kagablog

June 10, 2010

chimurenga 15: the curriculum is everything. out now

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

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June 6, 2010

TRAIN JOURNEY CONTINUED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 30, 2010

HENRY’S SERMON AT AUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 25, 2010

on the future of books

Filed under: literature,philosophy,stephanus muller — ABRAXAS @ 12:48 am

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jean-francois lyotard
the differend: phrases in dispute

May 24, 2010

a straightforward response to chief omoseye bolaji from “by any other name”

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 10:26 am

It is with avid amusement that this humble reader has followed Chief Bolaji’s venerable efforts at excavating the unearthly marrow of Ntate Kaganof’s body of work. (Such is Kaganof’s repute, that some have even sought to artificially elevate his appellation to Professor – as a brief aside I am personally of the opinion that this is inaccurate because He professes to nothing vociferously). Chief Bolaji has made no bones and left few stones unturned in his entreaties, yet his admirable directness has been met by mischief and evasion at every turn.

First and foremost let me commence by heaping unctuous praise upon Chief Bolaji for his admirable temerity in approaching Kaganof to explain the insoluble riddles of the literary persuasion which pepper his opuses with lumpen inconsistencies. It is by the Chief’s own efforts to clarify this effluvium that I myself feel emboldened to add my own commentary to the colloquial fray.

We have all pondered the horny dilemmas which confront the reader and render the work a rich yet spicy repast for which a “strong stomach”, if I may be permitted to borrow Kaganof’s own apposite termination, is required. Indeed one finds oneself gagging at times on account of these penetrating insights which moreover are unsheathed and delivered with inimitably merciless force majeure. Besides this, the plumbing of the zenith of Kaganof’s achievements requires some shrewd handling indeed, and certainly Chief Bolaji’s own impressive oeuvre of detective tales and indubitable predilection for uncovering the fundamentals equips him advantageously in this respect to pose the questions at which more timorous mortals such as myself quail, lacking the seasoned garulosity.

However, that even the Chief’s persistent attempts to divine the bones from which hang this literary genie’s flesh in intermittently self-published folds have produced not even so much as a meagre casket of edible fruit and nuts, is merely proof of the ontological density of the pudding. If I might be so bold as to extend this impertinent oral metaphor past its proverbial, hermetically-sealed sell-by-date, my father’s own Mancunian stepmother could not have contrived something of a weightier, more formidable consistency were she to have concocted and begun brandying her hardboiled Christmas confection even earlier than her customary October… But I digress.

On a more general note, I must confess in closing that I long for a suitable yardstick with which to ascertain the comparative merit of the literary produce of our variegated sons of the soil, who toil with such tireless and oft thankless zeal at the elephantine task of bringing self-expression to fruition. In this regard, more strength to he/she who wields the noble shovel which undertakes to exhume and bring to light honest work that lies buried beneath the sullen and suffocating avalanche of the publishing mediocracy.

May 23, 2010

a letter from aryan kaganof to chief omoseye bolaji

Filed under: kaganof,literature — ABRAXAS @ 3:47 pm

My Dear Chief,

Thank you again for another email that is filled with the very foodstuff of thought.

Regarding Jacana – I did not have a good relationship with them. At the book launch they did not turn up! So there were no books to launch! Luckily I stole one copy out of the new acquisitions cupboard of the Grahamstown library and managed to take all the people who had pitched up at the (non)launch to a bar across the road where I gave an impromptu reading. When I, months later, confronted Jacana with the details of this disaster, the clown who runs that operation told me that “it is very difficult to organize things in Grahamstown”, Instead of apologizing, or, as I would have preferred, disembowelling himself before committing ritual suicide.

Regarding Ntate Harry – first he tried to get me aborted, then he spent 18 years in court trying to contest his paternity, so you can assume all you want but he refuses to take the rap!

Sir I appreciate it when you call me “handsome and cherubic” – I must note however, that I appreciate such appellations far more when they are coming out of the mouths of gorgeous doll babes of the cute and teenagery kind. Legalistically speaking these have to be 18 and above (which only leaves 19) – but anyway, those are my preferences. Unfortunately it has been many a year since mine ears have been delighted by the cooing of such doves and it is unlikely that said ears will ever again get to hear such cooing (unless I pay for it of course, which I won’t, having now school fees to deal with not to mention the constant eating that my wives and all those bloody children never cease from doing!).

An aside here strictly between you and me of course – I think any sex act performed on or by persons over the age of 40 may be justly described as “reprehensible”, and not only the ugly so-called “perversions”. One needs a good stomach and sturdy will power to approach the bedroom once the fifth decade has been entered.

Meanwhile I hope you are in the best of health and I close this missive with the usual estimation and respect
AK(x2)

a letter from chief omoseye bolaji to aryan kaganof

Filed under: kaganof,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:44 am

Thank you very much for your astute response. It was most illuminating, though it shed no (or at best very little) light on the issues raised!

I will have to tell the “burgeoning” wordsmiths that I have failed (as usual!) I could not get you to give straightforward answers to the posers. Probably we can assume that Ntate Harry was indeed your father (judging from the photo) but it is still inconclusive. Do we then assume that Uselessly is a biographical work? (the technical details as regards leukaemia in the work will suggest this???) But Jacana Publishers have categorised the work as “fiction” anyway.

(Back to you and Mr. Harry, it must be said that you look very handsome and cherubic beside Dad; one is almost moved to state: is this the same cynical, ruthless “Sugar Man” of the movie?)

The most important part of the posers you have avoided – that is, who actually wrote, penned those three articles in Drive thru Funeral allegedly shedding light on Kaganof? There is no way those articles can be taken as ‘absolute truth” eg the part of Kaganof’s 39 children – and rising!

Yes, yes, yes, we know you have great rapport with blacks, but this does not remove the fact that you have a strange, zany sense of humour ALWAYS overdone. When humour becomes transcendental and is transposed into writers’ works like yours, one can no longer separate fact from fiction.

As for schizophrenia, remember that is the way Kaganof is described time and again in the works. We can not be held responsible for repeating what we have read about the iconic Kaganof; and there are many others; e.g Kaganof’s alleged obsession with very young girls and “reprehensible” sexual acts with them.

It is very remarkable that you have “self-published” so many books…it shows great character really. For the cynics out there, you can point to the fact that Uselessly was published by a major South African publisher. Anyway, we often seem to forget that these big publishers make mistakes more often than not, and I have always thought it highly foolish to rest the fate of a book on an “expert reader” What tosh! It means the world might have missed out on Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things fall apart (1958) if not for the fact that the initial reader of the book was a (white) “broad minded, irresponsible gambler”! Imagine the number of potentially great writers who have been frustrated by such “lofty readers” world-wide!

With great affection

Bolaji

P.S: Is the project on Ingrid Jonker still on? When are you planning to print/publish it?

a letter from aryan kaganof to chief omoseye bolaji

Filed under: kaganof,literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:06 am

Dear Chief Bolaji,

Thank you very much for your mail. It’s a huge honour that young writers in the Free State are reading some words that came through me, I cannot tell you how delighted I am to discover this – and I am sure it is all thanks to you!

Now speaking of you I must tell you that I recently re-read PEOPLE OF THE TOWNSHIPS and I feel that this is a work that has only grown in stature with age. Like a high quality, noble red wine, sitting on my shelf for the past few years, when I got back to it, I discovered that the insights inside, and the turns of phrase used, had improved qualitatively. In short – I think this book is a contemporary South African classic. A work of literature that deserves a far wider spread than it has had thus far. God willing this will happen in due course – your time is coming Chief, as they say to all those waiting for the noose, or the electric chair!

Now, as regards the questions that you pose in your mail, or more correctly, the questions that appear to be posed by those “burgeoning” writers.

