t have a beer for another three or four hours. Too bad. He told the girl he would return.

At the library there was no single volume of the Four Quartets, nor even a Collected Poems, but in Norton’s Anthology he found The Dry Salvages complete, as well as the whole of The Waste Land, and a few other poems. Sitting in a comfortable easy chair near a window with a view across the bay he slowly partook of the balmy stuff, letting the images and ideas float and settle, sink, before he moved on for more. The librarian was an elderly grey-haired woman who seemed adequately educated and with a genuine interest in books, which one would have thought were prerequisites for such a person, but Henry had learnt to be wary of the breed. Too often he had been searched, rudely shaken awake, or treated like a vagrant and asked to move along. He was hopeful that this woman could recognise a scholar when she laid eyes on one and would leave him strictly alone. He was a scholar studying the human condition. It wasn’t necessary to be a professor of Philosophy, or an artist, or poet, or priest, in order to devote one’s life to the examination of this most fascinating condition. Sufficiency, again. I don’t need to achieve anything. It is sufficient to examine my condition. And, according to Eliot, by examining the condition of others, learn more about my own. “We appreciate this better in the agony of others, nearly experienced, involving ourselves, than in our own.” Agony and happiness. What I like about Eliot is the way I discover more, each time I come back to him. These pictures of the sea, the granite, the wind, the fog and the desert are right here. Luderitz – the physical landscape for Mr Eliot’s major work. Yes, happiness and agony have an essence which he attempts to discover and fix, in time present, past, future, drifting in and out, this way and that, half hidden by the fog, half found in the shrubbery, vagueness upon vagueness, an essence without certainty, only guessed at, esoteric and mystical, of practically fuck-all use to the sober mind, yearned for and wept over in the sweet maudlin moments, intangible and evanescent. All these layered images. Are they being peeled away or plastered on? Are we any nearer the essence? IS there an essence? This is too much like religion. I like TS no end. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that before he reached forty he had thrown in the towel and become a raving Christian. What did Camus say? About dying unreconciled? I wonder if they’ve got any Camus here. Highly unlikely.

He looked out at the green sea, ruffled but less agitated than yesterday’s stormy surface, now the wind had dropped. Hostility had given way to sullenness. Did this sea ever look inviting? Maybe in summer. He remembered a description drawn by the storeman in the Sail Shop. He had been waxing lyrical, and apocryphal, no doubt, about a time fishing off the South West coast, when the sea was flat and blue, and had then turned to silver as far as the eye could see as porpoises and dolphin began to drive the great shoals of fish. Hard to imagine it when confronted by this blank green.

Then, almost casually, there crossed before his mind’s eye the dapper figure of Mr Harry Bergson, Director of Stores, Simonstown Naval Dockyard. Damned intruder. Was he supposed to feel a twinge of guilt? Was Bergson trying to give him a nudge in the conscience? With a wry smile he was obliged to admit that for quite some time he had not given a thought to Oxyastonishing telepathy and the quest for ducts, vents and conduits. Yes, he wasn’t a tourist on holiday and, yes, he was being paid by the State to recuperate from a debilitating psychiatric disorder – on Bergson’s condition, that is, that he investigate the Namibian theory at the same time. Alright, alright. If there was anything to discover then he would discover it, and without the excessive excretion of water vapour through the pores of the skin.

It was past eleven-thirty. A beer and a pipe would have been welcome. But a man must exercise self-restraint, for no decent landlady would let out a room to a stranger reeking of booze. Suddenly he felt nervous. What would she be like? Frau Klee: the name evoked a large stern figure, grey hair in a bun, hard penetrating eyes behind spectacles, scrutinising him with deepening suspicion, asking him difficult questions, questions that would trap him into saying something disastrous.

At twelve he rose and replaced the book on its shelf and slowly made his way to number eleven Nietzsche Strasse. The sun was pleasantly warm and the air fresh with the faint smells of dust and brine. The dust of the desert and the brine of the sea – they ran into each other and there was no transition. Probably it was the absence of vegetation that made the change from land to sea so startling.

The door was opened by a slender girl of about seven or eight, bright eyes full of surprise. Over her fair head he glimpsed a boy, a couple of years younger, darker and sturdier. The girl gave a little shriek and pushed the door almost closed and there was a scurrying and giggling. “Mummy, Mummy! A man! There’s a man!” A woman’s voice called to them and then quick footsteps and the door was pulled wide. The shock of recognition threw him into utter confusion. For a second or two his mind seized and he couldn’t place her and it was in the brief moment that the slow clang of the bell sounded within the depths. Again that damnable familiarity.

She was looking at him, enquiringly, slightly puzzled. Now he remembered: the curator’s assistant at the museum.

“Er, Mrs Klee?” She nodded. “I – I understand you have… Er, er, I’m looking for a room, you know, um, accommodation. Do you…?”

“Yes, that’s right. We let out a room on a weekly basis. It’s like a granny flat, really, very small but self-contained. Would you like to see it? I’ll get the key.” Her accent was educated South African English and the children spoke English. Married to a Kraut. Kids are probably bilingual, speak English with the mother and German with the father. Thirty, mid-thirties? Attractive, for sure. Nice eyes, nice hair, nice…

“The entrance is round the side.” She had returned with the key and she and the children led the way down the steps, up a path to the corner of the house and then up an outside staircase to a porch that faced inland to the desert. She unlocked the door and entered the room, opening the curtains to let in the midday light. It was bigger than he had expected, with two beds and two easy chairs, a pine table with two chairs and a kitchenette in the alcove. Sink and two-plate stove and even a small caravan fridge. And a bathroom with shower, basin and toilet.

“This is perfect. May I take it for a week? And maybe for another week after that?”

The arrangement was concluded, he paid her the rent and took possession of the keys. The maid would come in every second day to clean. What more could he wish for? As they left the room she passed close to him and he smelt her perfume and sensed her femininity and saw the outline of her breasts. There was a stirring in his underpants and if she had bothered to notice she would have seen a fullness about his crotch rivalling that of many an aspiring matador.

