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September 26, 2010

The Terror of Reason: Stereotypes and the Discourse on Stereotypes

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature,politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:29 am

In Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm there is a Darwinist view of time. It is firstly present in the narrative of the landscape with its traces of evolution: “stones – speaking of old things, of the time when strange fishes and animals lived that are turned into stone now”. Secondly it refers to the realm of people. In one passage, Lyndall, the main character, and embodiment of the enlightenment and reason, observes an African at the foot of a “kopje”. She describes him as having nothing on but a blanket, a “splendid fellow – six feet high, with a magnificent pair of legs”. The disturbing part comes when she asks: “Will his race melt away in the heat of a collision with a higher? Are the men of the future to see his bones only in museums – a vestige of one link that spanned between the dog and the white man? He wakes thoughts that run far into the future and back into the past” .

Unconsciously the text in this passage betrays a construction of knowledge that mimicked “the geographical and economical absorption of the non-European world by the West” and an ideology of progress that laid down the blueprint for the colonial “expropriation and incorporation of the other” (Young 1990:3). The South African colonial historian, George McCall Theal defined “progress” as “The extension of civilised authority over the native tribes, and/ The raising of those people to a sphere of usefulness”. Slavery became the necessary instrument – “a phase of education” according to Hegel and “a mode of becoming participant in a higher morality and the culture connected with it”. Hegel formulated this at a time (1830-1831) when the movement against slavery was already far advanced in the Cape Colony and elsewhere. His views on slavery deviate from the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the early Enlightenment. In contrast to Hegel, Rousseau wrote “the ‘right’ of slavery is seen to be void; void, not only because it cannot be justified, but also because it is nonsensical, because it has no meaning. The words ‘slavery’ and ‘right’ are contradictory, they cancel each other out” . Hegel is obsessed with time as progress – and progress as the spirit of reason and the elimination or “genocide” of unreason. Man in his natural condition, such as the natives in the colonies were often seem, came to embody “unreason”. The natural condition of the peoples, therefore, became the opposite term to progress and by implication reason. Hegel saw the natural condition as one which “itself is … of absolute and thorough injustice – Contravention of Right and Just” .

Africa according to Hegel is the “land of childhood … lying beyond the day of self-conscious history” and “enveloped in the dark mantle of Night” . Africans exhibit “the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state” and they are characterised by a “want of self-control” . As the other of progress the African in the African had to be destroyed completely. Genocide became the corollary of progress.

The discourse of progress is embedded in the discourse of reason. Reason, though, has its roots in the demand to do away with arbitrary rule. It stems from the right to demand a return on services. (Rousseau: “To speak of a man giving himself in return for nothing is to speak of what is absurd, unthinkable; such an action would be illegitimate, void, if only because no one who did it could be in his right mind. To say the same of a whole people is to conjure up a nation of lunatics; and right cannot rest on madness”) . Reason stems from the “social contract” (see the title of Rousseau’s book). The social contract is one of the aspects of progress – but a racial and evolutionary discourse, the discourse of progress, did away with the contract for the racially others. Whereas genocide is associated with progress, reason’s violence is terror. Blanchot said about terrorists: “they behave during their lifetimes not like people living among other living people, but like beings deprived of being, like universal thoughts, pure abstractions beyond history, judging and deciding in the name of all history” . This terror first manifested itself during the French Revolution – and the French invasions of other European countries which followed. Its brutal face is depicted in Goya’s series of etchings The Disasters of War on the French invasion of Spain in 1808. But the struggles of Reason idealistically defined human possibilities in terms of subjectivity and authority. It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who saw that a people which is “subject to laws, ought to be the author of them” . He formulated this possibility especially through an awareness of the freedom of the people outside Europe. For him, in reaction to this pre-colonial freedom, the revolution had to be different from, rather than a return to, the state of nature. The “state of nature” is therefore in a constant opposition to “civil society” in The Social Contract (first published in 1762). To be the author of laws implies not the absolute freedom of nature, but being restrained by the very institution authored. The state and history took on the appearance of reason – of something being authored. It took on the narcissistic image of the philosopher.

In the Cape the reign of reason was short-lived during the Batavian period of 1803 to 1806. It manifested itself in a number of decrees. Marriages were required to take place before a civil court and not in the church, unsectarian schools were established, Khoikhoin labourers were protected from ill-treatment and fraud by Europeans through an order that “no Hottentot should be engaged by a European, except under written contract entered into in presence of a landdrost” , land was set aside for the Khoikhoin, and the Batavian Republic was against the institution of slavery . When the British took control of the Cape in 1806 it was a defeat for the revolutionary ideas and especially “republican principles” were ruthlessly suppressed by Lord Macartney, the first English governor. Under totalitarian rule, European reason continued as progress. It became the object of moral societies, institutions, technologies of repression and discipline.

The final loss of their “natural state” for the Khoikhoin came in 1809 when the Earl of Caledon made “the whole of the Hottentots in the colony into legal subjection to the government” . In this they became the political equals to the Europeans – whereas before they were more free. This act meant the figurative disappearance of the “Khoikhoin” “men of men, people of pure race” . It interrupted the continuity of the Khoikhoin “making them play roles in which they no longer recognize themselves, making them betray … their own substance”. What remained was a construct of the Europeans – the stereotype: a manipulated image fixed and transmitted through the printed type.

The demise of the Khoikhoin is traditionally explained in terms of smallpox epidemics and the abuse of alcohol, rather than in terms of their discursive mass-murder through a law which made them equal to Europeans. (“The stereotype of the lazy, weak ‘Hottentot’, who was wiped out by the smallpox epidemics in the eighteenth century, or who drank himself to death”).

V.A. February in his text Mind your Colour: The ‘Coloured’ Stereotype in South African Literature complains about the endless “bacchanalian eulogies” with which South African literature depicts the Khoikhoin and writes further: “Culturally the ‘Hottentot’ characters emerge as amoral types, incapable of functioning as rational human beings”. In this statement February endorses the bacchanalian and the rational as binary opposition, and the morality that makes the “bacchanalian” amoral. He writes from the position of Reason and Progress.

Nietzsche launched his attack on the imaginary and dream realm of the ego, the law and the discipline of civil society from the position of the “bacchanalian” and elevated the Satyr to the level of the ultimate truth. The Satyr embodied the abundance and the excess of nature for which death is the necessary corollary.

Liquor signifies the ego losing control – it is also called spirits in order to name its manifold voices. Instead of stigmatising the stereotype, from the petit bourgeois position of a V.A. February, one should explore the values and beliefs of the Khoikhoin regarding liquor – in a way similar to Keletso Atkins’ reconstruction of the exchanges between the Zulu and European in nineteenth-century Natal from the point of view of the Zulu . She did this through a careful and intertextual reading of the silences of colonists’ reports as well as by looking at the oral tradition. February’s exposition tends to indulge in stereotyping as much as the texts he analyses. February, in locating the stereotype in liquor rather than in the loss of liberty, is complicit in the inquisition of reason – he becomes a judge in the name of Reason.

Liquor is further a means of socialisation. It bonds. On 29 April 1652 Jan van Riebeeck writes in his journal:

…the strandloopers, who brought with them nothing but lean bodies and hungry bellies, which we filled with some pearl barley and bread, and sometimes a drink of wine, wherefore we should also have some more rice, item arrack, wherewith to treat them and others from the interior, now and then, so as to make them the more attached to us…

Olfert Dapper’s text from the seventeenth century on the Khoikhoin Kaffraria or Land of the Kafirs, also named Hottentots (first published in 1668) contains a vivid description of the Khoikhoin giving themselves completely over to dance and drinking when peace was concluded at the end of the first war in 1659 between the Goringhaiquas and the Dutch colonists:

As soon as this compact had been concluded on both sides by word of mouth, the Hottentots were regaled in the Fort with bread, tobacco and brandy, from which they made themselves dead drunk. The others, as soon as they learned that the dispute was settled, also came running out of their villages with their women and children, until there were about two or three hundred of them, men, women and children, in and about the Fort.

After a short while Gogosoa himself, chief of the Goringhaiquas (Capemen), came with the request that he too wished to lay down his weapons together with Chief Chore. And now the Fort became so crowded that there was scarcely room to stand. Then at the command of Governor Riebeeck a whole cask full of brandy, with a wooden cup in it, was put down in the midst of all the Hottentots. Everyone now began to make good cheer, and to enjoy himself by drinking heartily. The women, too, who were all squatting down with their children, swilled down the brandy like water; although some, out of innocence, drank nothing at all, and others only a little.

When the men began to get giddy and their legs to stagger, so that often they fell to the ground, about two or three hundred pieces of tobacco, each an inch wide, were flung amongst them by handfuls to be scrambled for. Whereupon there ensued such a great clamour and din amongst them that they almost drowned all hearing, and the ringing of the ears became scarcely tolerable. Their uproar was no less violent when after that the same thing was done with bread. After all this scrambling was over, and they had drunk themselves full and were tipsy with the wine, they began to dance and jump about continuously with strange gestures and in a peculiar manner, almost like the bakers over here work the dough in the trays with their feet, by stamping, now with the one foot and then with the other, their buttocks sticking out, and the head always inclined on the one side to the ground. The women were no less jolly during the dancing of the men, clapping their hands and all along singing the self-same song of ha, ho, ho, ho, for wellnigh two hours on end. (1933:21).

More than a century later C.E. Boniface’s farce De Nieuwe Ridderorde of De Temperantisten (first published in 1832) appeared in a context far removed from the independent Khoikhoin of the seventeenth century. According to February it is one of the texts which established and popularised the stereotype of the “Hottentot” indulging in excessive drinking. This stereotype became “fixed in the minds of white South African writers …(up) to the present day”. It is based on historical events (the attempt of the Temperance Society to ban the use of liquor at the Cape) and caricatures recognisable historical persons who played a prominent role in the Temperance Society. People such as Dr. John Philip of the London Missionary Society (named in the play as the Reverend Humbug Philipumpkin), John Fairbairn, editor (named Sir John Brute) and George Greig (Goris Krikie) the printer and owner of The South African Commercial Advertiser as well as various other reverends and doctors of the Cape. The play is written at a time when the production of liquor was one of the major industries at the Cape and Boniface’s concern clearly reflects the threat of the Temperance Society to this industry and deep-structure of Cape society. This becomes clear in the seventh scene of the first act in the dialogue of the brandy distiller, Bob Going-Gone and Issegrim a solicitor. From this perspective the play suggests that it is unpatriotic not to drink whether you were European or African: “Ik zal drinken, wy zullen drinken en alle de goede Christenen zullen drinken uit loutere patriotismus” (“I shall drink, we will drink and all good Christians will drink from pure patriotism”)

In contrast to the learned and established citizens one has, as apprentice temperantists, the settler types from the lower classes. They are always in a drunken stupor: the Scottish Jack O’Groggy, the British Tommy Sipdrams and the Irish Andrew Everdry. On this level too are the Khoikhoin characters: Manus Kalfachter, who is knighted as representative temperantist of the people of Bethelsdorp, his concubine Griet Drilbouten, Klaas Galgevogel, Hans Droogekeel, Piet Dronkelap and Dampje Waterschuw. When the Khoikhoin characters are compared to the European characters it becomes difficult to see them as specifically being stereotyped as abusers of alcohol: everybody, eventually, even the Reverend Humbug Philipumpkin, is indulging. The specificity of Khoikhoin characters, that which positions them as stereotype, does not refer to the fact that they have an obsessive love for alcohol, but to their status in society – their class position as a disinherited and illiterate people. Whereas the settlers have their reverends and doctors – they have none. The abuse of liquor is a mere symptom in a narrative of disempowerment.

Spirits could be uplifting, a way of celebrating the abundance of life and nature, as in the instance described by Dapper – or it could point to an escape from an economically and morally repressive society. Olive Schreiner portrays this form of degradation in an interesting passage of recognition of the self in the other in The Story of an African Farm. In this the self (the poor white, Waldo) and the other (the Bushman boy) become mere surface phenomena to deep social determinants. Waldo narrates:

I was stiff and cold; and my master, who lay by me, offered me his flask, because mine was empty. I drank some, and then I thought I would go and see if the river was going down. I remember that I walked to the road, and it seemed to be going away from me. When I woke up I was lying by a little bush on the bank of the river. It was afternoon; all the clouds had gone, and the sky was deep blue. The Bushman boy was grilling ribs at the fire. He looked at me, and grinned from ear to ear. ‘Master was a little nice’, he said, ‘and lay down in the road. Something might ride over Master, so I carried him there.’ It was as though he said, ‘You and I are comrades. I have lain in a road too. I know all about it”.

Since the production of Boniface’s play in 1832 right into the Apartheid years (after 1948) Europeans have tried to contain and restrict the use of alcohol by Africans – without really attempting to understand the role of beer or alcohol in African society. One recalls Can Temba’s “Let the People Drink!” A story with basically the same theme and message as Boniface’s play. Temba the reporter-narrator states “The issue is no more whether Africans in general should be allowed to drink. THEY DRINK IN ANY CASE. The issue is whether they may drink legally” . The challenge is not to explore alcohol as negative stereotype, and pathology, but to investigate through literature the power of alcohol as agent of socialisation and limit to the culture of reason.

September 25, 2010

“Volcano needing constant watching”: South African white labour and socialist culture 1900-1924

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:10 am

1.

In Memoirs of a Socialist in South Africa 1903-1947 (nd.) Wilfrid H Harrison reminisces about the white labour struggles of 1922 on the Witwatersrand. He refers to the 50,000 people who followed the Red Flag in the funeral procession of three strikers who were convicted to death (HK Hull, D Lewis and SA Long) and writes:

That is many years ago and we wonder what has become of those 50 000 people who followed those singers of the “Red Flag” to their graves. Obviously they have buried the axe, so to speak, and their indignation against Capitalist machinations. That all happened … in Johannesburg – the city of great storms in labour movement, which generally end in the proverbial teacup (48).

Nineteen Twenty Two was the culmination point of a period of intense struggle by the white working class in South Africa against the state and the capitalists of the time. D. Ivon Jones described 1922 as “the first great armed revolt of the workers on any scale in the British empire” (Hirson 1993:81). Martial law was proclaimed three times on the Witwatersrand in the period between 1913 and 1922 (Walker 1961:91). General Smuts saw Johannesburg as a “volcano that required constant watching” (Urquhart nd.:7). The period itself was described as one of “events of world importance” (Cope 1945:31). The gold mining industry at that time was the “fulcrum of world capital” (Hirson 1993:82). With reference to the strike of 1913 Gitsham wrote that “More or less truthful narratives of this event have appeared in every newspaper in the civilised world” (1926:34).

Despite attempts by Cope, Harrison, Gitsham and others to “rescue” some of this “raw material of history and present it to the workers in readable form” (Cope 1945: preface), a veil1 was drawn over this period. According to Baruch Hirson these events was “removed from historical memory” (1993:74) because these strikes were found to be “racist” and “reactionary” (1993:74) W.H. Andrews on the other hand in the 1940s ascribed this forgetting to the “smooth and comfortable path of class-collaboration” (1941:3) taken by many of the labour leaders. The amnesia, though, also relates to the purges of the Stalinist period that intensely affected the South African communists in the early 1930s. The Russian Revolution oedipalised international socialism. Lenin significantly called one of his books Left Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder (Johns 1995:119). To him the many subject positions outside the Russian centre embodied this infantilism. It intensified struggles against the multiple subject positions within socialism, in order to homogenise every move around the directives from the parent Moscow. It created space for betrayal and persecution. Bernard Sachs describes very interestingly in his autobiography Multitude of Dreams (1949) how he uncontrollably laughed himself out of the Communist Party in these circumstances, while Edward Roux’s in S.P. Bunting: A Political Biography (1993) states that he wrote this book to purge himself of his self-disgust at betraying Bunting, the erstwhile leader of the Communist Party, during these expulsions.

The main focus of my article, though, is on the period in South African labour history before the oedipalisation intensified. The focus will be on the cultural aspects of this history in order to highlight an aspect of colonialism which has not received much attention: namely the role and the various subject positions of the European worker on the gold fields of South Africa in the period 1900-1924. I want to start with a short survey of some of the major strikes of the period by European workers.

1907: A strike developed over a reduction of wages and how many rock drills each white miner should control. The strike developed into violence and the British troops still garrisoned in the country after the Anglo-Boer War were called in to drive the miner’s pickets off mine property and miners back to work. During this strike poor white Afrikaners were encouraged to act as scabs, and in this way Afrikaners for the first time became a large group within the mining labour.

1913: Workers declared a general strike on the Reef after workers at the Kleinfontein mine in Benoni were ordered to work the same hours on a Saturday as on other days. Thousands of people assembled for a mass meeting on the Market Square, Johannesburg, despite a law that prohibited gatherings of more than six people in a public place. Mounted police and squadrons of the Royal Dragoons charged the meeting. The angry crowds reacted by burning down the office of the Star newspaper and the railway station. The Star was controlled by the mine owners. The next day the crowds gathered outside the Rand Club, headquarters of the mine magnates. The Dragoons shot into the crowd killing about twenty people.

1914: South African Railway workers went on strike due to threats of retrenchment. Seventy thousand police officers, soldiers and armed Burghers were mobilised on the Witwatersrand and Martial Law proclaimed with hundreds of trade union leaders imprisoned. The strike leaders were taken out of their prison cells at night “rushed by train with blinds drawn under armed guards to Durban, and bundled aboard the SS Umgeni, which was at once put to sea and made straight for England” (Andrews 1941:25).

1919: The Johannesburg Municipal Mechanics and Tramwaymen call out a strike because of threatened retrenchment. The strikers implemented new methods of struggle suggested by the Internationalist Socialist League. They took possession of the Power Station, the trams and town council themselves: “the power station was at work and the trams were running to the great delight of the humbler citizens of Johannesburg” (Andrews 1941:30). The strike committee, under its chairman, J.T. Bain, formed itself into a board of control, took possession of the Town Hall, and held its meeting in the Council Chamber with Bain in the Mayor’s chair. Everything was running smoothly with the Town Council homeless and helpless (Andrews 1941:30).

1922: The strike or revolt began in the coal mines with an announcement of a reduction of wages. It spread to the gold mines when a plan by the Chamber of Mines to retrench several thousand European workers became known. They were to be replaced by cheaper black workers. On 22 February the strike turned violent when the first skirmishes between workers and police took place. A number of strikers were imprisoned after this. On 28 February, strikers assembled outside the Boksburg prison and sang the Red Flag to their comrades inside. The police then fired on them killing a number. Thousands of people attended the funeral of the victims. The workers all over the Witwatersrand organised themselves into commando’s, while a Council of Action, under the leadership of Percy Fischer, did the planning of the revolt. A number of the trade union leaders were imprisoned in the Fort (where well-known communists educated their more nationalistic inclined Afrikaner fellow prisoners into the principles of the class struggle). In the days that followed workers stormed and burned down police stations, taking captive many police officers. Battles waged in Benoni, Boksburg, Dunswart, Brakpan, Jeppestown, Fordsburg, Booysens, Vrededorp, Newclare and Newlands. Two hundred people died.

2. Carnival and Oratory

Authors often refer to the industrial unrest during the first two decades of the century in terms of literary and biblical metaphors. Andrews speaks of “the story of trade unionism in South Africa” that is “dramatic” (1941:11). Herd states that the “story of 1922 has a classic form” (1966:14). The prelude is the months of unrest with rumbling undertones followed by several weeks of minor skirmishing that climax in “open and bitter fighting with rifles, machine-guns, artillery and armed aircraft” (1966:14). Gitsham sees the history of South African Trade Unionism as “filled with Romance, Tragedy and Comedy” (1926:3). The “story” that he tells in its incompleteness resembles a “flashlight photograph” (1926:7) and “many details will not bear a resemblance to some of the observed facts” (1926:7). The communists are often seen in terms of biblical images. Boydell describes Wilfrid Harrison as a “social and economic evangelist” (Harrison nd.:VIII) and as a “hot-gospeller of the bottom-dog” (Harrison nd.:X). One of the tasks of the newly found Communist Party of South Africa (established in October 1920) was to “establish the widest and closest possible contact with workers of all ranks and races, and to propagate the Communist gospel among them” (Johns 1995:121).

Reading the “story” in its many texts evokes images of spectacle and carnival: a carnival of mass meetings, funeral processions, ritualised marches and mob scenes. Herd, with reference to the street gatherings of strikers, refers to the “hurrying mob” fed on “exhilarating rumours” (1966:32) and to “an inflamed mob and thousands of sightseers” (1966:50). Captain William Urquhart, a senior policeman who wrote about the strike from personal experience, highlighted the carnival and spectacle aspects of the 1922 revolt in his book The Outbreak on the Witwatersrand (1922). He endorses the view of Colonel Mentz, the Minister of Defence, that the mob demand for a general strike was a licence to destruction. Urquhart describes how the strike was transformed into “amok” (1922:89) in Benoni:

Private houses were burned. A gunsmith’s shop was ransacked for arms and destroyed. The Arcade was wrecked. Bottle stores were looted. The houses of loyal citizens had been burned down. An artist at work in his studio had his own chisels driven into his head and back. Drunken men fired indiscriminately on women. Rioters entered a temporary hospital and threatened to kill the patients. Now that all seemed like an evil dream (1922:89-90).