Well before we get on to that, let’s deal with this quality of “burgeoning” that seems so distinct and clearly articulated outside of our daily reality that it neccesitates both of using the inverted commas every time we use the word. “Burgeoning”. It is a very strange word and I had to quickly look it up in the Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary. This is what it had to say:

/Main Entry: bur·geon
Variant(s): also bour·geon \ˈbər-jən\
Function: intransitive verb
Etymology: Middle English burjonen, from Anglo-French burjuner, from burjun bud, from Vulgar Latin *burrion-, burrio, from Late Latin burra fluff, shaggy cloth
Date: 14th century

1 a : to send forth new growth (as buds or branches) : sprout b : bloom
2 : to grow and expand rapidly : flourish

We have to stop for a moment and re-calculate the inestimable value of the nourishing and cultivation of these budding, sprouting new writers that you are doing in the Free State. Countless comments on the blog attest to the assiduous mentoring you have done in the region, helping to create a crop of young (and not-so young) writers that will truly leave their mark on this country’s literature in the years to come. To put it curtly – the “burgeoning” would not be so “burgeoning” were it not for your meticulous and consistent presence as teacher and patriarch. For this alone I thank you on behalf of a nation of illiterates and other dolts who will hardly ever get the chance to appreciate the work you have done, in between watching those interminable bouts of 11 a side ball-chasing , not to mention the boozing and carousing that is the mainstay of “entertainment” in this intellectually impoverished country that is being systematically stripped of its libraries by a government that has based its education model on a system that has proved to be a failure all over the western world.

Having thanked you so profusely for what I believe is your historically significant and truly generous contribution to the cultural life of this nation I must now turn on you with a somewhat anguished tone and challenge a statement of yours that I believe to be dangerously misleading, to the point of abjectly untrue!

You write that my “zany sense of humour” is too complicated for most black people to understand, “no matter how literate”.

In reply I must firstly state that had a so-called “white” individual written such a sentence he or she would immediately be charged with abject racism. It’s a dangerous sentence. Especially so since, from my earliest childhood days in Johannesburg, I have shared an instantaneous bond, an unspoken spiritual connection, with the so-called “black” people around me, and this largely through our senses of humour. I remember all throughout my childhood hearing the roaring loud raucous laughter of so-called “black” people, being drawn to that laughter, sharing in that laughter. Whilst the tight-lipped, tense, so-called “white” world that I was born into was repressing itself and trying to repress me with admonishments of “Not so loud!” “Don’t talk/eat/laugh so loudly, it’s not done!” “It’s not polite/civilized to laugh so loudly” and most often, most clearly – “WHITES DON’T LAUGH LIKE THAT”. Whiteness was always a training, was an imposition – it was never natural.

What I am getting at in this rather long-winded explanation is that it was precisely my sense of humour that I always felt was the connection that I shared most deeply with the so-called “black” people. I have always been at home in the company of so-called “black” people for precisely this reason. Which is not to say that there aren’t a lot of miserable black bastards out there! Of course there are! BUT – this following generalisation that I am going to make I will swear by as a truth I have experienced time and again throughout my life: the so-called “blacks” are a more good humoured people by far than the so-called “whites”.

THUS
I felt deeply stung by your accusation that my writing, or at least that humorous element in my writing, is too complicated for most so-called “black” people to understand.

If what you say is true then I have failed.

Now, further on in your character assassination of me, you accuse Kaganof of schizophrenia! Well I never! The nerve sir!

And how does one know that this so-called “Kaganof” actually did spend years in Europe studying “filmography”. Perhaps it’s all a pack of lies invented to cover up the fact that the blighter spent most of his life in brothels trying to find the meaning of life in those dank little caves that the demi-monde hide between their fleshy pins!

For a wonderful photograph of “Harry” please have a look here:

http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2008/04/22/16679/

I was delighted that you mention the Bronte sisters as Wuthering Heights is one of those few books that I read again and again whilst I was in prison. Many of my heroes published themselves before they were spotted by the literary establishment. I have been rejected by countless publishers and literary agents. I have self-published 26 books including novels, poetry, essays and plays. Schizophrenic we may be but lazy I am not!

I remain
Your servant
Aryan Kaganof (x2)

May 22, 2010

a letter from omoseye bolaji – “How do we separate fact from fiction in Kaganof’s works?”

Filed under: kaganof,literature — ABRAXAS @ 5:08 pm

Perhaps you may shed some light on some issues that are confusing ALL of us here. As you know we have writers’ clubs/literary associations all over the place in our neck of the woods here and we try to introduce them to different writers every now and then; trying to discuss their work. We have noted that these “burgeoning” writers invariably want to be filled in as regards the background of pertinent writers

It must be confessed that it has been an arduous task trying to introduce you to others, because the “evidence” in front of us (that is, your books available here) is quite confusing. I have seen some writers saying the most extraordinary things about you, though “quoting” from some of your works. I know that these things can not be true

On my own part, I usually try to focus on two main things about you which I’m sure of: 1. You are a one-man arts and culture industry, including being a prolific writer and author; and 2. You have an irrepressible, zany sense of humour which is very complicated for most black people to understand, no matter how literate. Hence a lot (most) of what you have published can not be taken at face value. But it is not as simple as all that

Take the book Drive Thru Funeral for example. Who wrote the three separate “Introductions on Kaganof” for the book? I mean the one titled “Kaganof the stones poet”; then “Kaganof and treason” and “About the author’s (Kaganof) death”. What does all this mean? Did you write them yourself? How can anybody imagine such stuff? Does it have anything to do with Kaganof’s so-called schizophrenia?

There is plenty other stuff which one does not understand here; eg the references to 166 Bulwer road, Durban. Kaganof having “39 children”, his regular stays in “asylums” etc. What is it all in aid of? Didn’t Kaganof spend many years in Europe studying filmography etc? How then was he clamped in asylums? You can see one can not even begin to explain these to others!

But then again as I’ve indicated, how do we separate fact from fiction from Kaganof’s writing? E.g in Drive Thru Funeral in one of the “Introductions”, reference is made to your (Kaganof’s) Dad – called Harry. Yet remarkably “Dad” in Uselessly is also called Harry! Do we tell others that your father’s name in real life was (is) Harry?

Pour moi, I always find it instructive and a good guide, to approach your works from the prism that you can not help your predilection for humour. The other day I took a very small passage from Uselessly, for example whilst discussing your work with some young writers:

Dad: “You could still make good”

“But at what, Dad? Two slim volumes of poetry published in 8 years. A single column review in the Mail and Guardian and less than 500 books sold”

(from Uselessly)

I found this very funny; it adumbrates the despair and frustration of most writers, especially we black ones. But perhaps one should remember that during their lifetime the great Bronte sisters sold only 2,3, or 4 copies of a book of poetry they self-published! And see how glittering their reputation is now.

Anyway will you shed some light on some of the issues I have raised here???

May 11, 2010

whose car is that?

Filed under: literature,stacy hardy — ABRAXAS @ 2:43 pm

so the last while i’ve been blowing my head off on some serious chilean
writing. a grade shit. none of this watered down magic realist crap cut with
who knows what. i’ve heard the stories. baby powered. drain cleaner. even
crushed glass these days. reminds me of this story miles davis tells in his
autobiography. right so the dude is in a big drug phase. seriously fucked up
on cocaine and whisky and no sleep in who the fuck knows when. and he’s
paro-ing out. i mean the dude has the fear. bad fear. nothing you haven’t
seen before, eyes two great pale zeros, chest bumping like a dryer with
shoes in it, ears ringing. so he’s in the elevator heading back to his
pad… and this old lady gets in, real old and prissy. suddenly things are
fucked up. suddenly he thinks he’s in this car. the elevator is rising,
slow, but building, like his ferrari pulling away from the curb. that hum
the engine makes as if it’s right between your eyes? and he’s checking out
this old bird, thinking, what the fuck is this old bitch doing in my car? so
he says, “bitch! what the fuck are you doing in my car???!!!”

and that’s the thing. right? like i think that’s the question a lot of
writers need to answer: what the fuck are you doing in someone else’s car???