At Kapp’s he ordered a celebratory drink and lit his pipe. To Henry Fuckit, Wanderer. The life of Henry Fuckit, Assistant Stores Officer, dwindled in space and time. This was the fourth day of his journey and yet it seemed that Cape Town was now the other side of the world and his life there a distant memory already remote and blurring at the edges. What a worthless existence if, after four days, he felt there was nothing to remember of… how long? Two years? Three? Five? How long HAD he been at the Dockyard? It didn’t matter except that in two weeks he would have to return. Unless something totally unexpected were to happen. The unpredictability of the future filled him with foolish hope and recklessly he began to dream of miracles. Anything was possible and if he remained open and alert an opportunity to change course might well present itself. The town, the harbour, the desert – all held the potential of the unknown. And if nothing happened, so what? He liked the feel of this place, and if after two weeks he had had no success in his search for the missing ducts he would merely turn around and head back. It was acceptable to suspect the present, but of no use at all to fear the future. The ideal state was to be found in a happy absence of mind. Which he was now enjoying.

The barman ungraciously produced pen and paper and he began to make up a shopping list. There was bound to be a continental bakery, so he would eat fresh rye bread or rolls each day. Butter, coffee, milk, cheese. A packet of Provita biscuits. Canned food: baked beans and viennas, spaghetti and meatballs, sardines. And breakfast? Weetbix and fresh fruit. Very nice, a well balanced diet. And now for alcoholic refreshment. Brandy, yes. Coke, yes. Sherry or port, yes. Stout for cold, foggy evenings, yes.

The afternoon wind and fog had returned and the town had closed its doors against dampness and dust and the streets were entirely deserted. Heavily laden with luggage and shopping bags he climbed the outside steps to his new haven and let himself in. This was a vast improvement on his quarters in Kalk Bay. There he was oppressed by the smell of refuse and cats and staleness, and the glimpse of fellow residents, furtive spectres shuffling in the corridor, or coughing in their rooms. Here it was airy and clean with a woman’s lightness and a cheerful, almost boisterous absence of squalor. He propped the pack against the wardrobe and placed the shopping on the table. In the bathroom the soap was lavender scented and as he dried his face he smelt the fragrance of a pomander. Marvelling at the clean homeliness of everything he poured himself a short shot of brandy and sherry and cut a slice of rye bread still warm from the bakery, buttering it thickly. It was growing dark and he switched on the light and drew the curtains before seating himself at the table.

After the Old Brown Brandy he cut more bread and a hunk of cheese and opened a bottle of stout. He poured with a steady hand. The head floated thick and creamy like spume, as was right and proper and to be expected. Beneath the brown foam the beer was the colour of Coke. “Gesund!” He raised the glass and spoke aloud. “To Frau Klee.” He drank carefully to preserve the froth. “The magical aura, the female presence, the female form!” It made him feel warm and happy to think of her.

“STOP PLAYING AND EAT YOUR FOOD!” It was her voice, raised to an angry shout of exasperation; startlingly distinct. Thin walls? Strange, in an old building like this. He looked across to where the wardrobe stood, to where the sound had come from. A piece of furniture standing against a wall in a house on a rocky slope between sea and desert. The wardrobe had jumped into sharp focus. Oak darkened with polish, a simple box construction, framed and panelled, certainly no work of art. Ball and claw feet. He went over and opened the doors to expose empty hanging space on one side and empty shelves lined with brown paper on the other. There was nothing of interest but he could hear the high voices of the children and then her voice again, not so strident this time. On impulse he got down on his knees and peered under. Well, well, well. A door. The wardrobe concealed a doorway leading to the rest of the house.

The next morning he awoke to find that the first rays of the sun had discovered a chink in the curtains and were streaming into the room, as insistent as an alarm clock. He got up, put the kettle on and pissed in the toilet. Opening the door he stood naked on the threshold, screwing up his eyes against the sharp early sun and shivering in the cold. He left the top half of the door open, made coffee and returned to the luxury of bed.

The air coming in smelt of the land and a cold empty sky. The quietness puzzled him until he heard a gull cry twice as it swooped down to the harbour. It was the chorus of garden birds that was missing. Even in the city, first light brought with it a twittering that here, in this place without vegetation, was absent.

He could hear the children’s voices. They must be having breakfast, getting ready for school. He looked at the wardrobe and smiled at the realisation that he would be moving it and investigating the door. How could he not investigate? This was an opportunity not to be missed. Only an idiot, and there were plenty of them shuffling single file down the straight and narrow, would mind his own business and not acknowledge the symbolism. How could a sensitive oke like him do anything BUT examine this door?

He got up, dressed, splashed water on his face, and then set to work. He folded his Kapp’s Hotel towel in half and half again and laid it on the floor before one pair of curved feet. Gripping the wardrobe he lifted, and with difficulty kicked the towel into position before lowering the weight. Then he went to the other end and lifted and swung the wardrobe away from the wall. A smooth operation without any screeching of wood upon the floor. The door was now accessible, but to his disappointment he at once saw that the handle had been removed. On his knees he placed an eye to the keyhole.

At first he could make out nothing. All was darkness. But as his eye grew accustomed to the gloom he began to discern a fuzzy point of light, a circle roughly on the same level as his line of vision. Perplexing. He should be looking into a room. He could hear one of the children’s voices laughing in a provocative, derisory tone to the protests of the other. Frustrated for the moment he put the wardrobe back in position and retrieved the towel.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

June 15, 2010

LUDERITZ

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:36 am

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

The late morning sun came through the yellow windows of Kapp’s Bar. It was a dimly lit room, long and narrow with a high ceiling and papered walls of a dingy cream. Fine dust floated in the shafts of sunlight and dusty footprints showed on the floor, tramped in from the unpaved street. Henry sat at the bar and idly watched the Portuguese fishermen playing darts.