Urquhart refers to the “shocking outrages” (1922:55) of the women commandos, who “drifted into unmentionable barbarities by rapid stages” (1922:55) especially against strike breakers or “scabs”. He describes how workers seized a shift boss at the Krugersdorp railway station and drove away with him out into the veldt where three women attacked him. While he was lying prostate they threatened to gouge out his eyes, and then stripped him, defiling his body, and leaving him naked on the veldt (1922:60). The exchange of identity, characteristic of carnival, also manifested itself when snipers disguised themselves in women’s clothing (Urquhart 1922:83).

The annual May Day processions (the first one was held in 1904) are the most obvious ritual that links the labour movement with carnival. Since 1913, though, marches increasingly became funeral processions or processions in memory of the “martyred dead”. In 1922 the police put the Simonds Street section, where a number of people died during the 1913 strikes, out of bounds of a procession of marchers. The marchers “wished to proceed along the street for sentimental reasons – ‘as shooting took place there in 1913 and 1914’” and they wanted to take off their hats as they pass along (Mickey Dunn in Herd 1966:32). The commando system, adapted from the Anglo-Boer War, and combined with the forms of regimentation learnt during the First World War, gave a military2 character to these processions:

a curious procession headed by a band of youngsters playing Scottish tunes. Behind them came a detachment of mounted police from central Johannesburg, Fordsburg and Denver. They were followed in turn by wagons loaded with women lustily singing the Volkslied, the anthem of the old South African Republic. After the wagon convoy came the cyclists and marching women wearing uniforms with conspicuous red crosses on the sleeves (Herd 1966:40)

The mass meetings addressed by orators is a special feature of the events of this period. It highlights the importance of the physical presence and rhetorical skills of leaders during the rituals, marches, meetings, strike actions, funerals and debating evenings in that period. It was essentially an oral and public culture. They delivered their speeches from platforms on the Market Square or other public places. The texts often refer to the styles of different leaders in addressing crowds. ES Sachs describes Bill Andrews as a “superb orator” who is “able to combine in his speeches cold logic with pathos, simple language with eloquence, dignity and humility” (Andrews 1941:5). J.T. Bain, a colourful labour leader who in 1892 was one of the founders of the first “ambitious attempt” at union organisation in South Africa, namely the Witwatersrand Mine Employees’ and Mechanics’ Union, is described as:

a first-rate platform orator, and could often be seen on a Sunday pouring forth a fiery Glasgow tirade to a crowd in the Market square. His hatred of the capitalists knew no bounds (Copend.:45).

Tom Matthews as a speaker often lost his temper, gesticulated and was “capable of fiery speaking which could rouse the workers to heights of enthusiasm” (Cope 1945: 93). He considered himself a rationalist and on one occasion delivered a complicated lecture on totem worship and the origin of religion. He had volumes of Frazer’s ‘Golden Bough’ before him for reference, and elaborate notes. He did not prepare sufficiently, and found himself stuttering until he swept aside his books and notes, and launched into a furious denunciation of the capitalists and the Chamber of Mines (Cope 1945: 94). Another orator was Wilson-Wilson a well-known “Australian ‘spell-binder’…drawn into the strike because it afforded him a ready platform” (Walker and Weinbren 1961:24). Urquhart states that Percy Fisher “was an effective speaker; though he rattled off his message at express speed, he was lucid and indulged in a mordant humour at the expense of the capitalistic class” (nd.:67) and refers also to the “other preachers from strike pulpits” (nd.:67).

In Cape Town socialism was regularly preached from the plinth of Van Riebeeck Statue, Adderley Street. Cape Town also had a lively debating society which was often frequented by Cronwright and Olive Schreiner. Wilfrid Harrison, one of the colourful figures from Cape Town states in his memoirs: “Mass psychology…is funny stuff. They will be as calm and chuckle like cooing doves one minute, and are as ferocious as wild beasts the next, if one knows how to get them like that. There I used my years of experience as a mob orator to put the amusing side of the subject as much as possible, then a little serious talk, till they began to snarl, then think of something funny again. The effect is wonderful” (52)

Harrison describes S.P. Bunting as a long-winded and monotone speaker, with crowds not appreciating his “heights of Communist ideology” (71). Bunting retaliated by referring to the street corner revolutionaries and that “(i)t should NOT be our privilege to stand on a Cape Town dunghill and crow that we know better” (Harrison 101). He did this in the context of Sylvia Pankhurst who according to him was trying to push “‘her own little barrow’ against the colossal and successful Third International machine” (Harrison 90).

The meetings themselves often happened in the streets where the workers were addressed from Trades Hall balconies, or open pieces of land where boxes or the rooftops of cars were used as platforms. In 1922 while the leaders discussed the decision to go on strike, the “commandos remained faithfully at their posts with almost nothing to eat, listening to an unceasing torrent of oratory from the Trades Hall balcony” (Andrews 1941:34). Edward Roux describes how he accompanied his father as a child to a political meeting: “A crowd of a hundred or so gathered in the dark on an empty plot and listened to the speakers who spoke from an empty box lighted with a solitary lantern” (Roux 1993:67). Walker and Weinbren describe another meeting:

At about 3 o’clock a body of strikers from Germiston marched into town taking up a position on the Union ground. Here again a number of speeches were made from the room of the tramway waiting-room, at the corner of the grounds, advising defence of the federation.

Mr W.H. Andrews commenced an opposition meeting, speaking from a cab drawn up in the centre of the ground (1961:40).

Cope describes how a number of strike leaders arrived at night at the Germiston station, not knowing the road to the mine where a meeting was to take place, but

heard a distant but powerful voice roaring at them. It was Jimmy Coward. He kept up his shouts like a ship’s foghorn until the organisers had arrived at the meeting – a distance of more than a mile (79).

The song “The Red Flag” and the banner itself were important symbols at meetings and processions. It attained near religious value. Wilfrid Harrison describes his home in Buitenkant Street as a church where comrades gathered on Sunday evenings. Here he baptised his offspring on the Red Flag with the words “In the name of liberty, equality and fraternity I now dedicate my son to the cause of international Socialism” (Harrison 1947:16). He describes how the British labour leader, Keir Hardie, gave them a few lessons on how to sing the song “The Red Flag” to the more harmonious tune of “The White Cockade” (Harrison 1947:22).

This song “The Red Flag” punctuated every significant event, and was especially used to give courage in situations of distress: The secret arrests of strike leaders in 1914 became known when “some Labour men had heard strains of the Red Flag floating from a ‘Black Maria’” (Cope 1945: 156). In 1922, on “the evening of the 28th February, a number of strikers assembled outside the jail and, to cheer the prisoners up, sang the Red Flag” (Andrews 1941:33). The commandos were referred to as Red Flag commandos and they sang “the Red Flag behind the barricades and sandbags” (Cope 1945: 278). During the arrest of leaders “The prisoners raised a cheer as they were driven away and bystanders took it up. Then some of the crowd removed their hats and sang a verse or two of the Red Flag” (Herd 1966:65). At the hanging of the convicted strikers Long, Hull and Lewis, the prison seemed to be like a church with not a sound to be heard. The “great audience became silent as the three started on the path to death singing:

Then raise the scarlet standard high!

Within its shade we’ll live or die.

Tho’ cowards flinch and traitors sneer

We’ll keep the red flag flying here (Defence Committee 1922:37)

At the end of the founding meeting of the Communist Party in South Africa (October 1920) “the entire assembly of delegates and sympathizers rose to sing The Red Flag” (Johns 1995:125).

Worker newspapers often printed the Red Flag (The Strike Herald, July 2, 1913, The Strike Illustrated with Supplement, July 4, 1913; the Afrikaans version in . The “Eastern Record” , July 4, 1914 and printed in red in English on the back of the same edition) or alluded to in the doggerel. The song “Workers Awake” (The Strike Herald, June 28, 1913:6) refers to it in the context of carnival images:

Now the Red Flag flies from the housetops high;

The streets are all athrong;

And dancing children from the windows cry:

“Help is coming along.”

Then cheer upon cheer to heaven is sent,

And age forgets to frown,

When the men of Van Ryn on battle bent

Came marching to the town.

After the Russian Revolution the Red Flag symbolised the beginning of a new historical period. In the “I.S.L. Marching Song”, that was first published by the International Socialist League of Cape Town, the chorus sings:

So march on, O comrades, march till the day

break;

Red glows the Flag of Revolt in the dawn!

So march on, O comrades, march till the day

break;

Red glows the Flag of Revolt in the dawn!

(The International, June 6, 1919).

In Donald Snowdon’s volume of doggerel verse The Sniper’s Pencil. Red Lines from the Boksburg Gaol (nd.) there are poems such as “The Church and the Red Flag” about a conference of bishops and elders and churches of all denominations to discuss the threat of the Russian Revolution:

But in the crowds the workers gather at their meetings

And cheer them to the echo when they say:

Comrade Lenin, from the Russians, sends you greetings!

Raise the Red Flag and you’ll see the light of day (7).

3. Newspapers and doggerel

Doggerel, inspired by the various events, often appeared in the worker newspapers such as The Strike Herald, The “Eastern Record” and The International. These songs usually appeared under pseudonyms, or anonymous, with some of the songs taken over from American or British newspapers (such as The Machinist Journal). The popular song “St Peter and the Scab” (Strike Herald July 2, 1913) derives from Berton Brailey’s “The Scab” that appeared in the Popular Magazine (see Strike Herald Aug. 2, 1913). The Clarion is one of the labour newspapers that had a great impact since the late nineteenth century. J.T. Bain sold it on the Witwatersrand to the mineworkers. In the August 1894 edition of The Clarion he writes (under the pseudonym of “Snooks”):

In a few months the red van drawn by six oxen, and laden with Labour literature, and accompanied by one who has read the Clarion since its first appearance, will, we hope, be seen trekking the Reef from end to end (Cope 1945:45)

The newspapers were part of the public culture and the doggerel verse was intended to be sung. Although printed, it was used in oral contexts.

Apart from The International very little information exists on the other newspapers. The Strike Herald was a bi-weekly published by the Federation of Trade Unions and the Kleinfontein Strike Committee in 1913. It was edited by Ivon Walker. In his book 2000 Casualties (1961) co-authored with Weinbren, Walker describes a police raid on the newspaper, the arrest of the staff and the breaking up of the type matter already prepared. On July 31 of 1913 it became a daily only to be terminated at the end of the strike two days later. The “Eastern Record” described itself as a “people’s paper”, and was distributed in the East Rand towns of Benoni, Germiston, Boksburg and Springs between February 1914 and July 1915. It was the organ of the East Rand district committee of the South African Labour Party. In its last issue (31 July 1915) it stated “Time (is) not yet right for (a) paper like Eastern Record. But we have sown the seeds of socialism…Our socialist paper has stood its ground”. This newspaper is never mentioned in histories of socialism and communism in South Africa. Only one copy could be traced in the State Library, while the Strange Library in Johannesburg/Gauteng has an incomplete set on microfiche.

The “Eastern Record” was replaced by the more well-known The International. This was a weekly which appeared for the first time in September 1915 as a paper of the War on War League. This League established the International Socialist League of South Africa as its political party. Like the doggerel in The “Eastern Record” many of the verses in The International aimed at educating the workers into international socialism and anti-war policies. The objectives of the League were “To propagate the principles of International socialism and anti-militarism” (Cope 1945: 174) and “industrial unionism ‘on class lines irrespective of race, colour or creed as the most effective means of providing the necessary force for the emancipation of the workers” (Cope 1945: 179). These newspapers often referred to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg who inspired the anti-war activities of the League. It eventually became the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of South Africa. David Ivon Jones was the editor before he left for Russia in 1920. In Russia he became one of the first English translators of Lenin’s works. S.P. Bunting became editor in 1916 for a while during a short absence of Jones. From 1920 onwards Bill Andrews was the editor.

In 1919 the Communist Party bought their own printing press. Jewish families who came to South Africa from Russia at the beginning of the century supplied the money. They looked to The International for news on the Russian Revolution. Bill Andrews who was a skilled engineer and other comrades from the typographical industry installed the press. In 1922, The International was suppressed. The police raided and dismantled the printing office of the Communist Party. When Martial Law was proclaimed many of the regulations focused on newspapers (“No Person shall in a newspaper, pamphlet, or any other publication, or verbally, make use of any language which is calculated to spread false intelligence or to create alarm” (Defence Committee nd.:50) and “No person shall print, publish, or circulate any newspaper, pamphlet, leaflet, or other document containing words or information, or utter any words calculated to promote disaffection or ill-feeling, nor shall any person communicate such words or information” (Defence Committee nd.:50)).

The control of newspapers was an important element in the struggles between workers and capitalists. The power of newspapers goes beyond that of the mass meeting, it reaches many more people, and its visual presence gives it a sense of truth. One of the first trade unions in South Africa was the Printing Trade Union, and they were also one of the first to come out in strike in South Africa in 1889. In 1911 they engaged in an important strike in Cape Town. General Hertzog who would become the leader of the Afrikaner nationalists, suppressed this strike. Nasionale Pers, a big Nationalist publishing house emerged at that time with the development of Afrikaans literature. It is possible that they were strongly affected by the strike. The support of workers in the printing industry was very important in the strikes of 1913 and 1914 and in the production of worker papers such as The Strike Herald.

During the strike of 1922, though, Andrews complains about the non-committal of the S.A. Typographical Union. The Typographical Union continued to produce the Star and the Rand Daily Mail that were “putting out misleading reports and anti-working class propaganda” (Andrews 1941:40). When Andrews criticised them for this, they called on him and informed him that if any further criticism appeared in The International, the union will withdraw its members from the Communist Party’s printing office.

The worker literature of the period, especially the doggerel which appeared in the newspapers, addresses the daily events of importance to the worker struggles. I want to focus on the themes of Empire and civilisation contained in these discourses in order to explore some of the contradictions of worker subjectivity in that period.

4. Empire, Civilisation, Reason

The theme of Empire should be seen against the background of the Anglo-Boer War on the one hand and the First World War on the other. The Anglo-Boer War, a “curtain-raiser” (33) for the First World War, was according to Lord Olivier motivated by the desire to “round off the Empire in Africa before it was too late” (Cope 1945: 55). It was a war of imperialism against Third World nationalism. It brought soldiers to South Africa from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. After the war many of them became workers on the Witwatersrand, bringing with them new ideas of labour and socialist organisation.

In these circumstances the mining magnates lived with the ever-present fear of a “militant and self-confident proletariat”, who, on the model of the Australian example, could “wrest power from their hands” (Cope 1945: :81). Percy Tarbutt, Director of the Consolidated Goldfields Company, stated:

the feeling seems to be one of fear that if a large number of White men are employed on the Rand in the position of labourers, the same troubles will arise as are now prevalent in the Australian colonies, i.e., that the combination of the working classes will become so strong as to be able to more or less dictate not only the question of wages, but also political questions by power of the vote (Cope 1945: 81)

Sir Bartle Frere foresaw a state of anarchy when the “more educated and misguided Boers, dominated and led by better educated foreign adventurers – Germans, Hollanders, Irish Home Rulers, and other European Republicans and Socialists – would become a pest to the whole of South Africa” (Cope 1945: 81).

During this period Afrikaner nationalism combined with communist internationalism. In the manuscript of a play called Nineteen Thirteen (author unknown, although adapted from poems by M Tate and Marie Pitt) a worker procession, singing the nationalist “Die Volkslied” but following socialist red flag, is described. Edward Roux writes about the power of nationalist discourse in the period by referring to the influence of his Dutch teacher, Miss Joubert. She told him as a pupil a good deal about the Anglo-Boer War and her experiences in a concentration camp. He writes: “Had I been living in an Afrikaans speaking environment among my father’s people who had also suffered these things, I might well have become a Afrikaner nationalist” (1970:9)

J.T. Bain, a prominent worker leader in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, fought as an intelligence agent with the Boer commandos He was caught and sent to Ceylon with other Boer prisoners of war. He saw the Anglo-Boer War as an attempt of the mining magnates to gain political power in the Transvaal in order to introduce “industrial slavery” (Cope 1945: 50) through the replacement of the organised white labour by a closely controlled black labour.

In the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Witwatersrand Disturbances, June-July 1913, Minutes of Evidence his name appears on a handbill that was handed in as evidence to the commission after the strike. The handbill ends with the following lines of doggerel:

Come in your thousands, Oh, Workers, Come!

Come and help us in the fight

For Freedom and for Right.

Cannot ye hear it, the roll of Freedom’s drum,

Stand ye by no longer motionless and dumb.

But come in your thousands,

Oh, Workers, Come! (38)

It is not clear whether Bain wrote these lines or whether he is quoting from some generally known song of the period.

S.P. Bunting, the first leader of the Communist Party of South Africa, came from an aristocratic family. His father was knighted in 1908. His conversion to socialism happened in 1913 when he witnessed how some of the mining magnates shot at the demonstrating strikers in the street below from the balcony of the Rand Club. When he came to South Africa he believed in the civilising mission of the British Empire. In 1909 he was the honorary secretary of the “White Expansion Society” whose object was to promote the improvement of conditions and the rapid expansion of a permanent European population in South Africa (Roux 1993:50). He changed to a non-racial position with the First World War and the establishment (in 1915) of the Internationalist Socialist League of South Africa. From this time onwards he committed himself to a Socialist International that is a “frontierless empire” (Roux 1993:22) and he became a pioneer in making the Communist Party non-racial.

With the First World War the theme of Empire came strongly to the fore again. Workers had to choose between fighting for the British Empire or to show solidarity with the international working class. The internationalism on the Witwatersrand was strengthened by the fact that the gold fields attracted people from all over the world. The Labour Representative Council, which operated between 1902 and 1905, consisted amongst others of the German Vorwardts Club, the Italian Socialist Club, the Jewish Socialist Society and the Friends of Russian Freedom. In 1913 the SA Labour Party affiliated with the Internationalist Socialist Bureau and endorsed the anti-war policy of the Bureau. When the war broke out on August 2, 1914, the Administrative Council of the S.A. Labour Party expressed “its protest against the capitalistic governments of Europe in fomenting a war which can only benefit enemies of the working classes, and appealing to the workers of the world to organise and refrain from participating in this unjust war” (Cope 1945: 162). In defiance of the Administrative Council, a section of the Labour Party around the newspaper The Worker “vied with the most arrant Jingoes in swinging the White workers behind the Botha-Smuts Imperialists” (Cope 1945: 162-163). The consequence was that “Branch after branch of the Party passed votes in favour of the war” (Cope 1945: 163). They organised “Labour Legions” which offered their services to the Government” (Cope 1945: 163). The majority of South African White workers supported the war and “(t)hey believed they had an interest in dying for ‘their’ Imperialists” (Cope 1945:163).

In reaction to this a War on War group broke away from the Labour Party with The War on War Gazette as its mouthpiece. This newspaper existed for about two months before being suppressed by the government at the end of November 1914. The “Eastern Record” and later The International, though, promoted the policy of the War on War group, and the International Socialist League.

The International Socialist League was a minority of radicals. Cope describes them as “middle-class professional men, clerks, clergymen and others whose mental honesty and humanitarianism had brought them over to the side of the workers” (163). Internationalism became a serious principle to them. S.P. Bunting in Sept. 17, 1915 addressed a “Message to Europe” “in all humility from this remote corner of the globe” (Johns 1995:51). He pleaded for the establishment of a “well-knit, united, executive International Socialist League” (Johns 1995:51) consisting of the various anti-war sections of socialists in Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy and United States. The organisation was to be under the leadership of Karl Liebknecht.

The principle of internationalism also meant extending the program of the league beyond Race. The spokesmen of the league stated:

an Internationalism which does not concede the fullest right which the native working class is capable of claiming will be a sham. One of the justifications for our withdrawal from the Labour Party is that it gives us untrammelled freedom to deal, regardless of political fortunes, with the great and fascinating problem of the native. If the league deals resolutely in consonance with socialist principles with the native question, it will succeed in shaking South African Capitalism to its foundations. Then and not till then, shall we be able to talk about the South African Proletariat in our international relations (Johns 1995:49).

Many of the verses in The “Eastern Record” and The International formulated the anti-war sentiments of the War on War group and attacked the pro-war policies of the Labour Party. The poem “Sons of Empire”, written by J.T. Bain, refers to the ‘Fat-Men’ and their tricksters” and “the Labour Party’s sergeants” who cry “‘come, come.’ / When the war is over,/ You will live and die in clover,/ ‘Neath the sunny cliffs of Dover” (The “Eastern Record” Oct. 10 1914:5) but the poet hears:

Of ANOTHER kind of music,

From ANOTHER kind of drum.

And it says “When the war is over

‘Twill be ‘Slums’ instead of clover,

‘Twill be ‘Hell’ instead of Dover

In the never-ceasing, still increasing

Slum! Slum! Slum!”

Despite the pitter-patter of the Labour Party’s

Drum

M.H.F. parodies, through reference to “The Red Flag”, the Labour Party’s support for the war in “The New Labour Hymn”:

And let the old Red Flag be damned,

The Union Jack is in demand,

Election day is drawing near,

We’ll keep the two flags flying here. (The International Oct. 1, 1915)

Merlyn (pseudonym of a poet who regularly contributed to The “Eastern Record”) writes of the “Drones of the empire, advocates of hell” who should go to the front in the war. He describes them as “THOSE men…/Who live on the strength of the workers’ might: /Those useless nonentities/…Democrats’ octopus, commercial weeds,/Trades union parasites, poisonous seeds” (The “Eastern Record”, Oct. 17, 1914).