May 9, 2010

green dragon 4 now available as free e-book

Filed under: dye hard press,literature,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:29 pm

0156.jpg

download for free here

May 8, 2010

Out to lunch

Filed under: literature,narike lintvelt — ABRAXAS @ 5:43 pm

I left work twelve minutes before the officially appointed lunch hour and hurried through the Company Gardens like a woman on her way to an assignation with her lover. The weather obligingly indulged my romantic metaphor: it was crisply cold with gray clouds hanging low and heavy. The diffused light washed the Gardens in soft Impressionist greens offset by the rain-darkened bark of trees, and the roses were pastel-pink smudges in their formal beds.
Across from the rose garden loomed a squat but well-proportioned Victorian building, its dome with turret etched against the louring sky, further enhancing my fantasy of being a character in a sixties European art-house film.
Near the bird cages the workmen with their bright orange helmets and clatter of tools and shouts and banter nearly unravelled my narrative thread, but by looking resolutely to my right into the depths of the trees I was able to rewind my yarn, although I briefly veered into an Henri Rousseau painting, expecting to see the bright yellow glint of a jaguar’s eye at any second.
And then I did see something bright – something white and furry running up the trunk of a tree. I had been to the Gardens countless times and had heard tell, but never caught so much as a glimpse. Yet there it was, perched on a branch above me, looking down curiously with its luminous maroon eyes — the fabled albino squirrel of the Gardens.
‘I’ve heard about you,’ I told it. ‘And here you are!’
It cocked its head and twitched its nose.
‘Sorry, no nuts,’ I said. ‘Next time I –’
But it didn’t wait around to listen to promises, proving itself much wiser than me and a million other women, and scooted off into the foliage.
Realising that I’d be late if I didn’t hurry, I firmly pressed pause on all the movies playing in my head and focused on getting to the National Library. I was looking for the Centre for the Book, but found that I had to walk a few blocks back on Queen Victoria Street to get to number 62. Past the Huguenot Chambers and an empty lot where a building had been demolished, I realised that I was getting closer to the domed building I’d seen earlier and had assumed was the Planetarium.
That was it – a sign proclaiming the Centre for the Book was affixed above a wooden door set into a double staircase leading up to the domed building. The door was indisputably locked, so I ascended the stairs and encountered two well-dressed black men standing outside the main doors in conversation with two casually dressed white men, both of whom were lighting pipes. They were all conversing in French, and I waited for a suitable pause before enquiring about the Centre for the Book. In unison they pointed to the double doors.
I had come here to join Out to Lunch, an informal writers’ workshop held every Wednesday between 1 and 2pm. When I announced this to the security guard at the reception desk he seemed somewhat flustered, but quickly regained his composure and asked me to sign the visitors’ book. After a hushed conversation with another man he started putting out chairs around a small six-sided table in the main hall. Down the passage were a number of people crowded around trestle tables with coffee urns and finger foods, but I soon realised that this was some sort of convention rather than a big turn-out of writers. The security guard ushered me into the main hall, gave me a quizzical, faintly apologetic smile, and drew the door shut very gently as he left.
The main hall is a triple-volume semi-circular room magnificently adorned with arches and friezes and wood panelling with built-in glass-fronted bookcases all along its curve. A mezzanine level hosts more wooden bookcases, but there is no visible access to it. The heavy carpet muffles the sound of my footsteps, and the atmosphere is stuffy, a little musty; almost devotional, like a church or a private library.
I write this sitting right under the skylight of that great big beautiful dome. I’m the only one who showed up, and it feels like one of those dreams where you’re the last student writing an impossible exam, even imagining I can hear the minutes ticking away on the large brass clock above the door.
Yet it’s strangely enjoyable – allotting a certain amount of time and disciplining myself to write something, anything, at an appointed time and place.
I have an assignation for next Wednesday. Care to join me?

Out to Lunch at
The National Library’s Centre for the Book
62 Queen Victoria Street
Wednesdays from 1 to 2pm

May 1, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 2:00 pm

ONE

DEEP

The day DJ Deep-face is going to be fired from his job at Newtown FM starts with a chilly tinge that peaks with the sun rising in his heart and warming up his soul. But that is later.

Now he walks as usual admiring the scenery of Newtown as he strolls down from his Brickfields block of flats. Newtown has an infectious vibe about her that is both colonizing and healing. She is the mainstream of the outskirts. Newtown is the legitimate child of Johannesburg. She is growing so fast she looks like she harbors secret ambitions of invading the mother Johannesburg. And the best thing that can save Johannesburg is to be under the good dictatorship of Newtown. The place has a smell of new money coming in. The highway beaming over it with a protective smile seems to concur.

Deep-face walks with a spring in his step, his star sign had said so: there is a spring in your step. He is feeling lucky, lucky to be ascending. His girlfriend Trish had called in the morning to read him his Libra horoscope. She did this religiously every morning without fail if they were not together. The star sign had predicted he was on a high going uphill. Though he does not believe much in horoscopes, he loves it when they ramble about beautiful things. The only thing he really likes about horoscopes is the definition of his Libra sign which Trish got him on the internet:

You are the artistic type and have a difficult time dealing with reality. If you are a male you are probably queer. Chances for employment and monetary gain are nil. Most Libra women are whores. All Libras die of venereal disease

As he walks down the streets of Newtown past Couch and Coffee turning left on the corner of the National Arts Council building he sees some famous and not so famous faces. He spots some celebrities and some aspirant celebrities. He sees homeless artists who are housed by the orphanage that is Newtown. Though she is small, Newtown carries so many noble dreams on her tiny shoulders. For many years, she had humbly preserved the culture of a city in decline. Deep waves at the people he knows and those that recognize him wave in his direction. He has a feeling the people he sees were the people who woke up one day and asked: what is the reason of staying in Newtown if you cannot dream big?

Newtown is a conglomeration of artistic dreams. All the dreams of the nine provinces converge here. Here they are realized, shattered or just hang in suspense, waiting for their turn to be realized or shattered. The dreams range and sometimes overlap each other from various things like singing, acting, writing, directing, playing musical instruments, designing, dancing, filmmaking, drawing, photography to painting. Newtown is not only a place in time, she is time in the right place. She is the timer of dreams. . In Newtown dreams are stored in an incubator for a season.
Those that have expired are churned out with venom. The dreams that hatch are miniscule in number. They can be compared to one egg that is fertilized out of a million sperms. For one dream to live, thousands have to die. But the diggers of dreams continue to dig. They have made peace with one fact: sometimes it is not about realising the dreams, it is about the digging for the dreams. There is honor and contentment in the digging. It is not an idle life, it is a well spent life of digging.

Though the place is called Newtown there is nothing new about the spirit of the place. The spirit always repeats itself. It reincarnates itself in the souls of artists born everyday. The spirit always returns to the same spot turning Newtown into a shrine of culture.
Newtown is like the aging new South Africa which likes to cling desperately to this old idea of being new.

He proceeds to walk past Market Theatre opposite Nikkis’s into the big open square of Mary Fitzgerald leaving Museum Africa behind him.

Deep had once commented to his girlfriend Trish that the only thing that was missing from Newtown was a library. But Trish had objected.
“Newtown does not need a library, Newtown is the new library”
He crosses the street into the new building that houses Newtown FM studios. People talk, eat and drink animatedly outside Cappelo and the Sophiatown Bar Lounge. There is a poetry session taking place at Xarra Bookshop. He catches a glimpse of himself closely on the mirrors of the elevator as it goes up. There is nothing new, medium slender height, dark complexion with blood shot eyes, an uncombed Afro and a large beard spotting his chin.