They were noisy bastards, these Porros, unable to speak in a normal tone. Everything was shouted, not in anger, just as a matter of course, Portuguese except for ‘Fuckorff,’ repeated frequently and without any apparent rancour. The barman was a German with thin lips and grey hair who didn’t conceal his contempt for the patrons, ignoring them when they tried to catch his attention, playing a supercilious game that did not seem to worry them. They just shouted louder. Henry happily made enemies with this barman by leering at him, winking, and saying with a conspiratorial nod in their direction, “Untermenschen, ja?”

It was lunchtime when he emerged from the bar and walked the few paces up the street to the hotel entrance. At reception he signed the register as Caliban Gott. Caliban was the Shakespearean character with whom he identified most intimately – a spiritual brother in fact. Gott was chosen as a surname of some significance that would elicit a confused mingling of indignation, resentment, perplexity and reverence. He especially looked forward to being addressed as ‘Herr Gott”. “Mister Gott” would fail to ring a true note. “Meneer Gott” would miss the point entirely, as the G would be pronounced as a velar fricative preparatory to spitting. But “Herr Gott” – that would be real respectful. He could just see the manager, whoever he was, bowing stiffly and clicking his heels in cheap war comic fashion, and saying, “Herr Gott, zere iss und complaint concerningk ze uzzer guests.”

The room was clean and comfortable enough, but its window faced onto the street and the shutters had been screwed shut, so there was no view and the light through the angled louvres was dim and oblique. Henry lay on the bed and thought this was a room to commit suicide in. Tomorrow he would look for somewhere else. But he was surprised at how pleased he was with the town. After a few hours sleep on the train whilst it stood at the platform, he had packed his belongings and walked slowly up the steep streets to a vantage point on the hill. Orientating himself was a simple matter. The coast ran north-south and the brown hills were bare and sloped from the desert into the sea. A natural promontory formed a bay in which the harbour had been built. The streets were unsurfaced and there were no gardens of any description, so that the collection of buildings seemed to have been placed down amongst the rock and dust as a temporary measure, like a camp. And yet the buildings were substantial and solidly built structures of an imposing style from the early German days when the diamond rush was on. Now every second house was boarded up and in decay. Nowhere was there a sign of fresh paint or renovation, and prosperity had faded into the past. It wasn’t quite a ghost town but it had that derelict, abandoned appearance he had seen to a lesser degree at Aus. From the hilltop it was clear that what kept Luderitz from being relinquished totally was its harbour. There were numerous trawlers and smaller boats at quays and moorings, and a sprawl of warehouses and fish factories skirted the harbour. He scrambled to the highest rocks and looked eastward into the desert. Barren basalt and dolerite, shades of brown and then the lighter patches of dune beyond the rugged line of coastal hills. And just to the north, half hidden in a fold of these hills, he glimpsed the shacks of tin and plastic that must be the Location.

That had been this morning and he still felt slightly elated at the foreignness of the place. He went out into the afternoon to find a cold wind had sprung up from off the sea and was whisking the dust and grit up the streets and round the corners. Head down, he hurried towards the harbour. Not far from the entrance gates was the building housing the museum and library. Large and drab, constructed of brown blockwork that could have been either concrete or stone it was so grimy, it looked like a converted warehouse.

For the next two hours he browsed, first in the library and then the museum. The library was roughly half German, a quarter Afrikaans and a quarter English, so there wasn’t a great deal to look at. However, the choice of books was intelligent, with a good selection of modern classics and poetry. Also, the art section, mostly German but that was of no consequence, was well stocked and he foresaw many pleasant hours ahead of him. As for the museum on the upper floor, it was packed with well set out exhibits not only about the history of Luderitz and the diamond days but of the larger coastal and desert region, with information on the indigenous peoples, the flora and fauna, marine life, geology and climate. The curator was a humorous old German, more than happy to share the knowledge from his voluminous memory whilst puffing on a cigar and making entertaining comparisons and observations of an anecdotal kind. His assistant appeared briefly and gave Henry a friendly smile. She was youngish and distinctly attractive.

It was almost dark and a thick fog had followed the wind ashore. He was delighted to hear a full-throated bullfrog bellowing in the distance. John Robison would have been proud of this diaphonic emission – a long deep fart cut short with a grunt. This wondrous sound and the smell of the cold air sent a surge of excitement through him. There was no hurry to move on from this place. He felt a compulsion to read TS Eliot – there was a passage in the Four Quartets, The Dry Salvages, about the fog in the fir tree and the many voices of the sea, the howl and the yelp, the distant rote in the granite teeth, and the heaving groaner and the seagull and the ground swell measuring time. Tomorrow morning he would return to the library; they surely had Eliot, even if only tucked away in an anthology.

In the bar he ordered a double whisky and a large bottle of stout. There were no fishermen now, and at the dartboard a game was in progress between two teams, one from the Railways and the other from the Roads Department. They were quieter than the Porros, more serious about the game and evidently intent on drinking a large quantity of liquor. A man, somewhere in his fifties, came in and greeted the barman in German and ordered Schnapps.

“Ze mist, it is bad tonight,” he said to Henry in a matter of fact way. “And ze fishermen, zey have all gone out.”

“Oh. Are the fish running, or something?”

“No, no. Zey catch ze lobster. Crayfish. Now zey go for two, maybe three veeks to fill ze quota. Zen zey go home, ze Portuguese.”

“To Portugal?” Henry was surprised.

“Angola, Cape Verde.”

He knocked back the drink and, after looking to his watch for permission, ordered another. “You are not a fisherman.” It was more a statement than a question, and from it he realised the man was actually saying, “You look like a fisherman but you are not, so what are you?”

“No.” He suddenly felt confused. What was he? A civil servant, a storeman, a clerk? He couldn’t say, I’m a storeman on holiday. How incongruous. Lamely, he chose “I’m a tourist.” It was demeaning, for he viewed himself as a rondloper or a drifter or, best of all, a dilettante. And nothing as crashingly conventional as a tourist. People who insisted on calling themselves travellers were usually just snobs with enough money to tour in style. So he was a tourist and hoped his occupation would be left out of the conversation.