The International Socialist League (at its first conference, January 1916, Johannesburg) saw it as their task “to prepare for a probable uprising of the proletariat at the conclusion of the war” (Johns 1995:59). The Russian Revolution in 1917 was seen as the beginning of the universal uprising of the working class. This led to ambiguous and opportunistic support for the uprising in 1922 which, contrary to the principles of the by then established Communist Party of South Africa, utilised the slogan “Workers of the World Unite for a White South Africa”. Urquhart writes:

The reader may justly question the feasibility of sincere co-operation in a revolutionary effort between even these extreme Nationalists and Bolshevists. The only ground they have in common is their hostility to the present form of Government. Moreover the ideal of “A White South Africa” is the very negation of communistic doctrine: it implies anything but “the rule of the proletariat” (nd.: 68)

He refers to the Third International at Moscow in 1920 when a plan to campaign in the British Colonies was discussed. Lenin advocated the exploitation of Nationalist uprisings and Trotsky pointed out that “five men in a room could cause a revolution by exploiting discontent irrespective of its original cause” (Urquhart nd.:68)

The white workers saw their impending retrenchment in 1922 as an attack on “civilisation” and it was often evoked in apocalyptic terms. Madeley, one of the labour leaders referred to “race suicide” (Urquhart nd.:36) and “national annihilation” (Urquhart nd.:36). The word civilisation and civilised is frequently used in the document The story of a crime: Being the vindication of the Defence Committee in connection with the trial by Special Criminal Courts without Juries of 195 men and 6 women arising out of the Strike on the Witwatersrand in 1922 which was produced as justification of the actions of the strikers. It refers to the “danger to free labour and the menace to the maintenance in this country of a Western Civilisation” (37) when the “slave labour system on the mines” (37) is extended.

Civilisation, reason and ideas of evolution and race were recurrent themes in the worker discourse of the period. Many of the leaders belonged to and participated in Rationalist Societies and described themselves as Rationalists. Edward Roux relates how his father read the publications of the Rationalist Press Association. His father became converted to free thought and atheism when “he was profoundly shocked to see rain falling on the sea, falling uselessly where it was not needed. In church he had been taught that all manifestations of nature were for the service of man” (Roux 1970:2). Roux himself joined The Heretics, a rationalist society established in 1911. At the first Conference of the International Socialist League (9 Jan 1916 in Johannesburg), one of the delegates, Colin Wade, “introduced ‘biological evidence’ which …intimated that the African could not develop intellectually as the white could” (Johns 1995:62). The workers often refer to Darwin. Various poems in the newspapers are allegories of evolutionary theory mixed with ideas of development contained in dialectical materialism. Compare poems “Original Co-operation” (The Strike Herald Aug. 2, 1913) which describes man’s development from cannibalism in allegorical terms. Many poems of Mrs Charlotte Stetson in the pages of The International exploit the theme of evolution. See for instance “You must alter human nature” opening with the words “There was once a Neotholic (sic) man” (Jan 21, 1916) and the poem “Survival of the fittest” (Feb. 4, 1916). To Stetson the world is a product of reason rather than nature: “The world to which man is born today/ Is a constructed, human, man-built world” (“To the single taxer”, The International March 10, 1916)

Socialist Revolution to the workers was the ultimate product of Civilisation and Reason. To be a striker was to “join the Ranks of Progress” (see the poem “Won’t you be a striker” from The Strike Herald July 26, 1913) and the workers are the “Heirs of Time” (The “Eastern Record” Sept 12, 1914). They referred to the anarchy and chaos of the capitalist system. The First World War, the military suppression of strikes and resorting to martial law were regression to barbarism3. Civilisation also meant free labour as against slave labour. Black labour was seen as a threat to the white labour, because it was not free. David Ivon Jones wrote about the black labour of that time as:

the lowest possible form of cheap, unskilled labour drawn from one of the most primitive peoples in the world, politically passive and industrially unorganized, recruited on indenture from the tribal reserves, and housed round the mines in closed compounds under strict police supervision with hardly a vestige of civil rights (Hirson 1993:83)

The Russian Revolution announced to the communists the dawn of the new period “destined to encircle the civilized world” (Bunting in Johns 1995:78). Roux made a map of the world showing in red all the countries that had established soviets – Russia, Hungary, Bavaria, north-west Germany. He put red dots everywhere where revolutionary outbreaks had occurred – Winnipeg, Clydesdale, and Johannesburg itself (Roux 1970:14).

The Russian Revolution, though, meant the end to spontaneous labour movement in that the international struggle from then on was directed by the Comintern, and often had more to do with the interests of the Soviet Union than international labour. Russia became a Counter-Empire which involved itself more and more with nationalist struggles rather than worker movements4. As spontaneity was replaced by control, popular poetry was replaced by dogma in the communist newspapers. Authors competed for the correct interpretations of Marx on the one hand and historic circumstances on the other. This article was an attempt to recover something of a lost and repressed legacy.

Footnotes

1. “the timid and reactionary leaders declared ‘never again’ and spoke of ‘drawing a veil’ over the events of 1922” (Cope 1945: 287)

2. Urquhart describes a commando called the Foreign Legion: “their military appearance was somewhat spoiled by the fact that the men smoked cigarettes as they marched” (46)

3. See the poem “These too were men” by TW Mercer:

How slow we learn! How slowly man out-grows

The traits of beasts that dwell in cave and den

And rises o’er the brutes, his history shows

4. See the Comintern formulation through Jimmy la Guma and Nikolai Bukharin’s of the Native Republic Thesis on the basis of the “revolutionary potential of an anti-imperialist national movement” (Drew 1996:20).

References

Andrews, W.H.1941. Class Struggles in South Africa. Cape Town: Published Privately.

Cope, R.K.1945. Comrade Bill. Cape Town: Stewart Printing Company.

Defence Committee (nd.) Story of a Crime: Being the Vindication of the Defence Committee in Connection with the Trial by Special Criminal Courts without Juries of 195 Men and 6 Women arising out of the Strike on the Witwatersrand in 1922.Johannesburg: Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee.

Drew, A.1996. South Africa’s Radical Tradition. Cape Town: Buchu Books, Mayibuyo Books, UCT Press.

Gitsham, E. and J.F. Trembath.1926. A First Account of Labour Organisation in South Africa. Durban.

Harrison, W.H.(nd.) Memoirs of a Socialist in South Africa 1903-1947. Cape Town: Published by the Author.

Herd, N.1966. 1922 The Revolt on the Rand. Johannesburg: Blue Crane Books.

Hirson, B.1993 “The General Strike of 1922”. Searchlight South Africa. 11, Oct, p. 63-64.

Johns, S.1995. Raising the Red Flag: The Internationalist Socialist League & The Communist Party of South Africa 1914-1932. Bellville: Mayibuye Books.

Mantzaris, E.A.1995. Labour Struggles in South Africa: The Forgotten Pages 1903-1921. Windhoek: Collective Resources.

Roux, E.1993. S.P. Bunting: A Political Biography. Bellville: Mayibuye Books.

Roux, E. and W.1970. Rebel Pity: The Life of Eddie Roux. London: Rex Collings.

Sachs, B.1949. Multitude of Dreams. Johannesburg. Kayor Publishing House.

Snowdon, D.(nd.) The Snipers Pencil. Red Lines from the Boksburg Gaol. Benoni: Published by the author.

Urquhart, Capt. W. (nd.) The Outbreak on the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg: Hortors Ltd.

Walker, I.L. and B. Weinbren.1961. 2000 Casualties. Johannesburg: The South African Trade Union Council.

September 24, 2010

african writers: omoseye bolaji

Filed under: free state black literature,literature — ABRAXAS @ 2:15 pm

Chapters: Wilbur Smith, Kama Sywor Kamanda, Omoseye Bolaji, François Bloemhof, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Tahar Lamri, George Padmore, John Eppel, Zamba Zembola, African Writers Series, Aminata Sow Fall, Western Saharan Literature in Spanish, Nayim Alal, Onesimo Makani Kabweza, List of Somali Writers, Manu Herbstein.

Excerpt: African Writers Series has been published by Heinemann since 1962. The series has been a vehicle for some of the most important African writers , ensuring an international voice to literary masters including Chinua Achebe , Ngugi wa Thiong’o , Steve Biko , Ama Ata Aidoo , Nadine Gordimer , Buchi Emecheta and Okot p’Bitek .Founded in 1962, it provided a forum for many post independence African writers, and provided texts with which many African universities could begin to redress the colonial bias then prominent in the teaching of literature. The books were designed for classroom use, issuing works solely in paperback to make them affordable for African students.The idea of the series came from Heinemann executive Alan Hill. The first series editor was the Nigerian Chinua Achebe who became one of Africa’s most famous writers. Achebe focused first on West African writers, but soon the series branched out, publishing the works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o in East Africa , and Nadine Gordimer in South Africa . Achebe left the editorship in 1972.After a fairly prosperous beginning, the series faced difficulties that mirrored those which faced the continent as a whole. By the mid-1980s, only one or two new titles a year were being published, and much of the back catalogue had fallen out of print. By the early 1990s, however, the series had begun to revive, having recently branched out to publish new work, to republish texts originally published in local release, and to p…
Product Details

* Paperback: 70 pages
* Publisher: Books LLC (May 20, 2010)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 1156385040
* ISBN-13: 978-1156385043

j.g. ballard on the novel

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 12:04 am

The bourgeois novel is the greatest enemy of truth and honesty that was ever invented. It’s a vast, sentimentalizing structure that reassures the reader, and at every point, offers the comfort of secure moral frameworks and recognizable characters. This whole notion was advanced by Mary McCarthy and many others years ago, that the main function of the novel was to carry out a kind of moral criticism of life. But the writer has no business making moral judgments or trying to set himself up as a one-man or one-woman magistrate’s court. I think it’s far better, as Burroughs did and I’ve tried to do in my small way, to tell the truth.

September 22, 2010

Ten years after

Filed under: derek davey,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:09 am

I had been feeling a bit depressed, what with the prolonged Highveld winter and all, until I found a 10-year planner that I had written very close to a decade ago, and discovered that I had actually achieved most of what I set out to do. I then cast my mind back to where I was in the year 2000 – a house on ‘Mental’ Road, populated by desperados and addicts – and my mood lifted quite a bit more.

Ten years ago, I moved into to a very dodgy commune. This house had almost no furniture. There was a semi-functional stove supplied by the landlord and we managed to find an ancient, second-hand fridge. The lounge had a few crates, a small ghetto-blaster with about five cds, and an old piano, which was severely out of tune.

Among the reasons that I moved was because I was addicted to several toxic substances, and had yet to find a way to beat their grip upon my psyche. But the whole house was filled with folk with similar problems, so cure was not an option.

In the maid’s quarters lurked an old, extremely tall drummer who was overly fond of cheap weed and wine. His Indian wife and two daughters all shared one tiny room with him; there was a washing machine that was constantly on the run and leaked all over the yard, turning the dust to mud; the smell of curry was ubiquitous to this quarter.

The leader of the band would practice on his out of tune piano at all hours of the night, and, if he had a guitar at the time, on that as well. Guitars were apt to vanish to feed his habit; if we were lucky, they went westward after, not before our gigs. The bass player was the only band member who did not live with us and seemed immune to addiction for quite some time before he revealed a demented hunger for crack sessions, which surpassed even our own.

Beneath the band leader’s room was a dingy basement where an instrument repairman took up a troll-like existence. He was an alcoholic as well as an addict and he was unsuccessfully trying to come to terms with the triple loss of his house, family and business. Once I heard him cry out for his losses; his forlorn bellow sounded like a whale that knew this final harpoon would be his undoing.

He would spit and urinate on the walls and chase the dragon inside his tiny, dank abode … and be kept awake by the band leader shagging his girlfriend directly above where he slept. There were gaps between the floorboards and privacy was a scarce commodity for him.

On occasion, when venturing down to the basement, the guitar repair man would be found passed out and barely breathing, sometimes with the tin foil tube still stuck in his lips. When he left for rehab we gleefully descended and seized what remained of his stock, which soon found its way to Nigerian drug dealers and various pawn shops.

Meals were not a taken for granted thing in this bare home; I was recently reminded by an email from a mate in England of ‘pilchard porridge’. The times we all looked forward to were when one of us would walk an old Czech woman’s Scottie. In exchange, she would give us a sumptuous pre-cooked meal, which we would heat up, with much anticipation, in the stove.
The electricity bill was seldom paid and we never knew if we would have heat and light, from day to day. The shower was a dismal, fungus-filled affair; the garage door gradually fell to pieces and bits of scrap wood and metal were tacked to it to keep it operating. The gangly drummer held clothes sales on the street outside the house, but not even the vagrants were interested in his wares.

Various dogs from different owners came to stay – for a fee – bit visiting guests, were walked, left deposits in the bleak yard, and moved on again. A car was sold for R1000 outside the front door, but it took some time for us to find a buyer. It was one of the scariest vehicles I ever travelled in, having the habit of steering itself, sometimes across oncoming traffic, whenever it felt like it, and possessing no brakes or lights.

We would play gigs in a club which was named after a gangster and tucked away in a dodgy shopping centre, a world of its own where parties stretched from dusk till dawn in a haze of smut and drugs. The owner even became our manager for a brief stint, until his wife fell victim to the charms of one our band members.

On top of the drugs, filth and disorder, the house was haunted. A band which stayed in the house before us had had a suicide, and visions of blood and brains spattered along the hall leading into the kitchen were, on occasion seen by the members of the band of present occupation.

One night I was awoken by the sounds of two people singing and playing guitar. It was late, so I got up to take a piss, thinking I would find out who the duo was. There was only the band leader in the lounge; but when I told him what I heard, he said he had just seen John Lennon’s face in a pillow!

When we had a bit of cash, we would inevitably phone a dealer called Naas, jokingly referred to as ‘Mr Devilry’. Naas would promise to deliver within 20 minutes, which could mean anything from half an hour to several hours, during which time our lus (desire) would mount steeply, and our phone calls became ever more frantic.

Once I had a small ‘party’ with a dodgy guy from the club up the road and a female friend. It was the only time I tried to steal more than my fair share, but the result was that what was left of that rock was practically nothing, and it kind of evaporated in the guy’s hand before it made it into the pipe.

My guilt was obvious. We were forced to watch him smoke the remainder of the stash without partaking ourselves. The woman got one hit in exchange for showing him her tits. I left after an argument over drugs. It took me all of 30 minutes to pack my meagre belongings and split. The band leader returned from walking the Scottie with food, but nowhere to put it, as I took the fridge with me.

These days I drink filtered coffee after breakfast. Compared to where I was then, I have no real reason to feel depressed.

Derek Davey
Media Man

My pa is ‘n mynwerker

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 10:59 am

My pa is ‘n mynwerker wat ryk geword het. Ons bly op ‘n plaas en het onlangs hierso ook ‘n tennisbaan gebou. Van die drie kinders is ek die meeste gefok. Ek is eintlik nie meer ‘n kind nie, maar ‘n drie-en-twintigjarige. Vanmôre terwyl ek die B52’s vir ander pelle van my op band neem, kom staan my ma in die sitkamer en sê: “Wanneer bel jy daai mense, jy kan nie vir ewig hier bly nie.”

“Daai mense.” Dit is ‘n gepaste woord vir die wêreld daarbuite waarvoor ek bang is. Daai mense met hulle kortaf amptelike houdings. Ek kon nie help om te voel dat ek maar van die huis moet wegloop nie. Maar waarheen?

Ek het al twee manuskripte geskryf wat ek onlangs aan ‘n bekende Engelse uitgewer gaan wys het. “That’s a lot, quite a lot for your age,” was sy kommentaar. Hy sou my die volgende Dinsdagaand om sesuur bel. Hy het toe nooit nie, die Poes.

Baie aande voor ek aan die slaap raak, dink ek hoe bakgat dit sou wees as ‘n vlieënde piering my sou wegneem. Dit help nie om daaraan te dink nie. Dit gebeur miskien net met een uit ‘n driehonderdmiljoen mense.

Onlangs het ek weer sterk begin glo in liefde.Dit is vreemd omdat my weerstand teen selfmoordgedagtes ook nie meer so sterk is nie. Ek weet presies waarom ek probleme het, maar ek kan niks daaromtrent doen nie.

My pa staan halfses in die môre en donner aan my kamerdeur, my vel is nog vrot van die waterpokkies: “Jy moet nou opstaan sodat ek jou kan wys wat die kaffers vandag moet doen.”

Dit is so ‘n niksbeduidende bevel vir meeste mense, maar elke keer as hy die woord “moet” gebruik, krimp ek meer weg. Ek het nie ‘n keuse. Ek het nie ‘n wil nie. Ek is net ‘n skilpad wat ‘n klomp mense in die verlede in die pad opgetel het.

Omdat ek nie ‘n wil van my eie het nie, stel ek in niks werklik belang nie, behalwe om in my kamer met sy toegetrekte gordyne te sit. Ek voel moreel alleen..

Partymaal slaan die son deur die gordyne en hoor ek al te helder as die voëls sing, die honde blaf en die vliegtuie daarbo in die lug dreun, dan word ek weer opgewonde, kry ‘n koerant en soek deur die Betrekkings. Daar is net die werk vir my. Hulle soek Interior Designers by die OK Basaars, daar is allerhande byvoordele plus a uniform. Dit alles klink goed. Ek bel die mense. Dit is winter. Ek moet hulle die volgende dag om elfuur gaan sien.

Met etenstyd kom ou vriende van my onverwags kuier.Ek het baie plate. My vriend en sy meisie is daar met hulle bandopnemer. Ons praat dat die spoeg by ons monde uitspat. Op die oomblik toe ek ‘n ou grappie oor die uniform van die OK Basaaradvertensie maak, kom my ma by die vertrek in. Sy interpreteer my grappie as ‘n weerstand teen die werk en ‘n weerstand teen hulle gesag.. Sy begin huil en sê: “Jy wil nie regtig werk nie, jy moet maar self sien en klaarkom.” Ek kon nie eintlik antwoord nie. Dit is ‘n bedekte dreigement dat sy my nie môre vir die onderhoud sal neem nie.

My pa moet die volgende môre sesuur reeds na Westonaria vertrek.Ek ry toe maar saam met hom. Met die adres in die hand soek ons straat na straat na die plek. Dit is reënerig en fokken koud. Die ou bitch was al weer te suinig om haar petrol te gebruik. In die industriële gebied kry ons die OK-stoorkamers en -kantore. My pa laai my af sodat ek met my Sondagspak op die sypaadjie voor die onpersoonlike gebou se deur staan. Daar moes ek wag tot elfuur. Ek het toe maar moed opgegee en die stad ingeloop.

In die omstandighede het ek my ma en pa se geld begin steel. As ek my pa se baadjie oor ‘n stoelleuning sien hang, dan neem ek vir myself ‘n gedeelte van sy perdegeld. Uit my ma se beursie steel ek altyd ‘n vyftigsent of ‘n rand. Ek bêre die geld in ‘n silwer boksie in my kamer tot ek genoeg het om ‘n plaat mee te koop. Ek reken die mense wat by die platewinkel werk, dink ek is mal, want partymaal betaal ek hulle met ‘n hele hand vol silwergeld.

HET NUT VAN KUNST

Filed under: art,dick tuinder,literature — ABRAXAS @ 10:43 am

(belletje)

Lijzige stem: “Hallo, dit is een verhaal over het nut van kunst.”

(Geluid: donder / onweer)
(Misschien een vaag orgeltje in de achtergrond.)

Lijzige stem: “Okay. Stel je voor.
Piet was een jongen die veel nadacht.
Bij voorkeur over dingen waar je toch nooit uitkomt.
Zoals waar het leven over gaat,
en wat er na oneindig komt.
Soms dacht hij aan het eind van een lange avond piekeren dat hij god was.
Soms zag hij zichzelf als een heel klein pluisje in een oneindige zwarte ruimte.

(science fiction geluidje)

Bovendien regende het vaak in de stad waar hij woonde
en had hij geen vrienden.
Hij zag er dan ook heel raar uit en hij had een spraakgebrek.
Hij kon niet over straat gaan zonder dat mensen hem nakeken,
en met hun hand voor de neus wapperden
omdat hij inderdaad nogal stonk.

(audio: stemmen van afschuw. stank. ah, beh.)

Omdat niemand hem een kamer wilde verhuren
woonde hij nog bij zijn ouders.
Niet dat die daar zo blij mee waren trouwens.

Stem moeder (Lotte Proot), kindergehuil op de achtergrond.
Moeder Liefjes:

“Ja maar, dat ik nou toevallig je moeder ben wil toch niet zeggen dat ik ook van je moet houden?”

Vader (Marcel Faber) verwijtend: “Andere kinderen zijn tenminste normaal.”

Moeder: “Jaha Piet, daar heeft Papa wel een punt.”

(Gehuil)

Lijzige stem: “Op een dag werd het Piet allemaal te veel.
Diep ongelukkig nam hij de trap naar de zolder
waar hij een hobbykamer had ingericht, en daar
maakte hij toen, in iets meer dan een halve middag, een heel erg mooi schilderij.

En dat is nou zo maar een van de vele voorbeelden van het nut van kunst.”

(bel)

++++++++++++++

September 21, 2010

an interview with j.g. ballard about william burroughs

Filed under: literature,mick raubenheimer — ABRAXAS @ 6:33 pm

william Burroughs’ raw-boned figure haunted us long before his death. For nearly half a century, he infected our literature, seeding it with his obsessions, suspicions and passions. In his brutal honesty, we began to learn something new about truth and humor and maybe even love.