His producer Martin is already in the studio, waiting. Martin is always there, always waiting. Like the sky, always there and waiting when you wake up or go to sleep. He is the picture of stability, sipping his coffee, operating the machines, making sound checks. If he arrives one hour before the show, he is late.
He hands him some notes which Deep duly puts aside. Today he has a big surprise coming.

“Ever heard the expression listening to yourself, today we are going to put this overused expression into practice by not talking but sitting back and listening to ourselves. I will not say anything and you will not call in”
Deep announces as he begins his daily evening three hour talk-show by dispensing with tradition. Within five minutes the telephone lines in the studio are jammed. Listeners, either not understanding what had been said or wanting to voice their objections call frantically. The producer is left vacillating between different emotions. On one hand he is annoyed he was not consulted on this format of the show whilst on the other hand he marvels at what he considers to be a well orchestrated stunt.

Deep is forced to open the lines briefly.
“My radio is on because I want to listen to it, not to myself” one listener protests
“Why am I not listening to another station instead of this nonsense” another listener wonders out loud. Deep shares the same sentiment with the caller.
“What is this nonsense about listening to yourself anyway, what happened to listening to other people? Growls an authoritative voice.
An unimpressed station manager calls repeatedly from his home but cannot get through. He finally calls the producer on his mobile who hands the phone over to Deep.
“You want to listen to yourself” he thunders “you will have the whole summer to listen to yourself, YOU ARE FIRED”.

While the station manager is fuming at this charade he is silently happy at finally being able to get rid of the most popular deejay with the listeners. He has always resented his popularity that never rubbed off on him. He had once read an article about Deep in a community newspaper:
“DJ Deep has a smoky and deep voice which sounds like it has been collected from a bottomless pit. It lingers in your ears long after he has finished speaking. He speaks as if he has the right to be listened to. And you, will listen to DJ Deep, like death and taxes, that is one of the certainties of life”
“Well, the article was wrong, Deep is not one of the certainties of life, he would never have to put up with his voice again, the station manager thought. After being fired Deep promptly opens the lines again to say his goodbyes. There is an even bigger wave of calls. Listeners demand that he be reinstated or they would boycott the station. In a few minutes, the station has recorded the highest number of calls ever. The producer has to play songs back to back for the rest of the show.

April 26, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 2:08 pm

TWO

TRISH

Trish is Helen of Troy. The kind of woman men go to war for. And one of Deep’s biggest fears is that one day he would be forced to go to war for her, or kill himself, for her. There is a sense of excitement about her which is accompanied by a looming danger. Trish brings the God and the devil out of him. She both torments and mesmerizes his soul. To his heart, she is a kaleidoscope of colours. Sometimes when he thinks of her, he thinks in crimson blood, bleeding to touch her. Then like a chameleon, his colours change into envy green. He envies to dwell his eyes on her for eternity. Then the colours transform into summer green like September, with emotions springing back to life. Then it somersaults to brown winter of nudist trees and barren sands.

Sometimes when he thinks of her, the sun sets and he sees her silhouette in pitch darkness. When he searches for her in cold darkness his eyes freeze to an iceberg pining to be melted by her smile. He becomes the east, and the sun rises in his eyes. In his dreams, he longs to see the flare of her shadow, under the glare of the moonlight. He longs to go with the glow of her flesh in the still of night and to set his eyes on her face the first thing before he wakes up. In this dense forest, of human dinosaurs, that devour alive, the raw spirit of men, his biggest fear is that one day he would stop loving her.

Trish dresses herself. Fashion is nothing to her. She is fashion and she is always in fashion. She is committed to gaining influence. She has her own fashion label, In Flew Enza, with the slogan “Spread It”. The logo for her label is a colourful bird taking flight. She labels herself. And you thought wearing a label defined who you are? Trish is free, and beautiful, she had recently opened her own boutique in Newtown because she had claimed “Newtown is the future”. She has a style of dressing that says look at my middle finger if you are conventional. She goes around spreading the influence. On this evening she is dressed in black shorts, black fishnet stockings and long boots. She is draped in a white t-shirt with a black bow tie and a long coat which looks like it belongs to a men’s department store.

She gives him a big hug when he comes to collect her in his motorbike outside her boutique.
“this time you really put your foot in it did n’t you” she says as she climbs on the bike behind him.
“I ve always wanted to put my foot in it, somehow I always missed” he replies as he revs his motorbike.

After being fired he is fired up. They ride to Trish’s place in Bramley in his motorbike, the XTR 250 cc. He enjoys the adrenalin rush and the kiss of the wind. Deep rides a bike because he says “it gets you there faster than you can think”. Wearing helmets, they cruise through the Mandela Bridge past Wits University on Jan Smuts Avenue. They join MI North and off ramp on Corlett Drive to Trish’s place in Bramley north of Johannesburg. He likes the feel of Trish’s bosom on his back as they ride through the wind against the general tide of driving a motorcar.

When he speeds on the highway, he loves the sense of carrying the receding past on his back and approaching the distant horizon. The feeling of penetrating the future, the unknown. It is a sponsored bike given to him so he could become the face of XTR 250 cc. The bike is called the Deep Range. When more famous celebrities have sneakers named after them he has a motorbike.

They met four years ago on a queue of a Standard Bank ATM opposite Moyo Restaurant next to the Market Theatre Photography Workshop. A beggar had come to Deep asking for a donation. He had said to the beggar

“I will not offer you money but a love poem
“The poem in your bowl will not tinkle like a coin
“But in your heart it will sprinkle like a stain”

The man had said “great what is the poem? Deep had replied “that was the poem”. So the man left and never begged again. Trish, who was behind him said it was a great poem.
When he turned around to look at her he was momentarily paralyzed by her beauty. It was the kind of beauty you could still see vividly with your eyes wide shut. He knew that for him it was love at second sight. He was surprised himself he had said something poetic. He was not a poet. He had once decided to write poems before only to learn later only bad poets decide to become poets. You do not collect poems, they just drop on your lap like bird shit.
“Today I am feeling generous, I have a poem for you too” he had said pushing his luck.
“What’s the poem?
He closed his eyes briefly and suddenly blurted out the words:
“My love is deep”
She blushed like a schoolgirl not knowing his momentary inspiration had reached a dead end.

She had refused to give him her number preferring to take his. She wanted to take back the power men had over women after getting the number. The woman hangs in suspense for a call that would come or not come at the whims of a man. She did not want to go through that. Women give men too much power, she believed. The plan worked, as Deep almost went crazy pining for that call. When she finally called after three weeks he gave a deep sigh.
“What have you been doing for the last three weeks? She enquired
“I‘ve been thinking” he said
“Thinking about what”
“You already know”
He had long thought about her before the atm meeting, only she did not know, she also did not know that the atm meeting was not the first time he had laid his eyes on her. He had first seen her at a traffic intersection in Johannesburg city centre where they were going to different directions. The red light stopped him dead in his tracks. She stood at the traffic lights on the other end. The green man at the robot blinked at her. She crossed straight into his heart. She parked in his head, permanently. She had the hooters blaring in him. She drove straight into the commotion and got lost in the madness, after that she had stalked his dreams and haunted his memory.

**********************

THE MAYOR AND THE NEPHEW

They sit on the garden chairs of Trish’s the spacious family home in Bramley north of Johannesburg. Trish shares the house with his brother Hamilton, grandmother and nephew from his brother Hamilton’s estranged wife. Their parents had since passed away shortly after his brother had returned from political exile in 1990.
“So what are you going to do with your life now that you have managed to get yourself fired?”
Mimi’s brother Hamilton asks over the dinner table as he dips his spoon over a large bowl of salads. Hamilton is a former mayor who is now one of the more successful businessmen. Even though he is now a businessman everyone still calls him “the mayor”. The mayor trades on his struggle credentials. He runs a consultation business where he is paid “a facilitation fee” to hook up businesses with politicians for lucrative government tenders. His job is perfectly legit and he sleeps soundly at night as a result of it. After all, he is one of the chief architects of democracy, the country is the brainchild of his party.