“Yes, I’m a tourist from Cape Town, visiting these parts for the first time. This is an interesting town. I think I shall stay for a week or so, but the hotel is expensive. Are there no furnished rooms to be had in Luderitz? A room attached to a private house, like servants quarters?”

“Ja, ja, I know vot you mean. Zere are two, free, maybe four. But ze only vone I personally know is goot is by Frau Klee in Nietzsche Strasse. Zey are my friends. Klee, he is artist, ja? Vone day he vill be famous. But I am late, my vife is vaiting. Auf wiedersehen.”

With gusto Henry partook of the hotel dinner, going through the menu with a voracious thoroughness. The advantage of being a roughie was that your appetite was undiscriminating. Not that the food was bad, but a genuine tourist would no doubt have found fault with the temperature of the soup, age of the rolls, pedigree of the kingklip, tenderness of the beef, sweetness of the mousse. The coffee was indisputably good. To a hungry man it was a feast and his ample satisfaction could hardly have been increased beyond this repletion. He smiled at the recollection of the Grunau cook’s blunt statement on the subject and, leaving the dining room, adjourned to the lounge, which was deserted. When a waiter appeared he ordered brandy and sat smoking a bowl of Balkan Special and enjoying a sense of unaccustomed luxury. On a sheet of hotel stationery he made rough calculations, totalling up what he had spent on the trip thus far. Hitch-hiking was free, Birkin had paid for the whoring, not that it had been worth anything, the meal at Grunau had been on the house, nothing on train fares, not much on padkos, just the meal at Aus. So up till now the main expense had been on booze: two bottles of brandy, and sundry Cokes and beers. The whisky in the bar before supper. But now this, living it up in a hotel. A waste of money, and on his meagre salary; what with the cost of liquor and books these days, he couldn’t afford such extravagance. Resolving to go in search of Nietzsche Strasse first thing the next morning he went off to bed early and slept for eight unbroken hours.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

June 10, 2010

The Settlers – by justin joshua davey

Filed under: art,justin joshua davey,literature,politics — ABRAXAS @ 5:56 pm

2004, the year I completed high school. Unlike the tortured artist cliché of hating high school with its popular crowd, puberty and detention, I enjoyed it. But yes there were many things I disliked, the enforced discipline and structure for example. This was compounded by the cultural heritage/premise on which the school was founded. Let’s start with the name: The Settlers High School,which honours and commemorates the 1820 British Settlers who came to South Africa to forge a new life, seek new opportunities and make a break from their motherland in which they were often of lower esteem and economic status, or so the story went. As a “legacy” they left to the current education system the traditions of school sport, regular school assembly and worship and school uniforms are still firmly in place.

Back to 2004 and my final year known as the matric year. I was chosen as a cheerleader for my sporting house much like those seen in the Harry Potter films. The school, as might be presumed, was formerly a “whites only” school under the Apartheid regime until the early nineties when it became the first school to open its doors to all races as the regime came to an end. By 2004 it had become predominantly coloured in demographic. The cheerleading routine10 that we had arranged included popular coloured songs which stem from the experiences of mixed race communities around Cape Town from the time of colonisation until the present. Many of these songs came from the slopes at the foot of Table Mountain just above the city known as District Six. The main rhythms and musical genre is referred to as Goema or Klopse and will also be found at the yearly Koon/Minstrel carnival11. We adapted many of these songs for the annual swimming and athletics meetings between the houses. The texts of these songs were pre-screened for any unsavory material e.g. swearing, by appointed teachers. A problem arose when one teacher commented on the use of “slang” and or “slang Afrikaans” in the songs, actually referring to our dialect of Afrikaans. We were asked not to sing these songs and come up with a new routine. I strongly objected to this censorship on the grounds that this white teacher had no idea of the cultural significance of these songs firstly in relation to the story we were being fed of “the Settlers”, as these songs arise from a mixture of slave, indigenous, settler music traditions from the interaction over 350 years. And secondly, the subliminal message being sent about the status of this culture within the hierarchy of importance for the school. I went to the headmaster of the school and laid my case before him. He defended the teacher’s decision, making the case that parents send their children to the school to learn “proper English”.

Jean Rhys echoes this sentiment when she says: I was also tired of learning and reciting poems in praise of daffodils, and my relations with the few ‘real’ English boys and girls I had met were awkward. I had discovered that if I called myself English they would snub me haughtily: You’re not English; you’re a horrid colonial. (cited in Young 2003: 21)

You see, in the eyes of the public the school was seen to be quite progressive by being the first to open its doors. Later it had even honoured, by renaming a school quad, the people who’s land, historically, the school was built on namely a tribe of the Khoisan nation called the Cochoqua and whom the 1820 settlers would have had contact with. But there was a disparity in their acknowledgement. While they saw fit to acknowledge this older chapter of the past, they fail to see its link in forming the contemporary coloured culture which spawned from the melting pot of the port of Cape Town and which had given rise to the songs. Perhaps it was because the link was an anti-link, the denial of a link, the absence of a link between a people and their past, their culture bastardised by the Apartheid regime and their language, namely the unique dialect of Afrikaans spoken in the Cape, deemed inferior to the standardised white dialect used as the official language.

What influenced the judgement of the teacher who had censored us? In essence our contemporary culture was deemed not civilized enough to take part in the official portrayal of the school to the public. Maybe it was easier for them to acknowledge the historically indigenous culture, because for all intents and purposes it does not exist anymore and does not “ threaten” in the way the contemporary manifestation of colouredness does.

The irony of this chapter of my schooling is that the very next year after I had left, the school decided to put on the much acclaimed musical District 6, in which all the songs we had proposed to sing would be sung. The final twist came while viewing a recent online photo album of present and past students, as well as a current teacher taking part in the minstrel carnival and parading down the streets of Cape Town. They were most likely singing the very songs that had been censored but this time representing the Settlers (high).