Of the many authors who have acknowledged his influence, few have been as unflinching or provocative as J.G. Ballard. From the chromey auto-eroticism of “Crash” to the surrendered innocence of “Empire of the Sun,” Ballard has refined a style that cuts through the moralism and sentimentality that blunt so much contemporary writing.

After Burroughs’ death, Ballard spoke to us by phone from his home in Shepperton, England.

William Burroughs was someone who was suspicious of language and words, but his whole life was defined by them. Do you see a contradiction here? Perhaps the essential writer’s contradiction?

I think Burroughs was very much aware of the way in which language could be manipulated to mean absolutely the opposite of what it seems to mean. But that’s something he shared with George Orwell. He was always trying to go through the screen of language to find some sort of truth that lay on the other side. I think his whole cut-up approach was an attempt to cut through the apparent manifest content of language to what he hoped might be some sort of more truthful world. A world of meaning that lay beyond. In books like “The Ticket that Exploded” and “The Soft Machine,” you see this attempt to go through language to something beyond. If there is a paradox, I think it lies somewhere here.

How did you first encounter Burroughs’ work?

I think it was in something like 1960. A friend of mine had come back from Paris where “Naked Lunch” had been published by the Olympia Press, which was a press that specialized in sort of low-grade porn, but also published what were then banned European and American classics. Henry Miller, for example, was first published in the Olympia Press. And Nabokov’s “Lolita” was first published by the Olympia Press.

Anyway, it was a rather low time for me. I had just started out as a writer. I hadn’t written my first novel. And this was the heyday of the naturalistic novel, dominated by people like C. P. Snow and Anthony Powell and so on, and I felt that maybe the novel had shot its bolt, that it was stagnating right across the board. The bourgeois novels, the so-called “Hampstead novels” seemed to dominate everything.

Then I read this little book with a green cover, and I remember I read about four or five paragraphs and I quite involuntarily leapt from my chair and cheered out loud because I knew a great writer had appeared amidst us. And I, of course, devoured the book and every Burroughs novel. I think there were about three or four then in print from Olympia Press. I knew that this man was the most important writer in the English language to have appeared since the Second World War, and that’s an opinion I haven’t changed since. It was an encouraging moment. I mean, although my writing has never been along the lines that Burroughs set out, his example was a huge encouragement to me.

I first met him in the early ’60s in London. I visited him in his flat in Picadilly Circus. I’m not sure that he got up to a great deal of writing there. He didn’t seem that happy.

This was in a street called Duke Street, literally about 100 yards from Picadilly Circus. And, of course, this was of interest to him because that’s where all the boys used to congregate, in the lavatory of the big Picadilly Circus Underground station. They had completely taken it over. It was quite a shock for a heterosexual like myself to accidentally stray into this lavatory and to find oneself in what seemed to be a kind of oriental male brothel. He obviously found that absolutely fascinating.

I think these big cities aren’t all that different, really. Burroughs roamed around the world throughout his youth and middle age without ever really stopping anywhere for very long. I think the closest he probably felt to home was Tangiers. He certainly did his most important writing there. I mean, he wrote “Naked Lunch” there, and I think he found a very sympathetic community of homosexuals and drug users and, of course, an unlimited availability of boys and young men.
This was Interzone [a parallel universe in “Naked Lunch”] of course. Interzone was based on Tangiers, so I think he was happy there. Happier than he seems to have been in New York. Or, for that matter, during his days as a would-be farmer. I think he must be one of the strangest men ever to set out to raise a cash crop. I remember reading his collected letters a few years ago and he’s describing how many carrots and lettuce he’s planted and you can tell that this isn’t going to work out.

**

critics look at both your work and Burroughs’, they often point to the severity and even a sense of dissociation. Sometimes they even call your works antisocial. Do you see any truth in that?

Severity, yes. Honesty is what I prefer to call it. That has a much more satisfying ring to it. Burroughs called his greatest novel “Naked Lunch,” by which he meant it’s what you see on the end of a fork. Telling the truth. It’s very difficult to do that in fiction because the whole process of writing fiction is a process of sidestepping the truth. I think he got very close to it, in his way, and I hope I’ve done the same in mine.

The bourgeois novel is the greatest enemy of truth and honesty that was ever invented. It’s a vast, sentimentalizing structure that reassures the reader, and at every point, offers the comfort of secure moral frameworks and recognizable characters. This whole notion was advanced by Mary McCarthy and many others years ago, that the main function of the novel was to carry out a kind of moral criticism of life. But the writer has no business making moral judgments or trying to set himself up as a one-man or one-woman magistrate’s court. I think it’s far better, as Burroughs did and I’ve tried to do in my small way, to tell the truth. So I don’t object to the charge of severity at all.

So you think the writer is more interesting as a reporter than as an artist?

I mean he’s reporting not just on the external world, but on his own interior world because he’s telling the truth about himself. It’s extremely difficult to do. Most writers flinch at the thought of being completely honest about themselves. So absolute honesty is what marks the true modern.

When the modern movement began, starting perhaps with the paintings of Manet and the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, what distinguished the modern movement was the enormous honesty that writers, painters and playwrights displayed about themselves. The bourgeois novel flinches from such notions. It’s difficult to tell the truth about one’s own fantasies and obsessions and equally difficult in a different way to reflect honestly on the external world.

And mankind can’t bear too much of that sort of honesty. Certainly Burroughs revealed, with absolute honesty, his own obsessions. I mean, teenage boys ejaculating as they die on the scaffold. Pretty grim stuff, you know, socially objectionable, I dare say. But at least he was honest about his own obsessions.

And he made it a little more palatable, and I see this in your own work, by the use of black humor.

Absolutely. I mean he’s one of the greatest humorists who ever lived. His books, particularly “Naked Lunch,” are hilarious from the word go. They never let up. “Naked Lunch” was written largely in the form of a long series of letters to Allen Ginsberg, in which Burroughs practiced these routines which were sort of skits or cabaret items in which he introduced characters like Dr. Benway. They were these extraordinary comic routines.

You’re both often misunderstood, however. You’re both read as darker, more somber writers and not often given the credit for the humor in your work. Is this because of the subject matter?

My humor is rather different. It’s much more deadpan. I suppose there’s an element of tease in my writing. I mean, I’ve never been too keen to show which side of the fence I’m on.

And all the controversy that’s grown up over David Cronenberg’s film of “Crash” has tended to center on, “Do you or do you not actually believe that people should find car crashes sexually exciting?” People think I’m being evasive sometimes, but it’s that ambiguity that’s at the heart of everything. I try to maintain a fairly ambiguous pose, while trying to unsettle and provoke the reader to keep the unconscious elements exerting their baleful force. But you’re right, I don’t think I’ve been given enough credit for the humor I have.

Both you and Burroughs have been dogged by censors your entire careers. What is it about both of your works that inspires this venom on the part of the censors?

Well, it’s such a huge question. In Britain, it relates back to insecurity of a desperate kind. “Crash,” the film, is still banned from central London, the West End. Westminster Castle controls, I don’t know what the equivalent would be in New York or San Francisco, the central entertainment district where most of the major movie theaters are. This is generally subsumed under the term West End, which also includes, of course, the Houses of Parliament and the main government district in Whitehall. And they banned the film from the West End of London. So it’s only being shown in peripheral areas and sometimes in a ludicrous way. There’s the council that’s directly adjacent to Westminster on the northeast side called Camden, and it passed the film. So there’s this very peculiar sensation that there’s a sort of invisible frontier much like the one that existed between East and West Berlin. One could cross this set of traffic lights, literally about 30 yards from the Camden theater, and you enter the forbidden zone of Westminster. It was like going through Checkpoint Charlie in the old Berlin.

But it all reflects the same thing. Not unlike the trouble Burroughs had with “Naked Lunch” when it was first banned from publication in the States. Just like Henry Miller’s novels, which were banned from publication in America for decades. It’s a deep insecurity, a fear that once you allow the populace at large to enter any kind of forbidden rooms, God knows what they may get up to next. So one’s got to keep the lids severely jammed on these nefarious books and films. Meanwhile, allowing people to go and see the latest “Die Hard” film, or piece of designer sex and violence from Hollywood. Very, very curious.

Both you and Burroughs write very visual narratives and you’ve both painted. Do you find a resonance between writing and creating something visual?

Burroughs did take up painting in his later years. I took up painting in my youth and found I hadn’t any talent for it, but I always really regretted that I didn’t, because I think I would’ve been far happier as a painter. I don’t think that’s true of Burroughs. I think he was a writer from the word go. In conversation he chose his words very, very carefully. He thought quickly, but spoke rather slowly. Obviously words were immensely important to him and the framing of ideas, thoughts, wasn’t something to be just done at the drop of a hat.

In a way, he adopted a kind of adversarial relationship with the word, with the printed word, seeing how easily it could be manipulated for sinister reasons. My approach has been quite different. I would love to have been a painter in the tradition of the surrealist painters who I admire so much. Sometimes I think all my writing is really the substitute work of an unfulfilled painter. But, you know, there we are.

Both you and Burroughs studied medicine. This seems to have had a profound effect on the work you both produced.

I studied medicine for a couple of years before giving it up, as a great number of writers have done, curiously. I think Faulkner even spent a small amount of time as a medical student. But Burroughs was intensely interested in the mechanisms involved in any kind of process. Right across the board. And he was intensely interested in psychology and psychiatry. He was interested in all kinds of obscure things. I remember the very first time I met him, this was the early ’60s, his boyfriend had “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles, which was quite startling then.

Once, while the boyfriend carved a roast chicken, Burroughs began to describe the right way to stab a man to death and he was graphically illustrating it with this large carving knife. His head was filled with all sorts of bizarre bits and pieces culled from “Believe It or Not” features and police magazines and all kinds of obscure sources. But he was very interested in scientific or technological underpinnings. I think, in a way, I share that with him. I’ve always felt that science in general is a way of ordering one’s imaginative response to the world.

It’s also a separate language, too, isn’t it? Books such as “Naked Lunch” and your “Atrocity Exhibition” use scientific language to break down the novel into something that people hadn’t seen before.

I think that’s true. I’ve always used a kind of scientific vocabulary and a scientific approach to show the subject matter in a fresh light. I mean, if you’re describing what happens when, say, a car crash occurs and a human body impacts against a steering wheel and then goes through the windscreen, one can describe it in a kind of Mickey Spillane language with powerful adverbs and adjectives. But another approach is to be cool and clinical and describe it in the way that a forensic scientist would describe what happens, or people working, say, at a road research laboratory describing what happens to crash test dummies. Now, you get an unnerving window onto a new kind of reality. I did this a lot in “The Atrocity Exhibition.”

The same applies to, say, describing a man and woman making love. Instead of using all the clichés that are marshaled wearily once again in most novels, approach it as if it were some sort of forensic experiment that you were describing. An event that is being watched with the calm eye of the anatomist or the physiologist. It often prompts completely new insights into what has actually happened.

So yes, I’ve done that and Burroughs did that in a different way. His novels, particularly “Naked Lunch,” are full of almost footnote material explaining the exact route to the central nervous system taken by some obscure Amazonian poison on the end of a dart as it pierces its victim. He was very interested in that sort of thing, the exact mechanisms by which consciousness was altered by drugs of various kinds. I think I share that with him too.

If there is one thing that you think we should, as readers, take away from Burroughs’ work, what would that one thing be? Or that you would hope we would take away, perhaps?

It’s difficult to say, because I think he’s a writer of enormous richness, but he had a kind of paranoid imagination. He saw the world as a dangerous conspiracy by huge media conglomerates, by the great political establishments of the day, by a corrupt medical science which he saw as very much a conspiracy. He saw most of the professions, law in particular but also law enforcement, as all part of a huge conspiracy to keep us under control, to keep us down. And his books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cozy conspiracy, to allow us to see what’s on the end of the fork.
Sept. 2, 1997

Richard Kadrey is a columnist for the Site and the author of several books, including the “Covert Culture Sourcebooks” and the novel “Kamikaze L’Amour.” Suzanne Stefanac is online executive producer for the Site and owes more than a little of her will to write to William Burroughs.

this interview first published http://www.salon.com/sept97/wsb970902.html

Seks is nie meer vir my precious nie

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 3:54 pm

“Seks is nie meer vir my precious nie,” sê sy en ‘n paar oomblikke later: “Ek kan dit twee keer op ‘n dag doen.” Sy het ‘n swart pantie en ‘n trui aan. Trollop lees die rock-ensiklopedie: “Tjek, hier’s die Steve Miller Band, fok hulle is goed. Het jy al song for our ancestors of ganster of love gehoor? Haar pantie staan op ‘n tampaxbult. Haar bene is dun en wit.

Gister het ‘n hittegolf oor die land binnebeweeg, dit was bedonnerd warm. As dit nie vandag bewolk geword het nie, sou Trollop se pa se mielies alles gevrek het. Trollop luister na die onweer. Trollop kyk na die grys gordyne.

Sy was besonder beneuk die afgelope twee dae. Haar klere hang oor ‘n pypstaander teen die een muur. Trollop sou tussen die klere kon wegkruip terwyl sy slaap.

Hy luister hoe sy pis in die toilet langsaan. Periods moet kwaai op ‘n vrou se senuwees werk, dink hy. Hy het altyd in sy ma se kas gaan sit toe hy klein was as sy gaan tennis speel het.

Wat voel Trollop vir hierdie vrou wat vier jaar ouer as hy is met ‘n dogtertjie in standerd twee? Wat voel Trollop vir enige mens? Hy is meer besorg oor sy plate. Hy kan heeltemal senuweeagtig raak oor ‘n plaat: bang om dit te krap, bang dit begin gly.

“My ma dink seker al ek het selfmoord gepleeg of iets van die aard. Miskien moet ek haar bel.”

Hy kyk na haar wimpers, haar hare, haar wange. Hy het haar lief wanneer sy so slaap. Elke vrou se gesig is maar net nog ‘n kussing, dink hy. Hy kyk na haar dun arms met die sproete. Ek moet wegkom van haar anders sien ek haar te veel soos sy werklik is, dink hy.

Toe sy haar oë oopmaak, sê hy vir haar hierdie haikoe op, wat hy in die bed uitgedink het:

Die ganse raas tussen die dennebome.

Die son maak die wind skrik in die gras

En die voëls lui soos telefone.

Laasweek het sy ‘n hele twintig rand op hom spandeer: twee melkskommels, kaartjies vir My Bodyguard, ‘n ete, ‘n pakkie kondome. Sy gatvelle het afgebrand in die warm son op die klippe langs die rivierstroom. Sy het gesê die water stink. Hy het daaraan geruik: “Nee, dis okay.” Die slymerige klippe was baie glad. Sy het ‘n oranje bikini aangehad. Haar blou Volksie was onder die bloekombome geparkeer.

Sy kyk na sy onderbroek en vra: “Wat staan daar?”

“Waar?”

“Op jou ondebroek.”

“Staan daar iets op my onderbroek?”

“Ja … C … A … P … iets.”

Trollop kyk na sy onderbroek: “O, Capri.”

“Ek het my lewensuitkyk verander,” het Trollop gesê … “ek glo weer aan die goeie goed in die lewe, soos liefde. Ek kon dit nog net nie oor my hart kry om aan werk te dink nie.”

“Dit is so goed om jou weer hier by my te hê,” sê sy.

“Ek het redelik liefdeloos groot geword,” sê Trollop, “maar ek dink ek het jou lief.”

“Ek voel ek is besig om vir Ronald te verraai,” sê sy.

“Maar dis okay, hy’s net ‘n fokken hippie. Hippies doen alles half, tot hulle lewensfilosofie is half. Jy moet hulle uit jou lewe kry. Hulle is sub-mense.”

Hulle handdoeke het teenaan mekaar gelê. Hy het begin om haar in die nek te byt. Iemand het hom vertel dat daar plastiek by haar tiete ingespuit is om dit groter te laat lyk en dat dit smelt as dit te warm word.

Dit was ‘n week gelede.

“Jammer ek is so mislik vandag,” sê sy.

“Ek verstaan,” sê hy.

As ‘n mens aan die binnekant van ‘n vrou se been vat, kan jy altyd sê hoe jags sy is.

“This is your non-confidence day,” sê Trollop.

“Ek is bang,” sê sy.

Sy het gisteraand soms na sy hande gevat. Dan weet hy, hy moet haar vashou. Dit was warm en hy kon hoor hoe sy gedurig muskietbyte krap. Soms het sy wakker geword: “Ek het so ‘n verskriklike droom gehad. Ek droom ek was op ‘n vakansieoord en daar was duisende sulke blou Renaults.”

Sy het haar blou Volksie vir ‘n Renault omgeruil gister. Sy wou dat dit splinternuut moes wees, maar dit was tweedehands. Haar dogtertjie was so opgewonde. Trollop het vir haar twee pienk skoentjies vir haar pop gekoop. Hulle het haar daarna by ander mense op ‘n plaas met perde gaan aflaai.

“Kan ek bad?” vra Trollop.

“Daar is net koue water,” sê sy.

Laasweek het dit nie saak gemaak nie. Hulle het altwee in die koue water gebad. Trollop het toe nie geweet dat daar nie gas was nie. Hy het toe gedog dit is die inding wat ‘n mens doen nadat jy seks gehad het.

Wie is Jimmy, wonder Trollop. Sy telefoonnommer lê by haar telefoon. Sy het net-nou ook vertroulik aan die bediende gemompel sy hoop nie Jimmy daag op nie. Jimmy is seker die fokop wat sy by daardie party, waarvan Trollop deur iemand anders te hore gekom het, opgetel het. Dit maak nie saak nie, dink Trollop. Sy kan steek wie sy wil. Trollop kan dwarsdeur haar sien.

Sy ontvries die yskas. Kap ‘n klomp ysblokke uit die vrieskas uit. “Die vleis is af,” sê sy. Hy moet ruik aan die hoenderboudjies in plastiek verpak: “Ja, dit is vrot … Nog ‘n klomp geld in die drein af.”

Laasweek toe hulle by die huis kom, het sy knoffel en aartappel en tamatie en botter en brood, so ‘n mengelmoes, op pierings op die bed vir hulle neergesit. Hy het vir iets begin lag en haar vasgepen op die bed.

“Jy moet saggies met my werk,” het sy mooi gefluister.

Hy het haar ore gesoen, haar mond.

“Oppas vir die hare.”

Haar mond was nat en sy het nie heeltemal met haar tong en alles gesoen nie. Haar borste was mooi. Trollop se harde growwe gulp het teen haar pantie begin op en af skuur.

“Mmmmm, jy is mooi,” sê Trollopen hy kyk af op haar skerp neus, skerp ken, sensitiewe wimpers. “Mmmmm, jy is mooi,” herhaal hy nog ‘n paar keer. Dit ril deur haar. Hy trek sy broek en onderbroek uit. Sy trek die fl oor sy voël. Sy kyk na hom en glimlag. Hy gaan ‘n bietjie te vinnig op-en-af-op-en-af-op-en-af. Die dinge het beplanning nodig. Hy skiet sy semen voordat sy nog kon kom. Hy probeer volhou, maar voel hoe ‘n traagheid oor hom kom. Sy moes naby wees, maar hy gly by haar uit en rol om op sy rug: “Ek is jammer,” sê hy.

“Toemaar dit maak nie saak nie,” sê sy.

Trollop kyk na haar rooi skaamhare. Hy vat haar hand en begin weer om haar nek te soen en hy skuif af tot tussen haar bene.

“Hmmm-Hmmm, ek is skaam,” sê sy in kindertaal, maar hy begin met sy lippe … Daarna sê sy dankie. Sy haal die fl van hom af en loop daarmee toilet toe. Trollop bly kaal lê.

Vanmiddag vra Trollop aan haar of sy al The last tango in Paris gesien het.?

“Die een waar Brando die botter by haar poephol opdruk,” sê sy onverwags. Trollop is onkant gevang.

“Nee, ek weet nie, ek weet net hulle kyk na die mure van ‘n woonstel wat hulle albei wil koop.”

Daar is afstand tussen hom en haar die afgelope twee dae.

“Oujaarsaand was ek saam met Marcel by Hillbrow Highpoint vir ‘n ruk. Dit het te gevaarlik geraak, toe gaan ons na Chinatown toe, dit was ‘n ervaring. Die Indiërs skiet crackers daar op die stoep van John Vorster Plein. Dit klink soos oorlog. Jy moet jou indink hoe die ouens in die selle voel as hulle dit hoor. Daar by Highpoint was daardie mank plainclothes-polisieman met ‘n knuppel in sy mou. Toe ek hom sien, het ek sommer geweet, iemand het sy dinky toys gebreek toe hy klein was. Nuwe jaar op ‘n motorfiets in Jo’ies. Daar is niks so opwindend nie. Moroonbreine daar by Highpoint. Almal soek net ‘n fight. Johan sê daar was ‘n duisend mense in Hotel Europa se disko, maar ‘n ou was nie veilig sonder jou baseballbat nie. Dit is blykbaar waar al die jong hoere uithang. As jy na ‘n moederfiguur sonder tande soek dan moet jy na die dameskroeg toe gaan.”

Dit het begin reën. Sy trek vir haar rooi klere aan wat pas by haar teneergedruktheid. Sy sit haar bril ook op. Sy wil ‘n fliek gaan kyk as sy hom afgelaai het. “Laasweek was vir my soos ‘n droom, ek sal dit nooit vergeet nie,” sê sy.