Before being called the mayor he had simply been called Ham for short which had deeply annoyed him. He had changed his name soon before being appointed mayor to his African name but the title of mayor stuck. The merging of persona and state. The mayor is rapidly gaining weight even though he is paying for a gym membership he does not use. He can train at home but he pays Virgin Active to train him. This has become fashionable. People paying for services they do not need or use and complaining about services they need and use. Like water and electricity.

The mayor has a man who speaks for him. When Deep and Trish arrive they find the mayor sitting with his spokesperson going over some “new strategy”. The mayor is dressed in a football t-shirt jeans and sneakers. It is part of his new strategy of being down with the people. When they had first met, Deep and the mayor had not got on like a house on fire.

The mayor had summed up Deep as a too self opinionated man with no real ambition. The mayor was a party man who distrusted free spirits that did not fall under any organizational discipline. But people like Deep and his friend Graphit were products of democracy and there was nothing that could be done about them he concluded. Deep had thought of the mayor as another cocky and dissembling politician with too much food on his plate. He was suspicious of anyone who wanted to convert him into a certain system of beliefs. But they had both found out they grew on each other and they had now settled on taking cheap swipes at each other at any given opportunity.

“I am going to concentrate on my writing”
“You mean you are going to concentrate on being unemployed”
“I have been working on this book for some time and I believe it has the potential to do well in the market”
“oh, what is this book called?
“Its called Blood Sex”
“Blood Sex? sounds interesting, go on”

Deep hesitates as he glances around the table. All eyes wait eagerly on him. He glances briefly at the twelve year old Mimi’s nephew who also seems to be waiting to hear about his book. The nephew is a factory fault of democracy. He is a Mandela child. He was born free therefore he is chained by too much freedom. Life is too safe.

He goes into a private school and lives in a mansion surrounded by high walls and barbed fence. He longs and itches for the action of the eighties he hears about. The closest violence he has ever come to is the wrestling on television and MTV. He envies the poor kids. He composes hip hop songs with dirty lyrics to earn himself some street credibility. In his room he has access to an arsenal of toy guns even though his fathers party campaigns for a gun free society. He wears pants that resemble army combat to breed some violence into his mind. He has a violent game on his playstation that has as one of its rules: it is not enough to win, you must dominate. He constantly wears a mournful and disdainful face of someone who has just been forced to gulp down a bottle of castor oil. He is about to vomit. Life is one big bore.

The nephew is staring at Deep with undisguised scorn and contempt. Some time back Deep had caused some discomfort in the family after relaying some piece of information to the nephew. He had asked the nephew what his favourite sport was and the nephew had excitedly replied that it was wrestling. Deep had explained wrestling was not sport but entertainment and showmanship.
“Wrestling is a reality show with good actors and a good script” he had explained
“You mean the players are not real?
“No, just good actors”
“You are lying, John Cenna and Batista are real” the nephew screamed.
“Are you saying wrestling is fake? The mayor asked like someone who found it hard to believe the world was not flat.
The nephew was devastated at this piece of information. He threw tantrums and ran away screaming to his grandmother who had also been critical of Deep. Everything the kid had believed in had been exposed as a human fabrication. Deep insisted he was only telling the truth.
“You don’t tell children the truth, they don’t handle it very well” Trish explained.
“In fact you don’t tell the truth to anyone” the mayor had supported his sister “it upsets the balance of chaos”
Deep had realized they were both right. This whole civilization was based on a lie and people were more comfortable with the lie than the truth. These are the same people who believe in the tooth fairy, santa claus, the easter bunny and the silent night of Christmas. These are the same people who take politicians seriously when they speak.

Looking at the nephew now, Deep can still feel a certain level of hostility and distrust. He turns his attention back to the mayor.
“It’s a PG kind of book” he explains.
“Parental guidance, you writing porn?
“What is porn? The eager young mind of the nephew wants to know.
What the hell, Deep thinks, the mayor asked for it.
“Well it’s about this prostitute who chokes to death while giving this politician a blow job”
“What’s a blow job? The scornful nephew asks again.
“A blow job means its time for you to go to bed” Mimi says as she leads the protesting nephew away.
“That’s hardly a basis for a book but good luck son”
“And the pimp sues the politician for loss of income” Deep explains further.
“The pimp cant be allowed to profit from his own crime” the mayor objects
“Well there is more, the prostitute had a surprise in her will, her last wish was to be cremated and for the pimp to carry the ashes everywhere he went” but the book is still in developmental stages”
The maid comes to clear the table. When she is finished Deep hands her a ten rand note. Unsure of what is happening, she takes it and leaves with a grateful smile.
“What was that?” the mayor asks
“I was giving her a tip”
“A tip, but this is not a restaurant, it’s my house, a private residence, you don’t come to my house and give my maid a tip” the mayor barks.
Who says maids cant be given tips? Deep responds unpertubed.

April 24, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 6:12 pm

THREE

THE LEARNING YEARS

Look what they have done to god. They have banished him into the diaspora. He has the face of leprosy, they said. And the smell of antiquity. Let us not oil the ink of our constitution with his name. Lest he stains the angelic white paper. Lets barricade him from the city walls. Tighten the school gates wide shut, he might corrupt the future young minds
Place bouncers at the church entrance, Lest he overthrows the devil at the altar. They have created hell for us, So we can lose interest in our earthly investments. And now that the learned men of modernity have massacred us in a spiritual genocide, that eats into our souls, we ask where is god? how does he allow all this evil to go on?. But he stands within us. His open arms as wide as him and his creation”

Deep is reminded of these words uttered by his professor in his political science class at university as he sleeps later at night. He is thinking the professor is not a good agent for the system that he serves. And the irony of it all is that the professor claimed to be an atheist who did not believe in human gods.

He sleeps with his head held high. He has an inexplicable feeling of contentment. He has managed once again to get back at conventional way of doing things. No man would dictate his thinking. That had been another blow at an established way of behavior and he had emerged with his beliefs still intact. His mind trots back to his university days. He had found campus a strange place for intellectual development. Students seemed to dabble in studying in between heavy drinking sessions and mass demonstrations against the administration.

And there were so many doctrines, it was like ancient Rome. But none of the ideas and doctrines were original. People seemed to be pregnant with other people’s ideas. His mind goes back to the professor talking about God being dead.
“You have killed God, you have taken Him out of the equation. You have chased Him out of politics, out of your church, out of your education system. You have said you are tired of His sick moralizing. That is why you have an economic system without a conscience”

The professor explained to his shocked and captivated audience:
“When you get out of this indoctrination camp, most of you will apply for government jobs and some of you will not get the job you have applied for. Don’t worry, that would mean you have passed the interview. In government, those who have failed the interview get the job. You will finally join that uncritical mass of South African men and women who sell their labour, heart mind and soul to the system so they can live from paycheck to paycheck”

After two years of hanging around university, Deep decided he did not need a degree to live. So he dropped out and found himself in the bustling city of Johannesburg. With only bursary change as his pocket money, he stayed at the backpackers in Braamfontein where he paid twenty rand a night for a bed. He soon found a job as a waiter and also dabbled in deejaying in the now defunct Hillbrow nightclub Razzmatazz. He lived through all the famous Hillbrow clubs, Quirinale, Europa, Moulin Rouge, Ambassador, Little Rose, Maxima. Today it is only the Summit Club that still stands its ground, the rest are either dead or sorry shadows of their former glory. They died with scores of their patrons and their dreams. He shared a flat with eight other roommates in Hillbrow where he paid three hundred a month.

Hillbrow does not allow you to grow at your own pace. You have to grow fast or you don’t grow at all. Hillbrow is a meandering river that flows in different directions. Sometimes you have to go with the flow or sink.