10 nothing like the American cheerleading culture
11 on a smaller scale to the Rio carnival

chimurenga 15: the curriculum is everything. out now

Filed under: chimurenga library,literature,music,music and exile symposium — ABRAXAS @ 8:34 am

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June 6, 2010

TRAIN JOURNEY CONTINUED

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 10:05 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

After an hour he realised the line had described a huge arc and was now back on course due west toward the last faint paleness where the sun had gone down. Some twenty kilometres south-southwest and then twenty kilometres west-northwest in two long tacks to ease the gradient. Orientation was important. Night had come to the sky, except just there ahead of the train, and the stars were out. And what stars! Each time he looked there were more. He tried the ceiling lamp and to his surprise it worked, casting a dim yellowish light in the compartment and turning the window into a mirror, cutting him off from the outside world. In the zip pocket of the backpack flap he found the cardboard disc that he had carried on his hiking trips with Ivor, Mike de Jongh and the Thompsons. It was bent and dog-eared but he was still able to revolve it behind the mask and oval cutout. Philips Planisphere showing the Principal Stars visible for every hour in the year from latitude 35 degrees South. Every hour in the year! He set the time to correspond with the date and tried to figure out what should be up there at this precise hour of the year. To the south the Southern Cross would be low down with the pointers above. Also Canopus, Antares, Achenaar. And the Clouds of Magellan. To the north would be Altair, Vega and Denob. And the Square of Pegasus.

He poured brandy, lit his pipe and turned out the light. The star chart had aroused memories of the free and easy times with his student companions in the Cedarberg.

He put the window down and let the cold air in. Up front the locomotive was thrusting into its pool of light, the mighty diesel engines throbbing insistently, and yet it appeared as if the train had slowed. This was odd for they were on the downhill run and were six hours behind schedule. Even as he peered into the darkness there came a long vibration through the coach and the sound of the unit ceased. Now only the clacking of the wheels over the line. Slower and slower until they were coasting at a walking pace. Finally they ground to an un-braked halt.

Bloody marvellous! Half a day’s delay and now the fucking thing breaks down in the middle of the desert. Putting on his naval sweater he went out into the corridor and along to the end of the carriage. Opening the door he descended the three steps and then jumped down, hoping not to do himself an injury in the dark. He walked up along the line of goods trucks until he came to the locomotive. There was the smell of diesel and hot metal and the tartness of rust and iron-filings that he associated with railway tracks. The driver’s cab was deserted and from further back within the depths of the engine room he could hear two voices and the clank of spanners. As he had suspected, a breakdown.

In the starlight he could see that the landscape had become denuded. Low dark shapes of rock and hillock devoid of leaf or stick to fuzz the outlines. He walked the full length of the train. Only at the non-White coach was there sign of life – music playing on a cassette from the darkened interior. The kwela sound of Township thumping and bouncing in repetitive vivacity, drums beating the tempo for saxophone, penny whistle and steel guitars. The guard’s van was in total darkness, not even the red light glowing a warning. No likelihood of other traffic but even so…

He climbed the ladder up onto the roof of the guard’s van and stood looking about at what he half saw, half sensed to be the desert. No breeze stirred the cool air and the still emptiness lay on either side of the stranded train. Above and about him the stars were scattered thick like silver glitter dropped in a fish bowl and the Milky Way was daubed in a great swathe from one horizon to the other. Wragtig en alle magtig! Down he climbed and returned to the carriage compartment. Power to the light had gone and he spent some minutes searching for a stump of candle. Finally he found it amongst the assorted junk in his backpack and lit the wick. He emptied the backpack of its bulkier items and repacked sleeping bag, upholstered cushion, (courtesy SA Railways), smoking equipment, brandy, mug and bottle of water. He donned pack and then eased, with considerable difficulty, his head and shoulders out of the window and felt for a hold above him. Ah, just as he had hoped, a gutter deep enough to give good purchase. He was standing on the windowsill now: could he swing his feet up and get a grip on that channel? Yes, not so difficult. Piece of piss, actually. He had completed the manoeuvre and lay on the roof of the coach feeling pleased with his accomplishment. Now to set up camp. He unpacked and poured a drink, wrapped the sleeping bag about his shoulders and filled the pipe with Turkish Delight.

The stars really were magnificent. The longer he looked the more dense they seemed and the only patch of blackness in the entire dome was the Coalsack. He stretched out, feet towards the rear of the train, head pillowed on the cushion. The air was cold on his face but his body was warm beneath the sleeping bag. It was rarely that he glimpsed the night sky in Cape Town and he never saw it open and clear like this. For one thing the mountains always blocked out some quarter, and for another the lights of the city combined to cast a gauzy glow like a net between observer and stars. A shooting star! Bright and swift to an abrupt death across the face of the night.