“Ronald het een aand drie-uur gekom, net na daardie party en vir my gevra waarom gaan ons nie aan met die verhouding nie, toe sê ek vir hom ek het ‘n affair aan met jou. Hy het begin huil.”

“O,” sê hy, “die slange waarvan jy gedroom het, is skuldgevoelens, verantwoordelikhede teenoor ander mense. Ek droom weer van hierdie swart lyk wat op die draadstoele op ons grasperk sit en weier om te ontbind. ‘n Lektrise in sielkunde sê dit is my skadukant, my ou self wat ek besig is om te ontgroei.”

“Waar moet ek jou aflaai?” vra sy.

“Sommer hier op die hoek,” sê hy.

“Sal dit werklik okay wees? Jy moenie weer vir my lieg nie.”

“Dit is werklik okay,” en Trollop klimby haar motor uit.

Afterword to the rosny series

Filed under: literature,paul wessels — ABRAXAS @ 10:24 am

The turn of the 20th century was a time of great highs and abysmal lows. The Paris Universal Exposition of 1900, The Armory Show of 1913, Marie Skłodowska Curie’s two Nobel Prizes shared center stage with the Dreyfus Affair, the rise of New Imperialism and the First World War.

Writing from within this maelstrom of history was J.-H. Rosny Aîné (1856-1940). This member of the distinguished Goncourt literary academy was the first writer to straddle the line between themes used commonly in mainstream and academic literature and those used in science fiction. He was also the single French-language author who best embodied the evolution of modern science fiction away from the juvenile, one-dimensional scientific anticipations of Jules Verne, or the pulp serials of Paul d’Ivoi, Jean de La Hire and Gustave Le Rouge, to a more mature, literary form of pulp or popular fiction. Needless to say, his genre fiction was neglected by literary scholars.
Many years later, two individuals, one in a smoldering France, the other in McCarthyist America, one a philosopher, the other a writer, picked up the jet-tipped arrows fired by Rosny. They were unknown to one another and yet so alike in their admiration for this sophisticate who wrote pulp fiction, this great miscegenationist who wrote a philosophy book on pluralism that went through two printings.
Philosophy should be like a type of science fiction, suggested the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) in the preface to his magnum opus Difference and Repetition in 1968, for we “write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other.” Apologizing to future detractors, he adds wryly: “We are therefore well aware, unfortunately, that we have spoken about science in a manner which was not scientific.”
In terms of science fiction there is no writer more indebted to Rosny, and none more worthy of the honor, than Philip José Farmer (1918-2009). From beginning to end, both Farmer and Rosny ceaselessly experimented with alchemical transformations of ignorance and knowledge, writing like men possessed, “so gabby, so sloppy, so pagan, so wild, so cynical, so drunk (should I say, crazed?) with learning.”
It is a short step from Rosny’s giant bats of “The Depths of Kyamo” and “The Wonderful Cave Country” to Farmer’s humanoid bat-couple, Ghlikh and Ghuakh, in The Stone God Awakens (1970), a lost land adventure replete with love affairs of a genuinely cross-cultural and inter-racial nature, fecund worlds within worlds, and a modest even reluctant hero for whom the avoidance of shameful (human) actions is more important than notations of evil in a morally relativized universe. Unlike Ghlikh and Ghuakh, however, Rosny’s giant bats form something of a symbiotic alliance with humans and other animals whose blood they are dependent on. The hosts may not have offered themselves, but the Nature to which they are subject provides the necessary conditions for its will to be done. Save for a lethargy just before and during transmission, there are no adverse side-effects for the hosts. This idea is given a twist by Farmer in The Wind Whales of Ishmael (1971) where it is the carnivorous flora that will insert its vegetable probosci into human jugulars, again, with no adverse side effects.
Rosny’s “The Navigators of Space” and its sequel “The Astronauts” depict human astronauts (his term) traveling to Mars in a spaceship powered by artificial gravity and made of an indestructible, transparent material, not unlike Larry Niven’s spaceships. On Mars, the humans come into contact with an intelligent and peaceful, six-eyed, three-legged dying race. A young Martian female, capable of bearing children parthenogenetically by merely wishing it, eventually gives birth to a child after falling in love with one of the human explorers, undoubtedly the first romance ever written between a man and an alien female. This colorful, poetic ode to the power of love and plea for understanding between races, was a sharp departure from the xenophobia celebrated by Wells with his War of the Worlds.
The most celebrated miscegenationist tale in the tradition set down by Rosny is Farmer’s short story The Lovers (1952). Hal Yarrow, a tyrannical, “terrocentric” and “hidebound” earthman is in the process of breaking out of his spiritual prison in an unprecedented act of apostasy. Having fallen in love with a woman named Jeannette Rastignac, the two conduct a clandestine love affair. Whilst Jeanette may look human, she is in fact of the species “Chordata pseudarthropoda” who are also known as “lalitha…Nature’s most amazing experiment in [mimetic] parasitism and parallel evolution.” Tragedy almost ends the relationship, but being a mimetic parasite Hal’s lalitha is the woman he wishes any lalitha to be, and Jeannette had sisters…
Farmer and Rosny also shared an interest in substances both synthetic and natural, conveyed by beings organic, mystical, or natural. Stableford notes the appearance of both amanita and ayahuasca (DMT) in Rosny’s work. For his part, Farmer’s Unreasoning Mask (1983) features a planet whose atmosphere necessitates the wearing of masks by humans so as to “strain out the psychedeligenic spores.”
Many a strange or violent event in their fiction could easily be read as moments of expanded consciousness due to the ingestion of psychoactive substances. But as a testament to their virtuosity as writers of exceptional vision and daring, these same stories can be read as transliterations of ideas gleaned from specialist areas of inquiry.
An excellent example in Farmer is the short story “St. Francis Kisses His Ass Goodbye” (1989). This story was first discussed by Carey within the context of Farmer’s interest in the Sufi mystical tradition. St. Francis finds himself the unwitting subject of a scientific experiment which transports him through time during a violent storm. Once his transposition has occurred, he encounters a mysterious figure known variously as al-Khidr or “the Green One.” Carey suggests that this was not a chance meeting in Farmer’s imagination, but a creative elaboration of the little known fact that “St. Francis of Assisi had knowledge of Sufi doctrine, and… based much of his own teaching upon it.” The limitation of Carey’s account however is his unreferenced and seemingly erroneous assertion that al-Khidr “is known in eastern European folklore as being responsible for bad weather.”
In their Green Gold: The Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion (1995), Bennett et al. note that “Attar and other Sufis are reported to have used el-Khidr (Khizr), the green man, as a hidden reference to hashish and bhang.” Given that some forms of hashish have the equivalent effect of a staggering “500 micrograms of LSD,” the storm assumes an entirely different meaning to that associated with meteorological phenomena.

Al-Khidr (Khizr or Khezr) originates in and appears throughout both mainstream and mystical Islam, with as many spellings as there are interpretations or meanings of his title or function. Wilson describes al-Khidr as the “hidden prophet of Sufism” an “initiator of Sufis who have no human master, a vegetation spirit in whose footsteps flowers and herbs sprout by magic.” This latter extrapolation seems to fit both Farmer and Rosny’s extensive interest in flora as always containing more than itself and being a cipher for alternate “sentient” life. In a later study, Wilson adds that “one of [al-Khidr’s] functions is to convince skeptics of the existence of the Marvelous, to rescue those who are lost in deserts of doubt and dryness.”
So this story could easily be seen as a cipher for the effects of the more powerful, hallucinogenic strains of hashish and cannabis manifested through the presence of al-Khidr. But it is equally a thermodynamic mystery/suspense with a potentially explosive pay-off. As Carey puts it, “al-Khidr, calling himself ‘Kidder,’ appears to the shocked friar, helping him make his way to the scientists whose experiment will end in a world wide disaster if St. Francis is not sent back to his past with the exact matter-mass which he brought with him to the future.” In other words, how to reverse the division of matter—that is, St. Francis—in time, so precisely as to avoid the extensive properties of mass and total volume exceeding their ratio with the intensive properties of pressure, density and temperature; or in the words of Kidder, how to avoid a “mass-temporal energy explosion.”
For his part, Rosny was saturated in the ideas of his age and so it comes as no surprise to read his account of the division of thermodynamic properties in “The Givreuse Enigma” (2010e). Here the setting is closer to the science of warfare than to the mysticism of a violent storm. It is at the moment of an artillery explosion in a First World War battle that Pierre de Givreuse is divided in space, that is, into two contemporaneous bodies in a way we would today refer to as bipartition or cloning. His double is given the name Philippe de Givreuse. What strikes the scientist handling their case is the “anomaly of their density… the respective weight of the young men was no more than 45 kilograms. This weight was in flagrant disproportion to the volume of flesh and bone. According to appearances, Philippe and Pierre should each have weighed about 70 kilograms—and it was known, with utter certainty, that before his departure, Pierre had weighed 73.”

Brian Stableford’s trenchant commentary accompanying the preceding 6 volumes of this series bears witness to Rosny’s laboratory of creative inventions and experimentations where transformations of the real, as outlined above, form an unscientific or romantic type of science fiction. In fact, experiments with many different results scatter Rosny’s fiction, making his writing appear strategic and calculating, that is, political, rather than theoretical and didactic. His novels and stories portray scientists battling with problems that challenge and perhaps require the overturning of orthodoxy, rather than portraying orthodoxy being brought to bear on problems and the lives of scientists. In “Mysterious Force,” physicist Gérard Langre, is described as a man leading “a disconnected life,” one full “of genius, endowed with the stubbornness and skill of great experimenters,” who “worked with such rudimentary apparatus and such restricted materials that he only obtained any results by virtue of the miracle of his obstinacy, his vigilance and his professional acumen. A lofty vision made up for the wretchedness of his laboratories.”
Rosny’s understanding of politics was just as doggedly determined or strategic, that is, innate, intimate and global. Justice was an immanent requirement of everyday ethics and not a transcendent right to be applied by The Law from on high. For more than 30 years, from the 1887 “Manifeste des Cinq” denouncing Zola, to his American trip of 1927, Rosny would embody, live and write his understanding of politics as a hatred as well as a terror of dissimulation, the masking of truth. It was “dissimulation and hypocrisy that [was] rotting the soul of America” he stated for TIME magazine. For him, dereliction of creative or scientific duty, the perjury of a writer or scientist deserting the imperative of experimentation (personal or otherwise)—all were ciphers for actual desertification, the harshest idea informing “The Death of the Earth,” one of his most disturbing works: “The impotence of human beings was structural: born with water, they were vanishing with it.”
Listening to Rosny describing the Russian émigré of Paris in 1891 in a journalistic piece he wrote for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, could just as easily be a summation of his own writing: a politics of scientific method (which at first glance does not appear to be very political or scientific): “His life is an exposition of principles or a perpetual discussion, and all the time we spend with him he is theorizing, comparing dates and events, describing a skeleton Russia wherein there seems to be neither men, women, nor children, but only an abstract population of problems.
Farmer shared Rosny’s sense of politics as that which “precedes being” as Deleuze and Guattari put it. When Hal “stepped out into the open air of the first habitable planet discovered by Earthmen” dissimulating scientific neutrality and good will so as to hide his mission objective of genocide, he is reminded of Columbus, and wonders if “the story will be the same?” Similarly, Rosny’s narrator in “The Treasure in the Snow” says: “Nine times out of ten—as I am not the only person to have remarked—one can reach an understanding with savages; the brutality almost always comes from the side of the white man.”
In 1976, Farmer adapted Rosny’s lost land adventure L’Etonnant voyage de Hareton Ironcastle (1922). As Stableford informs us, Farmer’s version stripped away the religion Rosny had placed strategically so as to appease what he believed was a bible-thumping American audience, but maintained the political intent: “our civilization…is the most homicidal that has ever appeared on Earth…we have caused the disappearance of more peoples and populations than all the conquerors of antiquity and the Middle Ages.”
Our uniquely human patrimony is the inheritance of shameful actions, and both writers knew that shame is not always where the consensus says it is. “Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” reasons Herman Melville’s Ishmael to himself when weighing up the prospect of sharing a room and bed with Queequeg. This is the same inversion of a dubious morality that prompts Rosny to criticize by appeasement (as in Ironcastle) or direct attack (as in “Companions of the Universe” ). Farmer’s invocation of, and paean to, the great Herman Melville through the words of Captain Ahab in his The Wind Whales of Ishmael, acts as a shared conception of this anti-dissimulationist political intent: “All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!”

In 2007, Collapse, an independent journal of Philosophical Research and Development with a print run of 1000 copies per issue, embodying that largesse of spirit, invention, principled exposition and perpetual discussion Rosny might well have admired, published an issue titled Unknown Deleuze. Filed under “Rosny” was a translation of “Another World” preceded by a short introductory essay on the legacy of the author by the journal’s editor and publisher, Robin Mackay. This short and incisive piece of scholarship introduces us to an equally Unknown Rosny, viz., Rosny the Philosopher and his unmitigated centrality to the strange and difficult philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.
Rosny’s philosophical work was published by Félix Alcan, by all accounts a remarkable publisher whose authors, instead of embodying the common ethos of an exclusive or doctrinaire club, “saturated, through a sort of philosophical chromaticism, every philosophical possibility of the epoch offered to the field.” Such a politics of multiplicity—that is, one premised on the compulsion to experiment, to continually overthrow the reign of unity or science with new data, and to begin all over again—is otherwise known as pluralism.
Both Farmer and Deleuze pay homage to a writer for whom the very latest developments in science and philosophy, not to mention politics, always found a voice in his univocal choir—politics, philosophy and science sounding more romantic than political, philosophical or scientific. Deleuze acknowledges Rosny’s central contribution to philosophy, one which establishes pluralism (or the multiple) as the manifestation of differences (and not the other way around). As Charles Gourlande puts it in “The Givreuse Enigma”: “the individual, wherever it might be, is multiple” —it is not the multiple which is constituted by already formed individuals (for that would simply be the anthropocentric dream of unity). Such a dream is achievable only through acts of exclusion. Like science, unity ‘continually neglects, totalizes, symbolizes’. But unlike science, unity has inherent, structural problems. Racism and xenophobia are the illnesses of anthropocentrism, the biological rites of exclusion applied as some sort of substitution for problems of integration or alliance.
Rosny went so far as to include inorganic beings or a “material form of energy” as part of his pantheon of fictional “peoples,” giving them equal, “organic” status. Writing in Le sciences et le pluralisme, he states that “there is no reason why the terrestrial surface, since it is traversed by immense energies, should not have produced organic systems equal in complexity to our own. No more than there is any reason that it might not produce another organic realm once ours has disappeared. My Xipehuz, Moedigen and Ferro-Magnetics are perhaps pale symbols of anterior and future realities.”
When Deleuze said of Rosny that “he invents a kind of naturalism in intensity which, at the two extremes of the intensive scale, …leads into the prehistoric caverns and future spaces of science fiction,” he meant that between the bond of primitive alliance displayed in works such as Helgvor of the Blue River (2010g) and The Giant Feline (2010g) on the one hand, and the inorganic beings of “Another World” and “The Xipehuz” on the other, lay the immense creative energy of a writer for whom “experimentation indefinitely dominates speculation.”
Rosny wrestled long and hard with many an “abstract population of problems.” Perhaps at times, this “great bad writer” got his facts and narratives wrong, perhaps, late at night, the frontiers of ignorance and knowledge blurred behind the tired eyes of one who believed with the Jesuit philosopher-paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin that “the history of the living world can be summarized as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen.”
Rosny’s great contribution will be to advance a better idea than unity, an experimental idea par excellence, namely, of alliance between his fictional peoples be they animals, plants, aliens or energies. This acknowledgment of the richness of heterogeneous alliance over homogenous, anthropocentric unity (such as colonialism and other declarations of war), is something Deleuze built his philosophy upon, and Farmer, his fiction.

Paul Wessels and Jean-Marc Lofficier

REFERENCES

Bonnetain, Paul, J.-H. Rosny, Lucien Descaves, Paul Margueritte and Gustave Guiches. “Manifeste des Cinq” Le Figaro (August 18, 1887). Available online (in French with French commentary): http://siecle19.freeservers.com/Manifeste_Cinq.html
Bennett, Chris, Lynn Osburn, and Judy Osburn. Green Gold: The Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion. Frazier Park: Access Unlimited, 1995. Available online: http://www.alchemylab.com/cannabis_stone1.htm
Beistegui, Miguel. Truth and Genesis: Philosophy as Differential Ontology. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004.
Carey, Christopher Paul. “How Much Free Will Does A Pumpkin Have? Philip José Farmer and Sufism” Planet Stories (July 12, 2009). Available online: http://planetstories.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/how-much-free-will-does-a-pumpkin-have-philip-jose-farmer-and-sufism/
Chapman, Edgar L. The Magic Labyrinth of Philip José Farmer. Rockville: Wildside Press, 1984,
——-. “Remembering Philip Jose Farmer” Bradley Hilltopics (Summer 2009, 15:3). Available online: http://www.bradley.edu/hilltopics/09summer/notebk/.
Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition, tr. Paul Patton. NY: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Deleuze, G. Negotiations, 1972-1990, tr. Martin Joughin. NY: Columbia University Press, 1995.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. by Brian Massumi. London: The Athlone Press, 1988.
During, Elie. “A History of Problems: Bergson and the French Epistemological Tradition” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 35: 1 (January, 2004). Available online: http://www.ciepfc.fr/spip.php?article56
Farmer, P.J. The Lovers. NY: Ballantine Books, 1961.
——-. The Stone God Awakens. NY: Ace Books, 1970.
——-. The Wind Whales of Ishmael. NY: Ace Books, 1971.
——-. Unreasoning Mask. NY: Berkley, 1983.
——-. “St. Francis Kisses His Ass Goodbye” in Rucker, R., Wilson, P.L. and Wilson, R.A. Semiotext(e) SF. NY: Autono-media, 1989.
——-. Nothing Burns in Hell. NY: Tor, 1999.
——-. “The Lovers” in Farmer, P.J. Strange Relations. NY: Baen, 2008.
Farmer, Philip José and Rosny, J.H. Ironcastle. NY: Daw Books, 1976.
Mackay, Robin. “Rosny and the Scientific Fantastic” Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development, Volume III (2007). pp. 255-265.
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. London: Penguin Books, 1994.
Rosny Aîné, J.-H. “Nihilists in Paris” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (August, 1891). pp. 429-442. Available online: http://www.harpers.org/archive/1891/08/0036600
——-. “Foreign News: Humiliating Experiences” TIME Magazine (July 25, 1927). Available online: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,736799,00.html ——-. “The Navigators of Space,” “The Astronauts,” “The Death of the Earth,” “Another World” and “The Xipehuz” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. The Navigators of Space and Other Alien Encounters, tr. by Brian Stableford. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010a.
——-. “The Depths of Kyamo,” “The Wonderful Cave Country” and “The Treasure in the Snow” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. The World of the Variants and Other Strange Lands, tr. by Brian Stableford. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010b.
——-. “Mysterious Force” and “Hareton Ironcastle’s Amazing Journey” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. The Mysterious Force and Other Anomalous Phenomena, tr. by Brian Stableford. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010c.
——-. “The Givreuse Enigma” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. The Givreuse Enigma and Other Stories, tr. by Brian Stableford. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010e.
——-. “Companions of the Universe” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. The Young Vampire and Other Cautionary Tales, tr. by Brian Stableford. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010f.
——-. “Helgvor of the Blue River” and “The Giant Feline” in Rosny Aîné, J.-H. Helgvor of the Blue River/The Giant Feline, tr. by Georges Surdez, and Lady Whitehead. Encino: Black Coat Press, 2010g.
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Phenomenon of Man, tr. Bernard Wall. NY: Harper & Row, 1959.
Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy. NY: Autonomedia, 1988.
——-. Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1993.

September 20, 2010

johan van wyk’s man bitch: a master’s degree dissertation by

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:46 pm

I am currently completing my mini-dissertation as part of the requirements for my Masters degree at UKZN. The title of my project is “Reading the City – analysing literary space in selected postapartheid urban narratives” and it’s concerned with examining the innercity of Durban and Johannesburg and its representation in selected texts, the main two being Welcome to Our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe for Johannesburg and Man Bitch by Johan van Wyk for Durban.

I have chosen today to focus on Man Bitch because, firstly, it is set in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s largest city, and secondly, because van Wyk is one of the authors listed in the KZN Literary Map. As a short introduction, I will run through some of the areas under investigation in my mini-dissertation, I will then provide a brief history of postapartheid Durban, highlighting some of the spatial issues affecting it, then situate the innercity area of the Point in the greater area of the city and provide a short biography of the author Johan van Wyk. Following this, I will look at the way the narrator in Man Bitch reads the innercity and the means through which it is constructed in the text. As a conclusion I will link the text back to the Literary Tourism project and question the viability of Man Bitch becoming part of a larger literary trail.

In my mini-dissertation, I focus on the cities of Durban and Johannesburg, and in particular the inner cities, because it is here that major transformation in the use and representation of space has occurred. Van Wyk and Mpe construct the innercity in their texts. This is done through reference to physical places locatable in the city, a mapping of space, and through relationships that come to represent the city. Some of the major issues affecting South Africa’s city inhabitants emerge as themes: AIDS, crime, poverty, mental and sexual abuse and architectural degradation drive these narratives but so too does access to once restricted space. By looking at these postapartheid texts, an analysis of how the representation of literary space has altered with political and socio-economic changes can be made. A close reading of these texts reveals a city identity and urban space that corresponds to the idea of an integrated, ‘new’ South Africa yet is far from the ideal portrayed through the media.