THE PIMP

It was at the nightclub that he befriended a pimp who had taken a liking to him. The pimp always wore dark sunglasses in a dark club. The dark club which was open twenty four hours was always dimly lit. It lulled patrons into thinking it was nighttime when it was six o’ clock in the morning. It provided sanctuary from the scary light of day. Deep preferred the pimp with his eyes hidden, because underneath those glasses were eyes cold as dead. They looked like the eyes of a dead man staring blind without blinking.

He would pray silently before taking his first drink. He would take one sip and exclaim “ahh, I like my beer cold and my women hot”
One time the pimp had requested while Deep was deejaying that he play some Pavarotti. Deep informed him they did not play opera in the club.
“What kind of a self respecting establishment does not play Pavarotti? The pimp had been greatly offended.
“When my girls are stressed out, I let them listen to Pavarotti. Pavarotti lets me…” the pimp stopped as he searched for a word to describe what Pavarotti did to him and Deep helped him “it calms you down?”
“Yes yes it calms me down” the pimp was delighted. He liked to sit at the counter where he could watch television as he spoke to the waiter. He liked to watch the television up close, to get up close and personal with the images. When he saw politicians on television he said he loved them as they were his best clients.
“They pay in hard cold cash” he would say as if he also accepted cheques and credit cards. The only thing he seemed to loathe with all his heart was the homosexual people. He once commented on a gay man entering the club: that man used to be the terror of Hillbrow, the only man I truly feared, then he went to prison, dropped the soap and came out a fucking moffie. These people are the scum of the earth, they have messed up the world”

During the day Deep would walk down to the Johannesburg Library. He realized most loafers and the unemployed spent their time there. Some people left their bags at the reception so they could roam around the streets of Johannesburg. He spent most of his time in the library reading various books. The library offered a lot of helpful services like the free internet and the screening of movies and he took full advantage of them. But he always felt the library was underutilized.

There were rich books begging to be devoured by hungry minds. Newspapers lay undigested as everyone scrambled for a piece of the workplace section and classified in search of jobs. And the books remained hungry to be eaten. Classic novels lined up in orderly fashion like beauty contestants on parade ready to be chosen. The books smiled as they pined to be picked up by the best minds in different titles and sections. Classic books that told beautiful tales of love, song, wars, nature, history, religion, science, God, sex, poetry and everything under the sun. Books that wanted to talk and be listened to.

One day as he was deejaying at the club he noticed a man watching him in a trance like spell as he nodded his head to the music. The man look overdressed for the club. He continued nodding his head as he looked at him. But then again he was not sure, was the man nodding his head at him or to the music? He suspected the man found the music as fascinating as his face. He was used to people staring at his fascinating face. He might as well amuse the man with small talk. He could be a long lost relative who was drawn to him by the thickness of blood. He made a comment about the heat.

“I don’t know whether it’s the heat or just me, but can you feel the heat?”
The man asked him to repeat his comment. So he repeated the comment about the heat suspecting the man might be partially deaf.
“I don’t know whether it’s the heat or just me, but can you feel the heat?” he was surprised to feel he was beginning to warm up to the comment about the heat.
“I like the way you say “I don’t know whether it’s the heat or just me, but can you feel the heat?” the man said nodding his head.

Deep felt like he was in some sick television commercial. The man was obviously a comedian trying to mimic the popular tomato sauce advert. In the commercial, a comical looking young man is shouting the number thirty six through a loud speaker in a retail supermarket. The manager asks him to repeat thirty six, when the young man repeats it the manager says “I like the way you say thirty six, I have a job for you” he says to pleased comical young man. Deep wondered how of all the multitudes of people in the club he had chosen to speak to a clown about the heat. But as he was soon to find out, we don’t always choose the people we speak to, sometimes fate chooses them.
“I have a job for you” The man said.
What?
“I have a job for you if you want to be a real deejay” the man repeated.
He was the station manager of a newly formed station in Newtown and he found his voice deep and his face haunting. That was how he had acquired the trade name of DJ Deepface.
“Come with me and I will make you a fisher of men” the station manager had promised. So Deep had come with him to become a fisher of men.

He had quickly rented a flat at the recently built block of flats in Newtown. They were at forefront of the changing face of Johannesburg. His balcony at Brickfields, stood facing the recently renamed Gwigwi Mrwebi Street. He was proud to be at the centre of the rejuvenation of Johannesburg. He hoped the street not only carried the famous name, but the spirit too. He was happy to be around his workplace and the eye of the storm which is Newtown.

April 21, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 2:41 pm

FOUR

Trish has brought Deep new white lace curtains for his flat. The curtains bring a fresh look that attracts more light into the room. They bring in warm sunshine. They both sleep on the bed admiring the curtains. He caresses her neck with his lips. She lies still, smiling and imagining a white wedding. Everyone has a dark secret. Trish’s dark secret is a white wedding gown she designed and kept in her locker. She designed it for her yet unnamed wedding date. She also uses it to gauge her weight. She fits it once a week and makes some alterations if need be.

She has had the gown ever since she could start designing. It was the first dress she ever designed. She designed it before she could have any imaginings of a future husband. She designed it with her head when she was eight. Of late she has embarked on another secret project, that of tailoring Deep’s suit for their wedding. Even though she is not married she spots a shiny ring on her left finger because in her heart she is already married to him. She does not need a priest to validate their marriage. She opens her eyes to look at the curtains again, a glint of light is streaming in.

Deep has no idea the curtains are from the same material as the wedding gown. He curves down her shoulders and lifts up her arms to smell the clean shaven armpits. He sniffs and stops teasingly.
“Was the heat too much today?
She breaks away, rises up and lingers over him with a grinnish smile.
“Is he saying that I smell?
“No I was just wondering about the heat, why, do you have a complex about your armpits?
She shrugs her shoulders looking around the room.
“He asks me if I have a complex”
She grabs hold of a pillow and pummels him with it on the head. He giggles covering his head with his arms. He grabs her by her figure and manages to throw her back into bed, she lies with her back to the bed, he straddles her and lies flat on her stomach pinning her arms back on the pillows. He pulls her over to him and studies her palms as the both lie on their sides facing each other. He runs his finger around the lines on her palm like a palm reader.
“Did I ever tell you I have a gift of reading palms?
“A man of many talents, tell me what do you see?

“This” he says touching her forehead with his lips, he goes down to her eyes, she closes them, he goes to the cheeks and the tip of her nose, he snuggles it, the lips touch, lightly, their eyes lock, when he opens her mouth to receive him, he pulls away lightly, teasing her, when she rests her head on the bed again he follows her, tantalizingly, he finally plants a full kiss on her, they explore each other with their tongues, passion rising. He stops, studies her face as he runs his fingers through her hair, she looks back at him with eyes full of desire, he snuggles on her ear whispering sweet nothings.
“What was that? She asks
“I love you” he says softly
“What was that again?
“I love you” voice rising.
“What was that again?
“I said I love you, is she deaf or what?
“No its because I like to hear him say that again and again and again”
She rises lightly resting on her elbow as she lingers over him.
“Now what did you say you see in my palms?
“Let me see, I see us having wild sex in the next fifteen minutes”
“In your dreams loverboy”
He pulls up her t-shirt to touch her silky brassiere underneath. He kisses her nipples underneath the bra.
“I was hoping you will say you see a bride and groom in the near future”
He pulls away and gets out of bed.
“I need to get some water” he says dashing to the sitting. She follows closely behind him.
“How long have we been together Deep?
“Three years?
“Wrong, three years and four months”
“It’s been that long, it feels like yesterday”
“Why won’t you commit to me Deep?
“You know I m committed to you baby”
“You know I m turning twenty six in two months?
“And I have just turned thirty, but you know what they say, they say the thirties are new twenties, baby I’m getting hungry, do you want to prepare something to eat?
“Something to eat, do you know what my grandmother says?
“What does your grandmother say?
“My grandmother says the reason young men are not getting married today is because they are already married”
“Your grandmother is a philosopher”
“She says they are getting cooked for, ironed for and getting sex without paying lobola”
“Your grandmother is a politician too?
“So from today, no more sex, no more cooking, until you do the right thing” she bangs the door as she goes out.
“I hate your grandmother!” he shouts after her.