He began to think about some of the Bushman stories recorded by the nineteenth century philologist WHI Bleek. It was a girl who threw handfuls of ash into the night and ashes rose to form stars beside the Milky Way. And all night the stars and the Milky Way would sail round until they turned back to fetch the daybreak. And the man who told of his grandfather who would speak to Canopus when Canopus was newly come out. And he would exchange his weakness for Canopus’s strength. And in the summer the stars can be heard to call Tsau! Tsau! I listen and I hear Tsau! Tsau! What can it be, this? And my grandfather says that it is the stars that speak thus, Tsau! Tsau! The stars call Tsau! Tsau! to confuse the eyes of the springbok that they may not flee our arrows. And I lie here beneath the stars and the Milky Way and my eyes they close and I think Tsau! Tsau! Pow! Pow! How now, brown cow? Is it sufficient to be supine atop a railway carriage on a clear night in the middle of the Namib Desert? Yes, certainly it is sufficient; it’s a lekker experience. Who else on the planet could there be, lying on the roof of a train looking at the stars? Maybe some peasant in India. But then there would probably be a hundred others crammed up there with him along with chickens, goats and a hooly moo or two. But is it NECESSARY to be on a railway carriage roof in the middle of a desert in order to… What? Get in tune with the cosmos? Feel remote enough from all worldly clutter, from the unremitting barrage of social demands to be calm in the mind and the heart? Is it necessary to go to such bizarre lengths in order to take stock of one’s situation? Probably, probably. Sufficiency, necessity. Why does it give me a thrill to think that my behaviour is unusual? I don’t know. You tell me, Doktor. It is quite a simple matter and not that hard to understand. In modern psychological and philosophical terms I can describe myself as an alien isolate. A fuck-up, in fact, who has not seen fit to deny the absurdity of human existence. I accept the absurdity with enthusiasm and feel happiest, most animated, most amused when I am contemplating the ridiculous condition of being human. To give up such enjoyment in order to avoid the pains of alienation and isolation (and even downright ostracism) would certainly not be worth the sacrifice. I shall allow my life to unfold as it sees fit to unfold and shall savour these moments away form the herd when I can see and hear with greater clarity. I open my eyes and … Good God! The moon hath arisen at my feet. A giant powder puff spotlighted centre stage and climbing. The stars are fading, the Milky Way is gone from my vision. O great shining disc, O great Lunar orb, thou hast transfixed me with thy cold light. At thy cold beauty I gaze with awe and hear the words of the hunter, he who is known as the hare. He who saw the moon rise and live, rise and live, each night ever stronger. And then to begin to weaken and then to begin to die and rise no more. Forever dying and living again. And the wail of the hare is for his mother, his mother grown old and lain down and dying gone away. He weeps for his mother but the moon remonstrates: Leave off crying, for your mother is not altogether dead, but the hare would not cease weeping, nor would he believe the words of the Moon and the Moon became angry and struck the hare, striking his mouth and cursing him thus. I who die and living return again and again, intended that ye, the people of this place, should likewise not die altogether but living return again and again. But this man called the hare, he has contradicted me and wept and cried that his mother is dead and will not, only sleeping, rise again. And for this I curse ye that when ye die ye shall altogether dying go away when ye die and ye shall not living return. And in the flooding moonlight I smile at the irony. For not believing in his own immortality man is cursed with mortality. Harsh judgement under bright light. An ancient story as good and useful as any modern version. A scientist may tell us the facts according to laws of physics but those facts relate to diagrams and tables in a text book, hardly to this THING hanging above me as portentously as it has hung over other miscreants for thousands and thousands of years, causing the tide to ebb, the menstrual juice to flow, the psychopath to forget medication and the stray dog to remember Canis lupus. The hunter’s version of what the moon has to say certainly tells me more about myself than does the scientist’s. It’s hard to get spiritual about facts and figures.

Not only Bushmen. Now the haiku poets, they were avid moon watchers! Time and again it’s the source of inspiration for a compact image, thought and emotion, both simple and convoluted, crafted into seventeen syllables. “if my grumbling wife were still alive I just might enjoy tonight’s moon.” Well, a grumbling wife and the loss of a grumbling wife comprise a whole bunch of human experiences not come my way just yet, but thank you Moon for Issa’s sadness. How about Masahide’s wry stoicism: ‘Since my house burned down I now own a better view of the rising moon.’? If a township dweller had written that it would have a whole different feel. “Under a full moon on a distant tideless shore I hear men shouting.” Men shouting.

Henry fell into a serenely intoxicated sleep, his gaunt, hirsute features etched in fine black lines by the silver light. When he awoke the train was moving and the unit was pulling in long intermittent bursts as if the driver were trying not to tax his crippled engine any more than was absolutely necessary to keep the stock rolling on towards the coast. He sat up and turned to face the oncoming expanse of land. Yissis, it’s cold!

From his elevated position he could see for miles all about and it was a frozen moonscape of sand and rock with a caravan of telephone poles to the north, parallel to the track, filing into the distance. A monochrome scene, the blackness of shadow was cut sharply into the glowing white. The black lay in flat definition upon the vague luminosity of the white. He marvelled at the complete absence of vegetation, at how the bones of the planet were laid bare in a blunt, uncompromising statement about cold ocean currents, evaporation and precipitation.

The progress was slow but he began to feel a kind of imminence about the gradual decline, the surging pulse of the engine, the rails converging ahead, the march of the telephone poles. And even the land features seemed to be facing themselves towards the approaching coastline. Now he was in the midst of a fleet of crescent dunes all billowing towards the west and urged on by their black shadows. And then the dunes receded and were replaced by a banner of bare hills and yes he had caught the first smell of salt sea and the train was easing itself down between the ghostly hills of a town.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

May 30, 2010

HENRY’S SERMON AT AUS

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:53 pm

From The Life of Henry Fuckit, 1950-2015
by Ian Martin

He made his way up the hill to the school, which he discovered was built like a monastery and faced west. From here it became evident for the first time that Aus was built on the edge of an escarpment and the hills fell away and merged into the flat desolation of the desert below. The view was wide like the way to hell and there was the suggestion of orange tingeing the brown haze on the horizon as the sun moved lower.

Back down the road past the hotel he sauntered. Across the railway track the road turned left along the opposite side of the valley and he followed it for maybe a kilometre before coming in sight of a church. Atop the squat bell tower a cross stood stark and black against the sky. At his approach two ravens flew up, their oiled plumage glinting like black mail as they drifted higher and higher in eccentric spirals. The windows were shuttered and the heavy doors padlocked. Paint was peeling and in places plaster was cracking and falling off like scabs.

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He pushed at the doors and parched wood gave a groan of protest. A good shove and no doubt the screws would pull out of the timber. He circled the building, examining its state of dilapidation, marvelling at how a sound edifice like this could be shut up and left to deteriorate, fall into ruin because dreams had failed and the population had dwindled. At the western end he tried the door to the sacristy. Locked, as to be expected. He pulled the door towards him against the frame, stood back, breathed deeply, said “Ha-So!” in an Oriental accent and kicked flat-footed, karate style, beneath the handle. Neatly, without further ado, the door sprang open halfway before binding on its hinges. Yes, the keep had snapped and he was able to step into the room.