The innercity is ‘mapped’ through Man Bitch. This constructed city is read and written through the strategies of walking. Through these techniques, re-occurring themes are established. Home and belonging are central to this text with the narrator searching for home in the innercity which is, to all intents and purposes, un-homelike. Power relations drive this narrative and draw from the legacy of apartheid in relation to race, and a more diffuse system of power in the postapartheid context as related to the sex/ money exchanges. Lastly, AIDS redefines the urban space in Man Bitch, as well the space of human relationships therein, and promises to be the driving force behind future South African city narratives.

Under apartheid, South African cities represented white control and influence over black South Africans. Power was inscribed into buildings and place, and the relationships people had with them, through legislation. In recent years the city landscape (political, economic, and architectural) has changed and these power relationships have now fragmented to include issues of identity, migration and AIDS. Through van Wyk’s fictionalised autobiography we can see how writers construct place – in this case the Point Road area – and how they are in turn influenced by place and the related socio-economic conditions.

The innercity of Durban was a site of exclusion for black South Africans. Access to land and space was legislated and clearly demarcated with the Group Areas Act restricting black South Africans to certain areas to live and work in, and the Separate Amenities Act limiting the interaction of white and black South Africans. The 1994 elections saw a change of power from the hands of the Afrikaner National Party to that of the struggle organisation the African National Congress, which still controls the government today. This also saw a move towards the postapartheid discourse that I deal with in my thesis. The South African city is historically divided but the postapartheid era has brought about what Jennifer Robinson calls a “mobility, interaction and dynamism of spaces” (1999:163). After the collapse of apartheid many black South Africans made the inner city their home. Durban is now clearly an African city and this postapartheid city stands as a powerful index of transformation. However, this transformation has not resulted in the utopian place imagined post-1994. The city, and in particular the inner-city, has moved in the popular consciousness to a site of degradation and crime.

The modern city, set out in grids, is supposed to signify order, but in van Wyk’s work it is a space of disorder. The Western model of a city, which was adopted by the apartheid government and implemented in Durban, sees the city as powerhouse of business. However, like many South African cities, “Durban today does not function efficiently due to the legacy of apartheid (Maharaj 2002:171). Durban is now defined by a development crisis that sees a “rapid population growth, a slow economic growth rate,
housing backlogs, an increasing number of informal settlements, rising poverty, high unemployment rates and an inadequate supply of basic services to the majority of the population” (Maharaj 2002:172). The Durban innercity has also seen a gradual movement by big business away from the city centre, supposedly to escape high crime rates. With the changing of political systems in South Africa, so too has the ideological construction of Durban changed. The tourism agency in Durban no longer advertises
itself to white, upcountry visitors as the place where “The Fun Never Sets” but rather situates itself as “The Gateway to the Zulu Kingdom” in an effort to appeal to black and white upcountry visitors; and also to an overseas contingent keen on an exotic African adventure. Durban has a rich cultural heritage, Oriental, African and colonial, and this is now being marketed as a tourist attraction.

Linking the tourist areas of the beachfront and the commercial harbour district is the innercity suburb known as The Point, where Man Bitch is set. This is Durban’s notorious red light district, its largest urban slum, and home to a vast array of drug pushers, prostitutes, illegal immigrants and general detritus of society. Point Road owed its original importance to its proximity to the focal point of the harbour, and this is the reason why it is still significant today. However, this proximity is no longer a positive influence and has brought with it easy access to smuggled drugs and an active clientele base for the thriving sex industry. In his graphic story “Point Odyssey” Thoba Bhengu recreates the area in a series of images that touch on the essence of life in The Point. In this pictorial narrative, the comic artist highlights the crime, prostitution and drugs that are synonymous with the place.

For a supposed autobiography, we learn very little about Johan van Wyk in Man Bitch. We know that he works as a professor at the University of Durban-Westville, lives in a flat in Gillespie Street and has a fetish for young, black prostitutes. Man Bitch begins with the narrator middle-aged and living in the innercity. The text tells us very little about his life before he moved to the city or why he did in fact move. In his review of Man Bitch the writer and critic Lewis Nkosi state that van Wyk’s move to the innercity of Durban has a deeper meaning than the sordid, sex-fuelled existence portrayed in his book. To quote Nkosi:

He hasn’t just abandoned his family, reputation and home in a secure neighbourhood in search of sexual excitement. He is looking for meaning too. For wisdom, which he defines, with captivating eloquence, ‘reason without institution.’

From this, we can draw comparison between van Wyk and the French Symbolist poet Baudelaire, whose influential collection Fleur de Mal (1857) embraced depravity and documented his relationships with Parisian prostitutes. It was through these relationships that Baudelaire searched for the true significance of life and argued that vice is the natural condition of man. What has shocked some readers of Man Bitch is that van Wyk “fully embraces this life-world and feels most at home in it” (Nkosi 3) but this is in keeping with the Symbolist philosophy.

Man Bitch is closely tied to place and in particular the Gillespie Street area. The place of the text is connected to the place of the innercity, and place has influenced literary production in this text in a very real way. Likewise, Man Bitch constructs place and our perceptions of it. The image that is created of the Point Road area is one of degradation, a veritable den of iniquity, where drugs and girls are for sale on every street corner. We learn about van Wyk through the banal relationships he has with the various prostitutes who form the core of the story, and through his relationship to the place called Gillespie Street. In this sense, it is more a biography of a place and a time than a man. Following on from this, I would argue that Man Bitch is not only a story of a segment of the life of Johan van Wyk and the women he shared it with but also a record of a place in time. Plans are now underway for a massive redevelopment of the Point area and the first to go will be the people and places that van Wyk writes about in this text.

Through Man Bitch, van Wyk re-maps the Point area of innercity Durban to his needs. The landscape features he presents are recognisable and locatable and include both buildings and, interestingly, people.
Apart from Point Road, the other place markers that van Wyk gives us in the text can easily be found in Gillespie Street and the surrounding area. In the first paragraph of the book, van Wyk sets the scene. The
narrator hears music coming from the verandah of the Four Seasons Hotel, a constant reference point throughout the text, he mentions The Bazaar, a Moroccan themed shopping complex on Gillespie Street and the “towering Holiday Inn Garden Court (which) throws its blue glow across the city” (2001:2). Costa’s is the local bar where van Wyk spends most of his time. It is a place to pick up prostitutes and it is where he meets his girlfriends. It is multiracial and multinational; the defining factor of all who are there is that they are either selling or buying sex. The other place he frequents is the nightclub Lido’s in Smith Street which is populated with a “mixed crowd of Oriental and East European seamen” (2001:18), the clients of his prostitute friends. Lido’s highlights the fact that Durban is an important port city as well as the cosmopolitanism of the innercity.

Patterns of walking define the narrative of Man Bitch, with routes being repeatedly followed in the text. Van Wyk roams the streets of innercity Durban, looking to experience what the place has to offer. In contrast, the other characters in the text are prostitutes or ‘street-walkers’ who inhabit the streets for a very real purpose. It is the site where they conduct their business, and for some, even live. “Where are you going?” a prostitute asks the narrator at one point, “Nowhere, I’m just walking” (2001:4) he replies.
In some ways van Wyk’s narrator is characteristic of Walter Banjamin’s flaneur figure. While he is a constant observer, and a type of voyeur, he also chooses not to get involved directly with the city crowds. The crowd is the flaneur’s element yet the flaneur is not a man of the crowd. The narrator in Man Bitch lives in the city but is not part of the city. The urban crowd is rather the medium through which the flaneur moves, and in Benjamin’s view, the heroism of this figure resides in the fact that he refuses to become part of the crowd. While forming relationships with prostitutes in the area, van Wyk manages to distance himself from most of the other people living there. The flaneur provides an alternative vision of the city with his aimless wanderings; a counterpoint to the speed and direction of modernity. In this sense, Man Bitch also provides an alternative vision of the city. If we look at the flaneur beyond its First World context we are able to see that the flaneur exists as counterpoint to the mass, a trope that subverts
conventional meaning and values, not a social type but as Mike Savage writes, “a theoretical, critical, counter to the idea of the mass, as an attempt to indicate the sort of potential for critique which continues to exist” (2003:38). Van Wyk questions the norms and morals of society through his whole experiment of living in the Point. Superficially, it is necessary to get down to street level in order to experience the city as it really is, to read the stories of the city. Van Wyk takes himself to this street level and from this vantage point he reads the city through the stories of his girlfriends.

Like the flaneur too, van Wyk is constantly observing. This constant observation is necessary in the South African city when you don’t know where danger lurks, but is also characteristic of the flaneur. The postmodern flaneur can recognize, as Chris Jenks writes in Visual Culture, “the real, as well as supposed, character of the city’s threats, intimidations, menaces or simply challenges to free access” (1995:157). The innercity of Durban is a dangerous place where even the cockroaches, rumoured to be able to withstand a nuclear blast, die from “sipping leftover brandy” (2001:3). In a laissez-faire manner, van Wyk mentions the fact that he was stabbed, and I’m quoting from the text now,:

by a gang of tsotsis in West Street for my cell phone. Thank god that was the end of the cell phone – but the tsotsi’s should learn to finish off their clients as I remained with the fucking doctors’ bills. I just remember the whites of the eyes underneath this hat as this tsotsi aimed for my heart, while the others like hyenas grabbed the cell phone in my hand (2001:80).

This for Van Wyk, makes him “truly South African” (2001:80) as he has “the mark of belonging to this hell” (2001:80), taking the experience of the city to a new and potentially deadly level.

As Gillespie Street currently stands – its very similar to the place constructed in Man Bitch – only the worst type of literary tourist would be attracted to the area, looking for the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll described by van Wyk. However, the whole of the beachfront and the area surrounding it has been earmarked for massive redevelopment in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The imminent gentrification of the area could mean that the innercity as constructed by van Wyk in his book could provide a fascinating insight into a place that is no more for future literary tourists. Combined with the Snake Park beach from Lewis Nkosi’s Mating Birds, the innercity area as described in Never Been Home by Zazah P. Khuzwayo and No Way Out by Zinhle Carol Mdakane, two of van Wyk’s prostitute girlfriends, and Smuggler’s Inn, a bar frequented by the poet Douglas Livingstone, a Literary Trail could be constructed that takes in the beachfront and the rich historical and cultural areas of the Point.

refugees

Filed under: deon skade,literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:53 pm

dear deon

it’s interesting that you use the word “refuge” in terms of writing and the book

i used the term “sanctuary” myself, and even put a book out and had an exhibition with this theme

i think that many writers/poets/artists are people who are very sensitive; and certainly in a country like south africa where you have to be damn tough to survive, we sensitive people need to find refuge or shelter or sanctuary in our words and our books and our poems

books really function as a safety zone – not just to read intelligent ideas, but i really believe that we find the space in the universe of books, to be our real selves

i think the social interaction with our peers very often forces us to shut down or limit our intellects and imagination in order to fit in – and so in a book or a poem we can really grow to our fullness of being

and for this reason books really are a vital sanctuary, a refuge

aryan kaganof

My! This is very intriguing Mr Kaganof. ‘Sanctuary’ has a nicer ring
to it though. I imagine the whole process to have been sentimental for
you.

It’s so nice to hear your views on the sensitivity of artists in their
varied nature, and how they/we should find refuge in our work.
It’s certainly a comforting sentiment for me because I have had many
ambivalent views on life and art as a whole. In fact I still do, but
to a much lesser degree.

I share your views on the value of books. They are indeed personal
spaces that allow us to be ourselves ‘unrehearsed’, within the
restrictions brought about by the social protocols. I fell in love
with J.J, your character, because I related to his world so much in
that he probed matters I questioned before.
Books expose us to ‘artists’ who articulate some thoughts clearer,
thus liberate some parts of us.

I’m happy to have encountered books.

deon skade

Die rooi merkies op my lyf

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:47 pm

Die rooi merkies op my lyf is seker hoenderluisbyte. In die vyf jaar wat ons op die plaas blynet deur, het alles verander. Die gras is netjies gesny. Die kakiebosse het heeltemal verdwyn. Dit was nie maklik om hulle te vervang met ‘n bietjie beskawing nie. My ma het baie soorte blomme geplant: Kannas, Varkore, Afrikaners, Kappertjies en sy het ook struike geplant. Die huis self het nuut geword. Drie badkamers is aangebou. Dit is ‘n bietjie vreemd, die een is aan die spens gebou en die ander aan ‘n gastekamer. ‘n Muur is uitgekap om die sitkamer groter te laat lyk.

Die diere het ook vermeerder. Eers het ons net een Vrieskoei gehad. Martha was haar naam, toe laat ons haar met oom Stoffel se bul dek. Vir ‘n lang tyd was sy ons enigste voorsiener van melk. Sy het toe ‘n bulletjie gekry. Ons het nog twee versies gekoop. Martha het opgeblaas van tulpe eet en het doodgegaan. Dit was ‘n treurige dag. Sy het soos ‘n ballon voor die kombuisvenster gestaan met skuim wat by haar mond uitkom en toe net omgeval. Elk geval vandag het ons al ses of sewe groot beeste en vier kallers en ons verkoop melk aan al my ma se vriendinne. Partymaal steel ek die melkgeld om vir my ‘n plaat te kan koop. Soos ons koeie het ons skape en hoenders en varke en kalkoene en makoue meer geword. Dit is net moeilik om met die eende en ganse te broei. In die somer dan is daar altyd luise en vlooie en muskiete op die plaas. ‘n Mens kan niks daaromtrent doen nie.

My storie gaan eintlik oor vanmiddag toe ek alleen by die huis was, toe het die hele plaas mal geword en dit net deur die onnosel fokken bul wat alles voor sy oë bestorm: bome en drade. Hy’s amper net so hardkoppig en onnosel soos my pa wat op sy arbeiders skree dat die are in sy kop rooi word.

Ek het vir my ‘n eier in warm olie gebak, die olie was al ‘n bietjie warm. Toe maak ek ‘n eiertoebroodjie. ‘n Vriend het my daarna gebel. Die mossies het sulke angstige geluide gemaak. My vriend het net onlangs terug gekeer van Griekeland. Hy vind dit seker baie vervelig omdat alles nog dieselfde is.

Elk geval ek het so gesit en niks doen nie, toe word daar aan die voordeur geklop. Die huis was donker met my alleen. Ma het die gordyne toegetrek voor sy weg is. Dit was omtrent half-ses. Pa sou my later die dag baie kere vra hoe laat dit was toe alles gebeur het.

Wat de moer klop Josef nou weer aan die voordeur. Hy wil seker ys hê. Ek sien hy en Samson hardloop elkeen met ‘n sak. Ek dog hulle is besig om mekaar te jaag.

Wat is dit? Die grassnyer staan alleen op die gras. Hulle beduie na die kampie. Die koeie hardloop wild rond. “Dit is die bul,” beduie hulle.

“Wat van die bul?”

“Die bul het ‘n byenes omgeskop.”

Ek sien hoe sulke swart kolle deur die lug skiet. Die bul hardloop soos ‘n maniak al langs die draad. Al die koeie hardloop en maak bokspringe. Sulke stringe bye hang aan hulle. Hulle breek deur die klein kampie waarbinne hulle gestaan het. Dan begin die skape hardloop en die hoenders van ons werkers.

Dit was soos ‘n visioen.

Ek kon nie my lag hou nie. Iets binne my het my gewil om te lag. Maar dit was ernstig. Alles op die plaas kon vrek.

“Gou! Gaan jaag die hoenders in die buitekamer en kan die hekke van die groot kampe nie oopgemaak word nie?”

“Ons sal hom die skape nie meer kry soos hy sal hardloop nie,” beduie Josef.

Ek kon niks doen nie. Niemand kon niks doen nie. Ek het die voordeur gou toegemaak en gaan sit. Ek kon nie besluit of ek na Pink Floyd wou luister nie. Ons twee honde het klaarblyklik die opgewondenheid in die lug aangevoel; Pippie, ‘n teef, het ou Kameel, die mannetjie in die hol bygekom. Dit was ‘n bietjie abnormaal, hulle het allerhande bokspringe in die huis begin maak.

Toe gaan skakel ek maar radio Hoëveld in die buitekamer aan en trek die gordyne oop. Skape en koeie het in die lusernland sonder rigting gehardloop. Vandag vrek alles, sommer so skielik en sonder waarskuwing.

Ek het my ma probeer bel, maar sy was nie by haar vriendinne nie. My pa se werk het gedink ek skeer die gek. Ek het vergeet hy is Welkom toe. Toe sit ek maar en wag.

Voëls het uit die hemel geval.

My pa word vandag weer gestraf omdat hy sy werkers so sleg behandel, het ek gedink en ek kon nie ophou om te lag nie. Ek weet nie wat is verkeerd met my nie.

Toe het ek vir my badwater gaan intap. ‘n Eensame by het teen die venster gebzzzz.

BERGSON IS SUBJECTED TO ANOTHER MONOLOGUE

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:17 pm

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

“Harry,” his voice was hoarse and uneven “I know you’re pissed off with me over this thing with the dog, but I’m seriously worried about myself.”

Bergson had faith in Henry and was not unsympathetic. But he knew there was very little he could do to help the young man and it made him impatient: he wished to God he would take himself off to the other side of the world for a year or two, sort himself out, and then come back all new and shiny clean.

“I don’t know what more I can do for you, Henry.” There was no warmth in his words. “Why did you do it?”

“Fuck it, man, I don’t know. I was desperate.” Standing at the big window he shook his head miserably. Squalls of rain were being chased across the deserted dockyard and the sea was all blown up with hostility and threat.

“The man’s not only a maniac, he’s a raving pervert. In five months we’ve gone through four cats. He stands there, stark naked under his stupid academic gown, and when I say, What do you see, Mr Schroder? he screams in ecstasy, Old Deuteronomy is dead! and comes all over the place. Shit! The last time, he fell down in a seizure, incontinent, ordure oozing from every orifice. Lobengula had to clean him up, poor kaffir. Are you surprised I couldn’t take it anymore? When I saw that pooch knocked down dead at the side of the road the idea presented itself to me in a flash of inspiration.” Henry laughed a hollow laugh empty of humour. “What do you see, Mr Schroder? Jesus, how was I to know…?”

Henry went and sat down and Bergson looked at him across his desk and thought bitterly, This man has become a fixture, a fixture which has worn very badly. Look at him! Overgrown beard, matted hair, dishevelled clothes. The staring eyes, dark and bloodshot, tormented by eccentric ideas, desires and fears. The ever-present smell of booze and tobacco and dagga. Was he looking at an incurable profligate or a prodigal son? What dangerous piffle was about to fall from those flabby lips? What litany of obscene fantasies would he have to listen to now?

Henry started to light his pipe. He held up the burning match for Bergson to see.

“Look at that. You’d think I had suffered some serious damage to my central nervous system.” His hand trembled, making the flame wobble. “I’ve had this static tremor for some weeks now. It started off as fine and rapid and almost imperceptible, but it’s getting courser.”

“Is it worse in the morning, before you’ve had your first dop?”

“Sometimes.” Henry was aware of the sarcastic tone. “But not always, so I don’t think it’s entirely due to my alcohol intake as you’re insinuating. No, this is far more insidious and can’t be ascribed to any single cause. It must certainly have something to do with the chronic state of anxiety which has overtaken me.” He tried to think what else could be a contributing factor. “I’ve also heard of a condition known as dementia paralytica.” Bergson sighed resignedly. Another monologue. How many of these tirades had he listened to over the years? Too many.