April 18, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 11:30 am

FIVE

GRAPHIT

Deep is a watcher. One of his favorite pastimes is sitting on the balcony and watch people go by. The people he always watches all look like extras in a badly directed movie. They always look like they are constantly drifting shot on shutter-speed. All jostling for a position in a bigger stage. Forever fighting to be in the picture, but not quite getting there, always looking blurry in the background. Searching for their place in the sun. The people he watches look like poorly paid actors overawed by the script of life. They can walk into any screen with eyes closed. But they are still extras, the last to eat and the first to be fired. They walk like shots in transition and always fading into black.

He likes to watch unobserved. He likes to watch all types, tall short, slim, fat, old and young, men and women. Real life characters. He can engage on this act the whole day if he is a free man and does not have to pay the bills. People never stop to fascinate him as they walk past. Where are they going, where did they come from, what are their dreams and passions, what keeps them walking on the street everyday?

Watching people on the street is better than watching tv. This is non stop live, unrehearsed and unedited action. This is no news on soundbytes. You get the full story. He watches people through binoculars Trish had bought him. She had bought him binoculars so he could take a closer look, she had said. He loves his little gadget. Sometime he would put the binoculars on a tripod to get more stable shots. There is something about a hand held binoculars that gives the shot a nervous look.

In the middle of the street a couple stops for a deep kiss oblivious of the people around them. They cannot get enough of each other. They explore each other with their tongues in an intimate manner. People walk about their business as if the lovers do not exist. He zooms in to take a closer look. In the background extras walk in and out of shot as if on cue.

A young woman stops and takes out her mobile from her bag. She smiles as she looks at the screen.
She raises her head into his direction as he zooms in the lens. He can tell the lips form the words hello with a huge smile. The rest he cannot follow. He should have learnt lip reading. Is it true that a hello with a smile travels through to the caller on the other line? It is said people can tell a smile over the phone. She smiles even some more. What could light up one’s face so much? She blabbers on and on and sometimes stops to nod with her head.

What on earth could she be talking about? Why on earth they never teach you life skills at school like lip reading? Maybe she is talking to a boyfriend. Or it could be the results of a job interview. A promotion perhaps? Maybe her dream has finally come true. “What is her dream?
The woman continues chatting until she is disturbed by the sound of a hooting car. She moves over the pavement and walks away as she continues with her call. Deep is angry at the unmannered driver, he should have allowed her to finish her animated conversation. Patience. People should learn to exercise some patience.

He zooms in on a pregnant woman. Surveys say people do not trust the free government condoms. They prefer designer condoms next to the traditional way of having sex. So the government condoms come third in line. But designer condoms are expensive which explains why more people are getting pregnant. He is looking at them on the street. Pregnant bodies are a clear evidence of unprotected sex. Do these people check their medical status before engaging in sex? Do they go for counseling after sex? They should, unprotected sex is a traumatic experience. You do not know which type of disease you might have collected. Modernity has brought along with it an array of diseases that lie dormant within everything just waiting to be picked up, for free. And people grab them like they were collectors items.

Sex is a life threatening venture. But people do not care, they are too desperate for fun. Sex is like smoking. People know it causes cancer but they still smoke anyway. Perhaps private organs should carry warning labels like: this organ can be harmful to your body, it can cause temporary heavenly bliss which might lead straight to hell.

The people he is watching must be the people the experts refer to as the “average man on the street”. He wonders if he belongs to this category himself. His friend Graphit will most probably belong to this group. The experts base some of their findings on research which includes surveys. He has never been fortunate enough to be a subject of a survey, or anyone he knows. That is why he takes their findings with a pinch of salt. Surveys say the people in Johannesburg are a happy lot. So the people he is watching must be happy. Studies say there are more people in the rural areas than in big cities. Perhaps they would all come to Johannesburg one day. Everyone comes to Johannesburg eventually. Johannesburg centralizes people. She is a magnet that attracts and repels.

The people drift in and out of his sight towards and from the Bree Taxi Rank. Just like sex, going past the taxi rank can be a health hazard. One might be hit by the fast moving cars or a stray bullet. Taxi drivers shoot each other occasionally in fights over routes. The newspapers give it some interest for a certain period and soon move on to more interesting news. Politicians condemn the “Senseless violence” and soon return to their business of politics. Senseless killings, where on earth do they get these terms?
People go in and out of the taxi rank in their numbers to wait patiently in the queues. Someone once said “Black people know their queues, better than they know their homes”.
They fall in queues, patiently, from the cradle to the grave. It begins in the womb, where your mother has to wait for her turn at the overcrowded hospital to give birth to you. The queues follow you for the rest of your life, at home affairs, the licensing department, the social welfare department, at the pension right to your funeral. When you are dead, you have to fall in line, because there is a string of corpses before you.

He sees a young boy scavenge for food in a dustbin. What is he looking for, life? Sitting on the balcony reminds him of the poem he had read in high school:
Sitting on the balcony
Fingering a beer
I have no intention of drinking…
His friend Graphit walks in from the unlocked door straight into the balcony. He stares into the street too. They do not greet each, relaxed in each other’s presence. He had successfully recruited Graphit to his pastime and together they would sit on the balcony watching people go by through binoculars.

Graphit is a graffiti artist who is fast establishing a reputation as a cunning social commentator. He calls himself a writer of dreams. He recently started his own company called 011 G.P which stands for Graphit Pictures and the logo resembles the Gauteng Province number plates. Graphit has seven big locks on his head which he always covers with a big bandana. Seven is the number of perfection. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The seventh year is the year of jubilee where the land must be rested. It takes a woman seven days to cleanse herself after menstruation. He lingers over the balcony while occasionally pulling on a beedie.

Graphit has a distant look about him which gives him an unattached air. But he is not aloof, he is involved, in his own unengaged way. He smokes his ganja a lot. It makes him think long and hard, he says. He is always searching and searching, questioning, writing his answers and questions on other people’s property. He seems to have mastered the art of staring into the distance.

Graphit has a familiar face. When you see him you are convinced you have seen him somewhere. Probably not. He resembles someone famous but he hates fame with passion. He appears on a beer advert though he does not drink or touch cigarettes. He hates the fact that he appears on a beer advert but man must eat drink and live. He appears in a beer ad because they do not make ganja ads.

He is also a ganja dealer. He is known around Newtown as the man who can organize what he calls the vegetarian plant. He specializes in a popular brand called Durban Poison and Swazi. He carries with him all the time scissors for crushing ganja and a red rizla for rolling a joint. He considers himself a legitimate businessman and sees nothing wrong with selling ganja.

Graphit is a liberal Rastafarian who has never had a starring role in anything he appears in on television and theatre. He likes it that way. He likes his life without scandals. He smokes ganja and it is not a scandal, but if he was famous it would become a scandal. He hates the double standards.

As a graffiti artist with no regular source of income he is not sure whether he is unemployed. Statistics say the number of unemployed people is rising. The last time he worked was during a census in South Africa. That was the last time the government employed him. He never put it on his cv. He does not have a cv. He has never applied for any formal employment.
Graphit is a fair-weather vegetarian. He is a vegetarian when the season allows. On a cashless season he eats whatever is available. He is not too fussy. He would love to lead a righteous lifestyle if it was possible. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He worships the Most High but a part of him is still stuck in Babylon.