A table against the wall, thickly coated with dust, an open door revealing a toilet. Nails and rectangular patches on the walls showed where pictures and tracts had hung, stencilled by the sun and the priest’s pipe smoke. The interleading door was unlocked and the hinges gave a dry squeal. In the dim light from the shuttered windows and a stained glass panel high up on the west wall he could discern the altar – a polished granite slab on rough granite supports. To his right was the pulpit, an elaborate piece of furniture for a small church. The incense of bats hung in the air, similar to the smell of mice but sharper like ammonia. An intermittent electric buzz came from the lattice of black painted trusses high overhead. Stepping down into the nave he walked between the pews to the doors at the back. A dune of fine sand had formed against them, fed from the crack between the rebates. No decoration remained, no crucifixions, no martyrdoms adorning the walls. And no hymn books or even church notices lying about. In fact there were no clues at all as to the identity of the minister and his congregation.

Henry retraced his steps and mounted the pulpit. This was a brand new experience and it amused him. He grasped the rail either side of the lectern and ran his eye over the rows of pews. Belligerently.

“We are gathered here today.” His voice was loud and came back at him off the bare walls. “Ahem. Harumph. Harumph. May the blessing of God be upon thee.” He paused and then shouted, “You stupid Galatians!” His voice filled the church to capacity, boomed out of the vestibule and soared to the roof. What power! For long moments he stood motionless then turned and retreated to the sacristy. There he composed himself, straightened his cassock and strode forth with measured tread, making an entrance most becoming a high-ranking ecclesiastic. If Joyce could do it in the manner of Shem and Shaun, then Fuckit could have a go at Gudd and Sutt. Mounting the pulpit he fixed the congregation with a beady stare and spake thus:

“Buggers and Shitters, we are gaddered in the absinthe of the Lort, a mercy for which we must be most fulsomely gratudinous. Buggers and Shitters, I must implore ye to open your peepers, your tickers, your marbles, and your knickers, and look the horse in the moth. Be not afreed! Strangthen thy bools with the binding power of Troof! Cower not befear the insloat of accepted custard. What I am about to shay might cause thee to trimble and gnash thy dintures and thy gumdrops. What I am about to bear wetness to is not for the lily-livered; neither is it for the bangbroek, nor for the chicken-breasted. Bugs and Shits, this is for the bald, the breeve and the crude; it is for those who must brace their lugholes to receive the Troof. Bugren and Shitren, I place my missage bethree thee like the head of John the Hatless on a clatter: GUDD IS REALTY.

“Fall not off thy pukes. Let me expleen with the power of the wort, Crudders and Shitsters. It be acceptable custard to treat the Old Testicle as the wort of the Lort and as the unmicturated Troof. In days of gore it was tiken to mean what it shed; no more, no lesh, without the addition of sodium chloride. If, Buggers and Shitters, the Lort did stutter the worts, ‘Let there be late,’ and the Old Testicle did record the results of such stutterance as, ‘Late,’ then it was as final pudding that the origin of late did indade enamanate from the stutterance of Lort Gudd Allmatey. Now, my witless Bugshits, there do be a more sodden stool of taught which interpretates sich pissages from the Hooly Baybill in a less clitoral way and do suggist it be nuffink shot of a kind of parabola for the fable-minded and may be delegated to the world of fiery tiles. They do belief that Gudd created late, but not by stuttering, ‘Let there be Late.’ Buggers and Shitters, both stools have waddled from the path of Troof, for they both share an androgomorphic view of Gudd. This is indeed a case of cerebral dereliction. Let it be quite a parrot to you all: Gudd is Gudd, and Man is Man, and Gudd is not Man, and Man is not Gudd. It be the source of much inclement wailing and rendering of garments, this miscontruception regarding Gudd.

“Bugters and Shiters, my beloved flick, I am trying to lead ye by your short and curly acrylic to the safety of Troof. But bear this in moind: should any of the flick draw back and bleat, ‘Erotic!’ I shall not hesitate to excommunionize the recalcitrant ruminants and order them to flick off, post hoist. There be nothing erotical in what I say. I speak only Troof. O ye Karakul and Merino, ye Fat Tail and Dorper, open thy cardiac organs and thy cerebral organs!

“Hrrumph, hrrumph! Now, to enluster the crotch of what I am trying to penetrate, I shall take my reading form the Boook of Jeeb. Hrrumph, hrrumph! The die kime when the mimbers of the court of hebben took their plices in the absinthe of the Lort, and Sutton was there amang them. The Lort asked him where he had bone. ‘Ag, ranging over the earth,’ he shed, ‘from ind to ond, this why and that, looking for shit.’ The Lort drank deep from chalish of Vrotters and then proceeded to goad Sutton. ‘Have ya considered my sivvant Jeeb? Ya find noon on earth like him, a man of blimeless and upright lafe, who fears Gudd and sets his fice aginst wringdong.’ Sutton answered the Lort in coarse tones. ‘Fuck it, G Hoover! Has not Jeeb good reason to BE Gudd-fearingk? I mean, have you not hodged him round on every side with your protiction, him and his fambly and all his positions? Whativver he does you have blist, but stritch out your handy and titch all that he has, and then he’ll cuss you to ya fice.’ Then the Lort shed to Sutton, ‘That’s what ya tink, Slimeball. So beat. All that he hashish zin ya hands. We’ll she. Ony, Jeeb hisself ya must not titch.’

“Then, my woolly jumpers, we are beguiled with an epiphany of atrocities chamferred, nay, insicated even, by this weir ‘n wunneful Gudd. The boontiful offfspring of Jeeb’s randy old lions are slotted hoolsale, as are his sivvints, slivs and great erds and flicks of goots, cameleons, ships, bollocks, chackens, dunkeys – even the docks are not spared. But, amaze, amaze! Dis ole gunt Jeeb don’t looziz cool wit de Lort. No fuckin wayz. No fool epitaphs, no obscene handrailings does he hurl at Gudd. No, no, no. He’s no heart on sleeving whinger. All he does is tear up his cloths and squat in the fireplice. Oh yes, I figgits is chronium. E shive is ed. ‘I knackered cummed from the cunt, knackered I return whence I cummed. The Lort giffs and the Lort tikes a Y; blissed be the nime of the Lort.’