“And this is a terrible disease, a terrifying disease if ever there was one. I’m pretty certain I haven’t contracted this disease but one can never be sure just what’s lurking in the bloodstream, or skulking under the foreskin, or squatting in the liver, or flitting hither and thither from branch to branch in the bronchial forest. I came across this disease whilst doing some research into the possible repercussions of a little moral indiscretion committed whilst on expedition to South West Africa. It happened in the line of duty, so to speak, when I was searching for your bloody Oxyastonishing ducts, Mr Harry Bergson. (Looks accusingly at Bergson) Anyway, one of the symptoms of this dread disease happens to be a tremor of the outstretched hand (stretches out hand and points accusingly at Bergson who notes wavering index finger), which is exactly what I’ve got. Also tremors of the lips, tongue and jaw, which make it hard to speak clearly and coherently, and one s.. s.. speaks w.. w.. with a b.. b.. b.. bit of a st.. st.. stu.. stutter at t.. times and also makes one.. one.. it makes one.. it makes it one, if you know what I, mean.. it makes me talk like.. you know.. it happens that.. one is unable to.. to be able.. unable.. to.. get any kind old of.. of.. you know.. coheritance, no, no matter and this ties in exactly with the symptom described. Of course it is worse when I am acutely anxious or fraught with existentialist depression like the other day when I was at home in my filthy little chamber at the Olympia Residentia and it was late morning and I thought I’d make myself a nice pot of rooibos tea to steady and comfort myself because I was feeling very shaky for some obscure reason, finding life rather unbearable and feeling rather overwhelmed by the pain and humiliation all around me wherever I looked. So there I was trying to pour myself a cup of tea. As I say, I was at a very low ebb and floundering in a slough of insecurity and self-loathing. My intention was simple and mundane, merely wanting to pour a cup of tea, but as I lifted the teapot I was filled with embarrassment and misery at the spectacle of my hand upon the handle, it looked so weak and ugly. It was bony and the knuckles were white like gristle and it was a weak hand and the skin was red and blotchy and ever so ugly. The hand quivered and shook and the tea came out in a feeble, wavering stream that cut me to the quick. Right to the very core I was cut, bleeding and raw and weeping inside. It was a direct attack on my integrity, my very persona, this pitiful stream. It was like an old drunk pissing, uncertain and erratic. This wasn’t rooibos tea, this was piss darkened with blood, and MY piss would be like this soon, a tincture of blood and piss in stinking fishwater. Miserably I regretted trying to pour the tea. I shouldn’t have poured the tea, I should never have tried to pour the tea. What right did I have to try and hold a teapot steady and aim a steaming spout at a gaping cunt of a cup? Instead I should have crawled under a blanket and crouched there under a blanket in the dark, shaking and trembling inside and wanting to whimper. Why, I asked myself, why am I like this, how has it come to pass that I am like this? This is what I asked myself there in the room, in my hour of dejection there in that anteroom waiting to be summoned into some frigid abyss. Why am I like this, I kept asking myself, why am I like this? I don’t know why I’m like this. I couldn’t drink this pernicious decoction, this foetid infusion. I wouldn’t drink it. No ways. The more I thought about it the more agitated I became. I blamed myself for my own despicable weakness, for I should never have tried to pour it in the first place, knowing what I was like, not being able to do anything right, not even the simplest of tasks. I was a shivering cur, better off with brains kicked in and guts spilled in the gutter. Oh, it was a very dark hour for me, I can tell you. Such debilitating wretchedness. That’s why I’m so worried and am forever casting about, this way and that, looking for some kind of explanation, some definitive diagnosis that would help me to overcome what appears to be a relentlessly progressive malady. It could be any one of a hundred diseases and I have to consider them all and try to eliminate them one by one. Take this damned dementia paralytica for example. They say it’s onset is usually manifested by a change in behaviour. The patient become irritable, concentration is difficult and memory deteriorates. I ask myself whether these symptoms match my own, yes or no. Certainly yes to irritability. Headaches and insomnia associated with lethargy and fatigue? Yes, on occasions. Judgement becomes defective? Yes. General appearance is shabby, unkempt and dirty? Yes, but what’s new? Emotional instability leading to frequent weeping and temper tantrums? Yes, just look what I did to that cat I caught in my room. Depression? Yes. Delusions of grandeur? No, never. But that’s the first no. Handwriting shaky and illegible? Yes, but I’ve always written with a terrible scrawl, so it’s hard to tell. The loss of tendon reflexes? (Gets up, sits on corner of Bergson’s desk and chops at his knee with the edge of his hand.) Did you see that? I mean, that seems alright, hey? So my reflexes are still intact, that’s a relief, I must say. An early and characteristic sign of the disease is the onset of lightning pains in the legs, most distressing, by all accounts, and I haven’t had anything like that, yet thank the Lord. Then there’s unsteadiness of gait, especially in the dark, and I must admit to frequent bouts of this symptom, primarily when emerging from a public bar. The patient may also walk on a broad base with feet wide apart like this (Waddles up and down in front of window.) Ever seen me walking like this, as if I had very large and cumbersome balls? No, probably not. Also supposed to feel as if you’re walking on foam rubber. No. And tabetic facies? Do I appear consumptive, with a sad-looking wasted face? Not really? Well, there you are. So you see, I probably can’t blame dementia paralytica for the way I am, even though I do have many of the symptoms. (Sits down, drums fingers on the desk. Bergson is impassive, aware that more is to come.) You know something, Harry old chap? I sometimes wonder whether there’s any hope for me. It sounds melodramatic and very gloomy, I know, and one could argue that there is always hope, and also that there’s no hope, for any of us, not just me; but a couple of weeks ago I experienced something which amounted to an insight, or even a revelation. It was a Saturday morning in Kalk Bay, one of those perfect autumn days when the sun is still hot but without being fierce and there’s a crisp freshness in the air. The sky was cloudless and a faint south-east breeze was coming across the bay, bringing with it a delicious coolness. I was down in the harbour mingling with the crowd, watching the fishing boats coming in loaded with yellowtail. Many people, scantily clad, barefoot, brown, healthy. I was aware of the bright colours of the boats against the blue of the sea, and the gay patchwork of summer clothing on the quayside, and the smell of the sea as well as the smell of wine and fish, and the sight of the fish in the sun, slapping and flashing silver. I was overwhelmed by the vitality of the scene. Here was life at its most vibrant, even the air was alive, and I looked at the people and they seemed fascinating creatures, their faces sharp-cut and expressive in the sunlight, fine shadow marking every crease and wrinkle, eyes glittering or falling into blank shade. There was much laughter, whistles and shouting, the women’s voices shrill above those of the men, and I felt myself surrounded by raw humanity in the midst of nature. Yet I was not part of it. At a certain moment, unbidden, the perception came to me that behind all that life lay an emptiness where it was cold and dark and filled with vague fear. Slowly I made my way back, searching the faces for some flash of warmth which would strike a chord of affinity in me, affirming I was one of them. Near the railway line I passed a coloured woman shouting abuse at her man. He lay sprawled on the pavement, head and shoulders propped against the concrete wall, dead drunk, the family money spent. I saw ugliness in her contorted face, the raging eyes, the spittle about the toothless mouth. This is a common scene, I thought, encapsulating the plight of the poor. Did this arouse compassion in me, a feeling of sorrow for suffering humanity? No, it filled me with dread. Back at the Olympia I stood in the chill shadow on the balcony looking out to sea and thought, It’s all over with me, It’s too late. I knew, I knew, as dying men surely do when the time comes for their intuition to inform them of the dismal finality, and I wept feebly. As the tears rolled down my cheeks I thought of the mother and father I had never known, the love I had never received, the love I was incapable of giving, of my loneliness, my essential aloneness, of my failures and of my wasted life, of the cruelty of it all. On such a nice day too. It was a kind of presentiment, a strong feeling akin to a premonition, informing me that I was all washed up. Well, I told myself, I don’t believe in such nonsense, it falls into the same category as superstition, and I’m not that feeble-minded yet. I determined to snap out of the mood I was in and to go back to the harbour and enjoy the rest of the morning. But I was shaking. Luckily I had some soetes in the room and I drank two mugs fast and then went down the stairs with fortified resolve. Only to crumble, like a mummified corpse on exposure to the air, when I reached the pavement. I had to cross the road. The traffic was heavy and it required careful judgement and decisive movements and my nerve had deserted me. Time after time I was about to attempt it and changed my mind. Maybe the car was approaching faster than I thought. What if I slipped, tripped, staggered and fell, right in the path of the vehicle? The tyres would scream and I would be hit with that horrible sound, a thud of struck flesh and bone of body so sickening Christ All-fucking-mighty I couldn’t stand it. (Covers his face with his hands and rocks back and forth. Then looks up.) You know what I ended up doing, Harry? I…”

The pre-lunch siren had begun to wail and Bergson was on his feet and pulling on his jacket, a look of relief on his face.

“Sorry I’ve got to rush, Henry. Must get over to the hospital. Schroder’s no longer under sedation and he would like to see me. We can continue our conversation when we’ve both got a spare hour or two. After the weekend, maybe.”

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

September 19, 2010

Trollop haal sy bril en horlosie af

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:55 pm

Trollop haal sy bril en horlosie af voordat hy in die bad klim. Sy lyf is vol merkies van die waterpokkies wat hy al die afgelope drie dae het. Onder die wasbak is potplante.

“Trollop jy is ‘n useless donner, vir die afgelope jaar het jy nog nie eenkeer seks gehad nie, net illusies oor vlieënde pierings en water wat begin blink en paranoia oor elke motor wat op die erf stilhou.”

Dít is die tipe gedagtes waarmee Trollop homself beskuldig toe hy in die warm water klim. Daar moet bygesê word dat Trollop in die jaar wat verby is ook ‘n teoretiese fascis geword het en dat sy ex-girlfriend haar eksamens gedruip het.

“’n Kernkragsentrale in die oerwoude van midde-Afrika, ‘n tennisbaan, ‘n badkamer met potplante, krokodille op die oewer van die ewige rivier, ‘n vrou in skamele kleredrag soos die meisie op die almanak teen my kas… ‘n vlieënde piering wat op ‘n dag verskyn…” gedagtes aan ‘n nuwe eksotiese verhaal. Trollop vryf die seep oor die waterpokkiesweertjies op sy arm. Die tuinwerker begin die gras te sny onder die badkamervenster. Die lawaai versteur die gedagtes van Trollop.

“Jou moer se ma,” vloek Trollop, maar die grassnyer lawaai so dat die tuinwerker niks hoor nie. Trollop se ma het ‘n obsessie oor gras wat gesny moet word. Dit gee Trollop hooikoors. Niemand verstaan hoe Trollop ly wanneer die gras gesny word nie. Die hooikoors maak sy paranoia intenser en inspireer nuwe wendinge in sy verhaal: “Die grasperk om die konsortiumbestuurder se huis in die oerwoude van Afrika word gesny. Wolke maak gereed om te reën. Die bestuurder is besig om te bad en dink aan die vrou met die skamele klere … toe verskyn daar soos ‘n slang in die deur ‘n knaldemper …”

Trollop bad gereeld elke dag om drie-uur, seker omdat hy daarvan hou wanneer net sy kop bo die water uitsteek en hy hou daarvan om sy lyf met ‘n koekie seep te smeer. Om te bad is soos kougom vir sy verbeelding.

“’Die probleem van ons beskawing is geld wat rente loop,’ sê een van die karakters oor die telefoon. ‘Wat ons vandag nodig het, is ‘n droom, iemand wat ons kan vertel van ‘n duisendjarige ryk, ‘n plek waar hi-fi’s gemaak word om vir ‘n duisend jaar te hou, ‘n estetiese samelewing, gemaak om die mens se skoonheidsin te bevredig, ‘n samelewing van mitologiese dissipline. In ‘n gemeenskap waar dinge gemaak word om vir ewig te hou, is daar nie plek vir klein ego’s nie, dit is ‘n plek vir volmaakte dinge, dinge wat groter is as die mens, dit is ‘n plek wat bevredig omdat dit soos die paradys voel, ‘n plek waar daar nie politiek is nie, waar die regering bestaan uit verteenwoordigers van gildes: mynwerkergildes, argitekgildes, tuinwerkergildes, vullisverwyderaargildes. Elke jaar sal ‘n verteenwoordiger van elke gilde verkies word op meriete van die kwaliteit van sy werk. ‘n Samelewing waar skoonheid die kern van alles is.’n Samelewing van parke en beelde, potplante en orgies.”

Trollop voel hoe sy hart opgewonde begin klop as hy hierdie mooi gedagtes dink. Hy sien spreiligte en bloedrooi vlae, so groot soos tennisbane, met swastikas daarop en die derduisende mense wat kom luister na die luidsprekers so groot soos woonstelgeboue, wat kom luister na die stem wat illusies en drome vir hulle blaf. “’n Integrasie tussen natuur en tegnologie, huise wat gate in die grond is met glasdakke sodat ‘n mens kan sien wanneer dit reën, sodat die aande belig kan wees met geel kolle in die grond, sodat ‘n mens die skoonheid van mense wat skottelgoed was, kan sien, mense wat soos paddas in die ligdamme van hulle huise lewe, ‘n balans tussen die verlede en die nuwe drome, niks moet afgebreek word nie, bome moet deur ou geboue bars, slange en miere moet tussen mense lewe, ‘n soort anargie waarin alles aanbid word.”

Trollop se oë sit stokstyf in sy kop soos sy verbeelding met hom weghardloop. Dan kom daar ‘n wending in sy gedagtes. Iets waarop hy nie voorbereid was nie. Dit is sy pa se stem: “Waarom word jy nie ‘n manager by Pick’n’Pay nie?” Die situasie toe sy pa hierdie gedagte geuiter het, kom terug na hom. Hulle is in ‘n motor op die M2. Regs van hulle toring die tempels van Johannesburg. Dit sou wonderlik wees as die stad toegelaat sou word om te verval. Stel jou voor ‘n Johannesburg sonder mense, deur die tyd verwaarloos, die eggo’s van die geboue, ‘n skaapwagter wat sy skape laat wei in die strate en vlermuise wat met sonsak uit die kantoorvensters vladder.

Buite die badkamervenster het dit begin reën. Die tuinwerker het die grassnyertou begin oprol. Trollop smeer die seep oor sy bors, onder sy arms. Hy spoel dit af, maar die water wil nie eintlik vuiler word nie. Trollop is verlief op water. Vir drie dae kon hy nie bad nie. “jy beter nie bad nie, anders swel jou ballas op,” het sy pa gesê. Die waterpokkies is vir Trollop ‘n heilige siekte, ‘n siekte soos die swere van Job. Dit is asof die heiligheid by jou intrek, en miskien is dit ‘n wese uit ‘n vlieënde piering. Trollop staan op, droog homself met die handdoek af en dink: “Trollop jy is ‘n useless donner, vir ‘n jaar het jy nie seks gehad nie.”

Vir ‘n jaar het Trollop voor vensters gestaan, gekyk hoe gras groei, hoe vyebome blare kry. Vir ‘n jaar het Trollop gordyne oop en toe getrek.

September 16, 2010

Ek stap die ander dag in een van die stegies af

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature,politics — ABRAXAS @ 7:50 am

1.

Ek stap die ander dag in een van die stegies af en vreemde dinge gebeur: ‘n Bedelaar bedel my pine nut-koeldrank uit my hande uit. Ek weet dat bedelaars vir geld bedel. Dit is die eerste keer dat iemand oorskietkoeldrank van my af bedel. ‘n bietjie verder aan gryp ‘n swart man my hand en skud dit asof ek hom al jare ken en fluister “You want ghanja, hashishi or cocaine.” Ek is uit die veld geslaan. Is ek al so in die vrymoedigheid van die omgewing geïntegreer.

2

By die Universiteit van Durban-Westville het die tale-departemente saamgesmelt in ‘n Skool vir Tale, maar met die opdrag daar moet “programme” saamgestel word. Die staat gaan in toekoms net programme met duidelike “uitkomste” finansier. ‘n Program is blykbaar ‘n stel modules wat uiteindelik ‘n bepaalde werk vir studente verseker: so taaldosente moet inderhaas van identiteit verwissel sodat hulle vertalers, toeristegidse, uitgewers en joernaliste kan oplei. Verder word die eis gestel dat daar meer as dertig studente in die klas moet wees (in werklikheid ‘n eis dat daar meer as 400 studente in die klas moet wees).

Dit gebeur in ‘n konteks waar die mense van Suid-Afrika grootliks ongeletterd is: nie net ongeletterd in die opsig dat hulle nie die vermoë het om te lees en te skryf nie. Ook ongeletterd in die opsig dat kennis van die wêreldgeskiedenis, van die ontwikkeling van denke, van die wetenskap, die interpretasie van tekens (in film, televisie, advertensies) heeltemal afwesig is. Begripsvermoë strek sover as identifikasie met sportspanne. Dit beteken dat baie eenvoudige slagspreuke bepalend is en het die gevolg dat werklike demokrasie, ‘n tolerante bevolking en kritiese denke onmoontlik is.

Die nuwe beleid met betrekking tot universiteite gaan die gevolg hê dat hierdie ongeletterdheid drasties toeneem. Watter gesofistikeerde land sal toelaat dat die bestudering van die eie letterkunde, en die wêreldletterkunde, van die tafel gevee word? Is dit nie krimineel nie? Is ‘n bydrae tot die literatuur, meer as net ‘n bydrae tot die nasionale kultuur, nie ‘n bydrae tot die wêreldkultuur nie? Waarom onthou die wêreldgeskiedenis so goed sy kunstenaars, terwyl die name van die politici in die vergetelheid verdwyn? Waarom bestudeer Sjinese Shakespeare? Of Duitsers Wole Soyinka?

Die politiek, die sosiologie, sielkunde, antropologie werk met hoogs vereenvoudigde konsepsies van die werklikheid en met die basiese opposisie van normaal en nie-normaal. Dit omvorm die mens in ‘n eenvormige kleinburgerlike gestalte. Een van die sentrale aspekte van die kleinburgerlike bewussyn is klassifisering: d.w.s. die proses waardeur die eenmalige sy identiteit van ‘n groep verkry, waardeur die eenmalige gelykgestel word aan ‘n groep. Dit is basies verwant aan die demokratiese proses waardeur mense verteenwoordig word: die politieke party verteenwoordig die massa. Die gevolg is dat die politieke krimineel nie alleen in sy misdaad staan nie, maar dit die misdaad van die groep word, en alles wat verbind word met die groep in die teken van die smet staan. Dit veronderstel die onvermoë om genuanseerd te dink.

Om te stem is om medepligtige te wees.

Die literatuur se funksie is om die ongenuanseerde vorm van denke tee te gaan; dit maak nie handeling moontlik nie: dit kan nie ‘n bevolking tot oorlog oproep nie, want dit kom met ‘n dosis twyfel. Dit kan nie saamspeel met die sosiale wetenskappe in die beplanning van die gemeenskap nie: want dit relativeer elke posisie; dit ondergrawe en lag in essensie. Dit laat die mens hulpeloos. Dit kan nie afbreek nie, maar gryp die veelheid van aftakeling en groei aan.

‘n Renaissance is die herontdekking van die genuanseerde en komplekse (die herondekking van die antieke mites en veelgode in teenstelling tot Middeleeuse dogma): in Suid-Afrika die herontdekking van die Afrika-tale-literatuur, en ‘n verwerping van struggle-slagspreuke.

Miskien is die uitstoot van die literatuur aan die universiteite die eerste stap om literatuur en die lewe te herenig, om dit los te maak van die instelling. Universiteite dra die smet van politiek, van simplistiese magspeletjies. Die universiteit is die vyand. Laat ons weer onder ‘n boom gaan sit, of iewers grys op ‘n straathoek met die oë gerig op die veelheid van menslike ervaring.

3

Fekile is dogter van ‘n huiswerker en het ‘n baie wye verwysingsveld, want sy het die ensiklopedie in die huis waar haar ma werk woord vir woord verslind. Is dit waar dat daar ‘n verband tussen die Boesmans en die Sjinese kan wees, vra sy my. Sy het ‘n obsessie met die Boesmans as die eerste mense in Suid-Afrika. Fekile is ‘n hoer. Sy het nie juis ‘n keuse nie. Sy is soos so baie ander. Kan nie werk kry nie.

By die Apostoliese Sendingstasie, Dassenhoek, versamel die uitgeteerde lewende dooies wat by die dag vermeerder: cholera, maagkoors, vigs, waansin. ‘n Beeld van die hel. Met al die ideale en programme en bloudrukke het die ANC-regering ‘n krisis geskep, ‘n fascistiese dissipline soos hierdie land nog nooit gesien het nie. Honderde duisende mense sonder werk, en met nuwe wetgewing oppad gaan die getalle nog vermeerder. Dit is nasionalisme: die welvaart van die Staat is belangriker as die mens, die instelling moet beskerm word teen die mens. Die kleinburgerlike beeld. Gaan affirmative action oor die bemagtiging van ‘n klein klassegroep sodat miljoene vir hulle kan sterf? Die ideaal en die werklikheid. Hoeveel werksgeleenthede is al vernietig deur die beleid? Hoe lank gaan dit neem voordat die Suid-Afrikaanse bevolking in hulle massas in opstand kom? Op die oomblik raak mense nog histeries oor die ideaal en hulle verstaan nog nie mooi die verwikkeldheid van wat met hulle gebeur nie: hulle het nog nie deur die imaginêre van die politieke diskoerse gesien nie. Of is rewolusie die domein van die kleinburgery: geletterd en wrokkig?

Die verval is terselfdertyd die rykdom van die land.

Ek sê Fekile moet ‘n skrywer word. Waaroor moet sy skryf, vra sy. Begin jou boek met seks. Mense hou van seks. Sy kan nie daaroor skryf nie, sê sy, want sy het nog nooit seks met liefde ervaar nie. Dit is vir haar te afstootlik. Dit is haar werk. Presies, skryf daaroor.

Die kerk is nog ‘n anker. Die Bold and Beautiful is ongelooflik gewild en die selfoon. Ek soek ‘n gids na die hel, want iemand sterf. Maar almal waarsku my. Daar is te veel mense wat sterf, maar ek wil haar sien voordat alles verby is. Nee, jy mag nie gaan. Oor ek wit is, vra ek. ‘n Glimlag is die antwoord.

September 15, 2010

acéphale – love between the kidneys

Filed under: acéphale,art,literature — ABRAXAS @ 1:52 pm

‘n Gevoel van herkenning

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:16 am

‘n Gevoel van herkenning ril deur my rugstring by die lees van ‘n verwysing na die klub Lusos in Maputo in ‘n ongepubliseerde manuskrip van Wopko Jensma met die titel Blood and more blood . ‘n Bundel wat blykbaar tydens sy verblyf in Mosambiek geskryf is – van die gedigte het later in sy debuutbundel Sing for our execution (1973) veskyn. Die wat nie veskyn het nie was duidelik te gewaagd vir die tyd – met verwysings na die gewapende stryd. Blykbaar is daar net 200 van Sing for our execution (1973) gepubliseer sien ek in my getekende kopie. Ek het no.29 uit die 200. Klub Lusos is seker die bekendste nagklub in Maputo. Was Luisa nie daar bestuurderes terwyl die mafia-eienaar sy orkes van uit die tronk gedirigeer het nie? Ek onthou nog die warm aande van laas Desember. Luisa en Lusos.

Ek het Blood and more blood per toeval in ‘n literêre museum ontdek. Om meer spesifiek te wees NALN. Hulle het eintlik self nie geweet hulle het dit nie. Ek het per toeval ‘n verwysing daarna gesien in ‘n argief-katalogus. Hulle het nie genoeg personeel om alles in hulle besit deeglik in hulle inventaris te kry nie. Ek besef daar, want ek het ook ‘n paar ongepubliseerde Ingrid Jonker-gedigte daar ontdek dat Suid-Afrikaanse letterkunde-studente hulle tyd mors met al die inhoudlose geteoretiseer oor die literatuur: hulle moet geforseer word om navorsing in die argiewe en museums te gaan doen – daar is so baie van ons literêre nalatenskap wat daar ontdek moet word. Ek is seker daar is nog heelwat ongepubliseerde werk van Jensma en Jonker in die verskeie argiewe, biblioteke, museums en in besit van individue.

keep reading this article here

September 14, 2010

Die telefoon lui.

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 7:41 pm

Die telefoon lui. Dit is pa. Hy sê ma moet vir Pieter, my swaer, ook kos maak. Ek trek die gordyne in die sitkamer oop. Die son moet in. Dit moet die koue in my lyf en my hande verdryf. Ma soek na vleis in die yskas, hamburger patties, want Pieter kom ook.

Die haarknipper is stukkend. Sy skeer my hare met ‘n skertjie. Uiteindelik staan ek op en kyk na die agterkant van my kop deur ‘n tweede spieël op te hou.

Daar is ‘n algehele gevoel van verlatenheid, ‘n seer in die keel. My lewe het ‘n punt bereik waar ek nie meer kan vorentoe of agtertoe nie. Net die dood, maar ek is te bang vir geweld: die bloed wanneer die pols gesny word, die uitmekaarruk van die lyf wanneer dit die grond tref, die maagpyn na gif, koue seewater.

“Maar wat is erger as die alleenheid in jou woonstel,” vra ek aan myself. Hoe het ek hier gekom? Die lyf wil nie beweeg nie. In Durban wag hulle vir my om leiding te gee in die toemaak van my skool: die Skool van Tale. Hoe kan ek? Die dekaan het byna hulpeloos gebel. Hy soek na statistiek en getalle, oorsig van lesingladings. Ek kan vir hom niks gee nie. Sedert die aar gebars het, is inligting nie sommer beskikbaar in my kop nie.

Ek het in die hospitaal na myself gekyk en verbaas gedink dat ek eintlik anderkant die dood lewe.

Mumbling thoughts of an Evil Man

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 12:46 pm

“If an old man has something to learn, it is the art of dying.” Rousseau Reveries of the solitary walker

“Truth is an homage that the good man pays to his own dignity” Rousseau Reveries of the solitary walker

“To decorate truth with fables is in fact to disfigure it.” Rousseau Reveries of the solitary walker

“The worst of it, though, is that you are at fault through no fault of your own, just, so to speak, by natural law.” Dostoevsky Notes from Underground

“I want to test whether it’s possible to be entirely frank at least with oneself and dare to face the whole truth.” Dostoevsky Notes from Underground

“hence, this is no longer literature, but corrective punishment.” Dostoevsky Notes from Underground

a future jesus christ

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:58 am

I used to be a Christian obsessed with the idea of the universality of man. I still believe in the universality of man, or I’m not sure anymore what I believe in, and this confusion makes me evil.

I’m evil because I doubt.

I’m like Hamlet. To be or not to be, to believe or not to believe.

Last night I kissed the pregnant navel of a beautiful Mauritian woman from mixed descent. I loved the thing inside of her although it still has no identity, no nativity and I’m not the father of it.

It belongs to the body of the mother. She can hardly provide for its future existence.

A future Jesus Christ perhaps.

And my tongue in her cunt talked future dreams to it.

Love and more wriggling love. She so desperately needed money for the hospital. She lied to me. I gave her two hundred Rand. She looked at me with anger in her eyes.

“You want more?” I asked.

johan van wyk as jesus christ

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:32 am

About twenty years ago I was a pacifist and I refused to do my military service. A patronising officer came to arrest a meek and slovenly artist in a caravan studio. I must have looked like Charles Manson. Torn jeans, a t-shirt with paint patches, an unkempt beard, my ribs visible, eyes burning and oily hair coming down to my shoulders. A Jesus Christ.

I was brought up with the image of that traitor, Jesus Christ, that text that nobody believed in except me. Infantile omnipotence.

So they took me to the detention barracks. In a state car, and the officer stopped along the way at some family and friends. At the detention barracks I had to wait with others for hours in a reception room. I stood there hypnotised. I still remember the one rose tree in the courtyard of the detention barracks. It was in bloom with orange flowers and the sun was setting with a pink glow.

In that dusk I broke down. I was undressing with small change in my pockets. I went berserk naked. I heard waves in my ears and cried as I was abandoned in love. I saw flashes of Vanda on a beach with her new boyfriend.

A hypnotic mood prevailed.

Somehow an occult universe was still a reality and Hasan, the Indian who trained me in the art of self-hypnotism in a caravan park in Swaziland, made me believe in my own super-human mental powers.

QUANTUM MECHANICS + DEAD CAT = BIG THRILL

Filed under: ian martin,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:23 am

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

The trapdoor was raised and Ivan Schroder led the way down the granite steps into the darkness. He had gathered up the tail of his academic gown so as not to trip and fall headlong. Henry followed, curios but also somewhat apprehensive. It didn’t bother him that this man might have lost hold of reality – the more unusual the situation the better he liked it – rather, he worried that he might be drawn into something which required commitment, reliability and, worst of all, consistent application. Well, there was absolutely no way he was prepared to put up with such expectations or demands. He had made this quite plain to both Bergson and Schroder.

After some fifteen steps there was a short landing and another flight continued at right angles to the first. He realised they were descending in a corner, hugging one wall and then another. As he neared the bottom the trapdoor thudded shut above him. In the gloom he stumbled into Schroder who was waiting to guide him across the floor of what appeared to be a great cavernous vault. High above him he could just make out the ribs and arches of the ceiling, and somewhere ahead there was a feeble yellow glow. The air was cold and damp and smelt of brine and something else which he couldn’t place. He heard the suck and gurgle of water close by.

“Watch your step here, Mr Fuckit. Don’t want to go falling in. Break a leg at low tide. And the ramp’s thick with green slime – impossibly slippery.”

He was grasping Henry’s elbow and shepherding him towards the light. There was a sudden movement in the shadows and a dark shape darted away. Another one. And another.

“Rats! Fuckin’ big rats!” exclaimed Henry, and laughed in fright.

“Cats. Not rats, cats,” Schroder corrected him.

They passed under an electric light and then, ten paces further on, came to a door set in brickwork. They had crossed diagonally beneath the floor of the Carpenter Shop. As Schroder inserted a key Henry felt a cat brushing up against his leg and he let out a shout and kicked wildly.

“Hey, voertsek! Voertsek! Bloody thing.” Now he knew what that other smell was. The sharp sour stink of cats. Schroder had opened the door and operated a light switch. A fluorescent tube flashed, flickered and then lit the interior with steady white incandescence. It was a large rectangular room. At one end was a desk and chair, filing cabinet, bookshelves. The office. And a comfortable-looking easy chair. The other end was the laboratory. A sink with running water flanked by a fridge and a chest freezer. A long work surface against one wall. Various items of electronic equipment, and above them a cabinet emblazoned with black skull and crossbones. DANGER/GEVAAR POISON/GIF offered an unambiguous warning to the literate. There was also a strong brass padlock for the illiterate. Above the sink were two clocks side by side. They showed different times and Henry noted with surprise that the second hand of one of them was moving anti-clockwise. Forming an island in the middle of the floor and dominating that end of the room was a low stand upon which rested a grey box. About a metre by a metre by a metre in dimension, its sliding lid was drawn to one side. Cables led to the electronic devices.

Henry wondered over to the box and tapped its side.

“Lead?” He looked in. Beneath the outer lid there was a glass screen. He recoiled, startled by what he saw. “Shit man, there’s a cat in here! Dead!”

“Ah, yes. That was Growltiger.” He joined Henry at the open container. “The luckiest cat I’ve ever had. Couldn’t last forever though…” There was a catch in his voice and he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose noisily. Henry moved to the other side of the casket.

“How did it die?” he asked in a mock-hushed voice. “The cause of death – not too violent I hope.”

“No, no. Cyanide. Can’t you smell it? No, quick as a flash. It’s quite uncanny, you know; this is the twenty-seventh time I’ve used him and he went at twenty-seven past nine yesterday morning.”

“Pity yesterday wasn’t the twenty-seventh. But what’s a dead cat doing in a lead box anyway? I mean, is it lying in state, or something? Are you paying your last respects?”

“The deceased animals are normally disposed of immediately, but unfortunately Lobengula’s been off sick the past few days.”

Henry raised his eyebrows. “Lobengula?”

“My factotum down here. An invaluable black gentleman. Does just about everything – cleaner, teaboy, veterinary aide, mortician, laboratory assistant, timekeeper. Hope he recovers.”

“What’s wrong with the bugger? Physical exhaustion?” Henry knew well the importance of such minions.

“Could be cyanide poisoning or radiation sickness. I keep telling him to take more care when disposing of the carcasses.” Schroder pushed the sliding lid shut and then walked over to his desk. “Come and make yourself comfortable and I’ll begin to fill in the background to my research work. You’ll find that chair to your liking, I’m sure.”

For an ergophobic person like Henry, who preferred to spend much of the working day reading and in contemplation, this was an ergonomically efficient chair indeed. Not too soft, not too firm, it was pleasantly recumbent yet provided lumbar support just where it was needed. A fine chair.

“So you’re going to explain to me,” he said, after taking a nip of Old Brown Brandy from his water bottle, “how you intend explaining the inexplicable.”

Schroder sat with his elbows on the arms of his chair and rested the extended fingertips of one hand against those of the other, forming a kind of digital pyramid. Big hands, long fingers. Henry glanced at the man’s shoes beneath the desk. Big feet too. He wondered if there were any reliable statistics to support the ‘big hands-big feet-big dick’ theory. Made sense, if all the extremities were in proportion. He looked at his own hands and his sandalled feet. The train of thought caused an involuntary thrill to course through his body from head to toe and, before he could prevent himself, he was back in the storeroom with its pantry smells, and the slow in-out was too delicious to bear. Then shame and guilt jumped to his rescue and the memory was chased into a dark recess. Schroder was already explaining.

“…and so I thought I would start by giving you an introduction to quantum theory, assuming you know next to nothing about the subject.”

Henry sat back and listened without interrupting. The dissertation was well reasoned and clear, without too much technical jargon and certainly without the employment of mathematical equations. The man had a good grasp of the subject and Henry began to feel he was in safe hands. He was about to be introduced to something completely novel, something exiting, he hoped.

After nearly an hour the lucid and well measured exposition drew to a close.

“Alright, so what you’re saying is this.” And Henry began a recapitulation of Schroder’s version of quantum theory. “Quantum mechanics is useful in successfully describing and predicting the behaviour of subatomic particles. And by ‘subatomic particles’ we mean particles which purport to be the subordinate ingredients which go to make up the atom. But, because an entity such as an electron might sometimes behave like a wave, and at other times like a particle, depending on the experimental conditions and the day of the week, we find ourselves filled with a dreadful feeling of uncertainty, wondering what the fuck an electron really is. To avoid this horrible uncertainty, you say, we should refrain from looking for any kind of underlying reality or ultimate explanation. Instead, you insist, we must accept the only reality which is available – the result obtained by making an observation. Different types of observation will produce different types of result. Evidence from different observations may not be amenable to being presented in a single model and therefore different pieces of evidence can give rise to complementary conclusions. Now, if we accept what you’re asserting, we find ourselves facing an alarming consequence: our knowledge of the universe can never be absolute. It always depends on probabilities.” Henry paused. “Is this an accurate summary of what you’ve just been telling me? Do you think I’ve got the gist of it, Professor?”

Ivan Schroder was impressed. He could hardly put it more succinctly himself. This fellow’s rough exterior was remarkably deceptive. Bergson had promised him hidden gold and now he was beginning to think it might well exist.

“It’s most gratifying to encounter a nimble mind.” He felt there could be no harm in some honest flattery; Henry didn’t look the type to place any store in the opinions of others, be they admiring or scornful. “Most people wouldn’t have the faintest notion of what it means, let alone see the far reaching implications, when we declare that our universe can never be absolute.” He leaned forward, looked Henry in the eye and spoke with fierce conviction. “Science is no better than superstition or magic. And not much better than religion.”

“Ah, a man after my own heart. You know, I’ve just re-read ‘The Origin of Species’, and I’ve found it about as persuasive as the book of Genesis. Just another crackpot theory. Just another pathetically desperate attempt to impose order on chaos. Why can’t we accept the obvious: we don’t know who we are, where we come from, or where we’re going. All is obscure.” And so saying, he uncorked his waterbottle and took a hefty swig.

Schroder rose, paced up and down a few times, took a peek at the dead cat, closed the lid, and came and sat down again. He’s marshalling his thoughts, Henry told himself. Probably going to unload one helluva profound piece of wisdom. Wonder where I fit into all of this? Hmmm, is that faint, noisome odour my feet, my groin, or decomposing cat?

“You must be wondering and wondering what’s the connection between cats and quantum theory, and how you fit into all of this. Well, I’m going to tell you.”

“Very good of you. Most considerate. Please proceed, I’m all agog, as one of my uncles used to say. The Latin scholar, poet and mystic; would have found this most interesting, being a cat-fancier himself; used to recite from Possum’s Book of Practical Pussies. A bit trivial if you ask me. But I’m digressing and preventing you from leading me from darkness into light. Please go ahead.”

“This started out as a rather frivolous exercise when Harry Bergson and I realised there was a fundamental philosophical problem in quantum measurement. We began with the premise that an elementary particle does not exist in particle form, as opposed to wave form, until it has been observed. Prior to being observed it has a potential existence which we described by means of an ingenious mathematical equation. This potential for existence we called the wavefunction, which gives the probability of finding the particle at a particular point in space at a particular moment in time. Only when the observation is actually made do the properties of the entity become known and the entity can be said to exist. Upon observation the wavefunction collapses into nothing, the wave is gone and we have a particle. But, and here we encounter a truly monumental BUT, at what instant does the wavefunction collapse? At what split second does it occur?”

“Shite man, that’s a difficult one. I’m beginning to get an inkling of the problem.” Henry was nodding his head thoughtfully. “How does one go about pinpointing that teeny-weeny moment in eternity?”

Schroder was happy to describe the brilliant way he had tackled the problem.

“I tried to keep everything as simple as possible. This is basically all there is to it,” and he gestured to the other end of the room. “A box, a piece of radioactive material, a Geiger counter, and a cat. Oh, and a vial of cyanide. Now, according to quantum theory, nobody can predict exactly when a radioactive material will emit a particle. However, it is known how many particles will be emitted, on average, over a specific period of time. The Geiger counter is connected to a device which breaks the vial of cyanide if a particle is detected, and this kills the cat. Do you follow?”

“Yes, I get the picture. Just as an aside, though, is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals aware of these experiments?” Henry knew the answer but wanted to gauge the man by his response.

“No, of course they’re not aware. I’m sure they’d have me in court in no time at all if they did get to hear of what I’m up to.” He appeared quite unafraid of the SPCA and showed no signs of conscience grappling. “No. But remember, death is instantaneous and painless. And on top of it I give them a fifty-fifty chance of surviving each time they go into the box. The experiment is run for a period that gives the cat a fifty percent chance against the statistical average relating to particle emission.”

Henry was beginning to look puzzled. “Now hold it right there, Mr Schroder.” He got to his feet, did two squats, then three toe-touches, to loosen up after his stint in the comfortable chair, flexed his biceps, tucked in his shirt and surreptitiously adjusted himself, and then sat down again. “What I fail to see is the necessity for cyanide and a cat. Surely just the Geiger counter would suffice in detecting particle emission?”

“Not so fast. I’m just at the point where that kind of question will become redundant. I was about to put a question to you which will enable you to penetrate the logic of this whole exercise.”

He pulled in his chair and leaned forward towards Henry, his face serious, his eyes intense. Henry assumed an attentive air, appropriate for the occasion.

“Let us assume, Mr Fuckit, that the radioactive material has emitted a particle and the cyanide has been released. We open up the box and look in. The unfortunate feline is dead. Right?”

“Right. Stone dead.”

“Now. WHEN DID IT DIE?” He said it slowly and in capital letters.

“When? Well… Jesus, is this a trick question or something? When the radioactive source caused the cyanide to be released – that’s when the fucking thing died.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong.” Schroder sat back, a triumphant tone in his voice, a smug look replacing the grave one on his face.

“Wrong? Wrong? What do you mean WRONG?” Henry was irritated.

“You see, the cat, the cyanide, the Geiger counter and the radioactive source are all part of the same system. This system has its own wavefunction which collapses only when the observation is made. Only when we look into the box are we able to say with conviction, Now the cat is dead. Before that moment it was only a probability.”

“Fuck me.” Henry sat shaking his head in disbelief. “So this is where we are in our quest for knowledge. This is at the forefront of scientific endeavour.” For several moments he sat staring at the Chief Verification Officer before asking, “So what do you want me to do?”

“Mr Fuckit, it will be your task, your privilege, to observe me making the observation.”

Despair settled slowly upon Henry and his shoulders slumped. He lay back in the comfortable chair, poured the rest of his Old Brown Brandy down his throat, and half listened to Schroder’s enthusiastic drivel. He nodded his head occasionally but his eyes were dull and listless.

To be wiped out by a collapsing wavefunction was so intensely exhilarating it could not fail to engender instant addiction. This was what Schroder was communicating. A simple experiment to investigate a scientifico-philosophical problem had led to a startling discovery. Collapsing wavefunctions could be experienced as a powerful but largely indescribable sensation. On opening the box and observing the dead cat some kind of energy flow took place. This energy flow produced an intense feeling of euphoria and a conviction that THIS was the missing key. THIS would lead to a higher level of understanding and awareness. And to further enhance the flow of energy Schroder intended to extend the system: having himself observed whilst making his observation would increase the force with which the wavefunction collapsed. Henry would be helping to explore a new realm, hitherto uncharted by the human mind or spirit. Hoorah! Hoorah! Schroder’s face shone with excitement and his large teeth gleamed and flashed with pioneering whiteness. But Henry was breaking up.

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

September 13, 2010

a fresh cunt and evil

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature — ABRAXAS @ 10:18 pm

How much I at this very moment need to spurt my sweet sperm into the darkness of a receptive body: The fresh cunt of the prostitute from Mauritius. Her blond hair is her own. Yes, Sir. I touched it with my own fingers like Thomas the unbeliever. Did I touch this silk to enjoy the feeling of touching?

I could give her some consuming love, some soft love. Are all men the same I asked? This love is destructive. Love is a thought?

I think I’ve learnt from my incarceration that I did not know anymore what the difference between good and evil is. I did not know whether it was inside or outside of me.

I can recognise evil immediately: It is the drive to persecute. But who does not derive pleasure from persecution? Maybe the evil is in the fact that the people who persecute do not know their own selves as evil. Beware you moralists, prone to persecution; it is the devil possessing you.

on evil

Filed under: johan van wyk,literature,philosophy — ABRAXAS @ 8:25 pm

Are these memories worth conserving? What evil motivates them? What will the moment of my dying be like? A painful closing of the eyes. A burial into reality. Let me go down into the streets among the thugs, those children of God: some in rags and others dressed to kill, because cutting another human being up is the ultimate pleasure. Cutting up the pretensions of others by slitting their bodies, consuming them by consuming their possessions. I always thought that property starts with the body: Maybe the only thing we really own and know, although we are betrayed by it. God was a very cruel inventor. Sweetness is only in death. I’m evil by definition: being a man, being an Afrikaner. The descendent of those frontier people who could kill without thinking too much about it, because the deed needed not to be justified by words or thoughts. Just bury the corpse.

So in this paradise evil began. By my people roaming with guns through paradise clearing it for civilisation and reason (without reasoning). Who else could take up the responsibility of the executioners of history? The orphans of Europe. So let us not stop to think. It is so temping. Pull down your pants and show your arse to the world. They, think they have the answer. But when will they start to look into themselves, into those terrible reflections of the persecutory drive. Reason roams with its gun and words lying waste the earth. Am I getting sentimental about deserts of humanity? Oh God, am I writing the new revelation, the apocalypse? Lets drink Lewis, and stumble through the world to our death. Let us be comforted by the toothless bodies of women. I owe you, I know. Evil is not to have feelings anymore. Read the despair in my eyes. My head is ready to be kicked in, my skull to be cracked by the boots of the new order.

So we all came to a conference: to a revelation of some sort. To decide on evil. To persecute evil. To be evil in our need to persecute evil. Put it in prisons. Force reparations. Undress the culprits. The state president has a small shy penis. That is why he goes on an alcoholic binge every now and again. Shame. He is just you and me with power that we gave to him because the word state president has to be em-bodied. What will our world be without a state president, without prisons, without a parliament, without tax? Lets start persecuting ourselves because that is where inevitably it will end. The hunger of the cannibal will be directed to the own body until only the thoughts remain, unread, dead. Going to the border, the unreal realm with its mythological monster peering from the darkness. Did I deny myself the ultimate experience? Did I betray myself? I earned the label evil by not participating in the festival of evil. The murderer is raging inside of me.

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