“Dear Carruthers and Smithers, let terror and awe gollop through thy abominable tracts as I untold this nasty tile. Back in the boardroom Gudd check Sutton skew and inquire with greasy sneer, ‘How now Sutt? Have ya considered me sivvint Jeeb?’ And Sutton, exceeding vicious in his unger spike thus: ‘Huh! Scone for scone! There be nothing the man will gridge to sive his scones. But stritch out ya hand and titch his bean and his flish, and see if the ficker don’t curse ye to ya fice.’ And the Lort kworft more Vrotters, korffed, and spate unto a golden shpitoon. ‘Okay, boy, go frit. But spare his lafe.’

“Oh mutton heads, I see that even ye be shucked. Ye cry out. In what foul and frivolous pervorsities partiketh our Lort Gudd Allmatey? In the low company of this Sutton creep! Despair not, Buggers and Shitters. Ye art unalone in this hour of ongst. Yea though I wank in the alley in the manner of Onan, I shall hear no earful. I too have nivver enkintered sich indellible fleaze as this. Brace thy silvs till thy rod is as stiff as mine! Sutton, in full flish of manic aforethought, do smite Jeeb with running shores head to toe. So bad he tiketh a piece of a brikken pote to scritch hisself as he sitteth among the eshes.

“Now at this puncture Jeeb say a very unlikely thang. His last pissplay of diety befear he cracketh like a pitcher, seven day and seven neat later. He shay, can you belief it, Bugs and Shits, he shay, whilst scritching his running shores wit a piece of gebreekte pote, he shay, ‘If we acshept goot from Gudd, should we not acshept offal?’ Haw, haw, haw! His wife be of far more prackical frame of moind. ‘Oi, yoi, yoi! Good-shmood, offal-shmoffal. Cuss Gudd and die, ye ole schmuck!’ See what I mean bout fleaze, Buggers and Shitters? But, dear Bugshites, let us not dwill on this livil of porfidy.

“I have tiken Jeeb as my taxt, for it is in this Boook that we enkinter a distempary pissplay of the twisted nitcher of Gudd. Allow me the lavatory to put it like this: Gudd be jussers rotten as ye and me. Frints, the whole of the Old Testicle is a corpse of ividence that Gudd is just like ye and me, only on a more extreme skile. The Old Testicle is filled wit milk and honey. But it is also filled wit pus and dang. Goodness and booty, offal and uckliness. That is the nitcher of Gudd, the nitcher of man. The Old Testicle IS Gudd. And that, Buggers and Shitters, is why I mike my foundling statement: GUDD IS REALTY. It is by ficing up to GUDD, by ficing the realty, the realty of Gudd, that we can fice the realty of oursilves.

“Ah, dear Bugshits, I am of the feverish heap that my worts are not falling off cleft palates. I know it be excessive wearisome to harken unto the testimonial of the Pritcher, specially if it be for more than five minute, and specially if it be within the coastlines of a horse of warship, where one is wont to wander at will within and without walls of wickfulness whilst wankin and blankin at Nod. But harken ye must. A cake! This is the wort of the Lort! Ye sapient ants and green reflectors, cease thy prostration and pay a tin shilling through the nostril. This be no bone-again Boswell-Wilkie pack of cards. Sit down and sit up strite and hear the mumbo of Jumbo.

“Now that the Old Testicle be under the belt we can tike out the New Testicle for scrotiny. A torrid tile, a sod saga, we now considereth. It be a tragical history of dambition and delusion and detrayal and misillusion. The Old Testicle was a mirror held up to our blamished nitcher, the New Testicle be the window of Hoop through which Krayst demonstrate us the principle. But not the meffod. Yiss, Buggers and Shitters, Cheesers Krayst was greet on principle but when it cummed to practick he did hit one helluva puntechnicon. ‘How to Try Without Succeeding’ could have been the total of the Boook. And the grite floor in the whole bangshoot lie not wit Seduction, Edmin or Mocca Ting. No, no, no. The rat was at the tap. The relitionship between the Emdy and the German sich that when the fish and chips were crunched and loaded with diced steak onto the shop floor, who was left holding himself in the carrier bag? Muggins, that’s who. Silly ole Cheesers Krayst who had beliefed all along that Big Doddy would bile him out if puss ever kimter shiv. Dear Frints, wot Lort Cheesers do woz see de gop in de market. People got a neat, rate? Gif them what they neat. Summingk real nice like a kinda pickage containing Liv, Humidity, Fidelio – nothing nasty or concristic. That’s what people neat. That’s what you and I neat, Buggers and Shitters. Disparately. Something got nothing to do wit moolah, poor, eeko.

“Now, in theoretical, Cheesers Krayst had Mrs Beaton in the cauldron and the aroma smelling most delicious. How to live in piss and harmony and then retire to Happy Days Ghost Horse forivver. The people wanted it, the people still wants it, you and I NEAT it. But, Bugsies and Shitsies, the tradge be that though we be educate in WHAT to do, we be igrint in HOW to do it. And, and this be the real bibble of the bub, we’ll NIVVER know how. Up there on the niles Cheesers did see final that he diddin know haw, and NO BIDDY could hilp him.

“Bugs and Shits, to cut a long shermon shot, I summarise this: The Hooly Baybill do comprise two Boooks – Old Testicle and New Testicle. Old Testicle do containeth two missages. One: Man, he miserable bogger. Two: Gudd, he symbol human nitcher. Likeways, New Testicle do containeth two missages. One: Cheesers, he goot gay. Two: Man, he go no hair. In the nime of the Farter, the Bum and the Hoolygoose. Ahem.

“And now, Buggers and Shitters, let us raise and join in that good ole herm, that stench fivrit wit all Kraystian offwits, ‘The Wise Man broke his horse upon…’ ”

From without there came a brassy blare and the earth shook and trembled. Another trumpeting blast and dust and flakes of paint began to fall like rain. Henry’s heart had stopped beating. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Clackety clack, clackety clack. He let out a great laugh and hurried without decorum from the church. In the twilight he trotted up the road after the red lamp.

Ian Martin’s controversial novel Pop-splat is now available from http://www.pop-splat.co.za.

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