Graphit first met Deep while he was a deejay at a club called the Pool Room in Hillbrow.
Graphit had been hired to do sign-writing at the club and drawings of people playing a game of pool. He had forgotten the full brief of what he was supposed to write so he just wrote “The Pool Room, making people drunk since 1935”. When Deep came to admire it he thought the manager would object to the inaccuracy but to his surprise the manager liked it.
“But the club was not formed in 1935” Deep corrected.
“Who will know, everyone who knew Hillbrow in 1935 is no longer around to dispute it” Graphit had responded.
“Yeah, who will know? The manager said nodding at the inaccurate words “I like the cleavage on the bitch” he said running his fingers on the life like drawing of a woman leaning on a pool table carrying a pint of beer as another guy held a cue at the opposite end of the table.
Deep had immediately taken a liking to Graphit who was later to provide him with free accommodation at the decayed building of Turbine Hall when he was once kicked out of his flat for failing to pay rent. He found the building was occupied by a number of homeless people including artists. That was before big business came in and kicked out the homeless so they can clean up the city. Cleaning up the city, by expelling the homeless.

“Every time I go to the Jo’ burg CBD and I get lost in the madness” Deep says.
“Johannesburg is a forest, a well lit forest” Graphit replies staring into the distance.

Before Deep can reply they are both temporarily paralyzed by a flash of lightning in broad sunlight. They turn around to see the face of a young man in the adjacent balcony making another flash at them. He flashes them a big smile after his artificial flash of lightning. The young man is carrying a camera and he has just taken photos of them.
“I am gonna make you famous” he promises wagging a finger at them.
He then proceeds to extend his clenched fist in a greeting.
“I’m Zinger, your new neighbor”
“DJ Deep and my friend Graphit” They both punch Zingers fist.
“Cool man, cool, the guy on the radio, do you know my girlfriend?
“Should I know her?
“She’s a regular caller to your show, her name is Pat”
“Well there are so many callers…”
“You remember when you were discussing vibrators on your show, she called”
Before Deep can recall his girlfriend, Zinger is already addressing Graphit.
“Love your graffiti, power man, power, I loved the one that said “BE GENEROUS, BUY YOUR GIRLFRIEND A VIBRATOR”
Before Graphit can respond to the compliment Zinger is already back to Deep.
“Hey man, can I borrow your toilet paper?
“Sure man”
Deep fidgets with his pockets and looks at Graphit who is also fumbling with his.
“No man I mean the whole roll”
“Oh sure”
Deep disappears inside and fetches a whole roll from the bathroom. He hands it over to Zinger.
“Power man, power, Deep, stay deep, and Graphit, don’t forget to be graphic” Zinger does the Haille Selassie salute as he disappears from the balcony.
“Who was that? A fascinated Graphit asks as he stares into the distance.
“Zinger” an equally fascinated Deep replies knowing it was a rhetorical question.
“A man who borrows the whole toilet roll, wow” Graphit wonders as he pulls n his beedie.

*************

Later in the day, an immensely distressed station manager, under heavy pressure from the listeners, the board and the advertisers, calls Deep begging him to return for his daily slot later in the evening. With a hefty raise as part of his new contract, Deep starts his show by announcing the topic for discussion is whether maids should be given tips by guests for a service well rendered.
“I m not sure Deep, its not part of the societal rules…” one caller says
“But who establishes these societal rules…” another one asks
“This idea of tipping maids is like a revolution…”
“Tipping is part of Euro-centrism we should do away with, in Africa the notion of selling food was unheard of, hence we had no restaurants, and it would have been taboo to profit from other people’s hunger…an expert on the show rattles on.
“I am not sure about this tipping of domestic workers, we are already paying for too many things, government taxes, parking, and donations to beggars…” one caller protests.
“Will the tipping of maids be restricted to guests only, what about family members…”
“I don’t think my wife would be happy with me tipping my maid, you know my maid Deep, she is very beautiful…”
“Who tips you for the work you do Deep? We all provide a service to the community…
“Should tipping be confined to money, what about certain gifts…”
“I don’t think we should attach monetary value to tipping, what happened to a simple thank you…”
In the middle of the discussion he plays a song Music from my beautiful eye by Tumi and the Volume. The song ends with the words in a dialogue:

“I got one thing, one thing, the reason normal people get wives and kids, hobbies, whatever, is because they aint got that one thing that hits a man hard and true, I got music, you got this, the thing that you think about all the time, the thing that keeps you sane and normal makes us great, makes us the best, all we miss out on is everything else, no woman waiting home after work with a drink and a kiss, they don’t go after us”
Is that why God makes microwaves?
“Yeah, and when its over its over
“And that’s all you are, musician?

After the song he takes a call from a man simply named Chris. He sounds heavily depressed and the mood suddenly changes. Deep has the feeling the man is in a dark place and he desperately needs help. The producer is making signs at him to cut out the caller. He is speaking very slowly and breathes in very deep.
“It is the monotony Deep” he says
“What monotony is that Chris”
“It’s the monotony of life, always being drilled into you day in and day out”
“Life is beautiful Chris, you must always remember that”
“They lied to us Deep”
“Who lied to us Chris?
“They said go to school, after school you worked hard at varsity, work hard so you can have a nice car, big house, wife and kids, but the monotony never goes away”
“Can you explain more about this monotony Chris?
“The monotony of work, same time, same overtime, same boss, same orders, same walls, same same same”
“Everyone must enjoy the dignity of labour Chris, it is part of the essence of freedom”
“It’s the taxes, insurance, policies, fees, living on credit, bills bills bills, then you go home, same wife, same kids, same walls”
The producer makes signs at him to go for a commercial break in twenty seconds.
“That sounds like a normal family to me Chris, most people do not have families to speak of, lets hear what other callers have to say on this…
“Please don’t cut me out Deep, I know what you are doing” he says accusingly
“On the contrary I want you to stay on the line, so we can hear other views”
“I hate that woman”
“Which woman?
“My wife, always talking, never stops talking, yap yap yap”
“Most spouses don’t talk Chris, you should be happy you talk”
“You know what I wish Deep? I wish there was a road that never stops, I wish I could just drive forever and leave everything behind”
“You will run out of petrol Chris”
“Yes petrol, and the tyres would burn out, and I will get tired, I will not go on”
“Everything stops, nothing goes on forever Chris”
“Yes everything stops, everything must stop”
“We have to go and pay the rent, I will be taking more calls on this topic when we come back, please stay on the line Chris, I would like to talk to you some more”
During the commercial break he tries to return to Chris’s call but he finds the line has been cut off, when he calls he finds the number on an engaged tone. Feeling nervous, he asks the producer if they can retrieve the call, the producer shrugs.
“I am afraid we have lost him” he says
“I am afraid we may have lost him forever”
After the commercial break he appeals to Chris to call him back. Callers offer their views on life. There is no response from Chris. From a computer Deep opens a document that he wants to read out to Chris. He is playing a mellow tune with an edgy feel to it.

“ I have to confess I have never lived by this poem myself, but tonight the words in the poem find a particular resonance with me, I hope they can speak directly to you as they are to me today. The poem is by Max Ehrmann, it is called Desiderata.
It reads thus:

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

April 17, 2010

zakes mda on sensitivity

Filed under: art,literature,zakes mda — ABRAXAS @ 8:13 pm

Sensitivity is a baggage that comes with being an artist, Aryan. It is because of the very sensitivity that as an artist you observe and give us insight to things that other people take for granted. The more sensitive you are, the greater an artist you become. It comes with the job. And I suspect it makes one a better human being. Not necessarily a stronger human being but a better one; a more compassionate and caring one.
Zakes

April 16, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 9:52 pm

SIX

THE MAID (IN JOHANNESBURG)

Deep has serious problems. First of all, his maid who comes in twice a week is disturbingly beautiful. Secondly, her uniform is too short and too revealing. When she bends down he has ample view of her assets no matter which direction he observes from. When she bends down and he is standing behind her the skirt is lifted up to expose her luscious thighs. From the front he can see a mouth watering cleavage. Her succulent and overexposed breasts are huge, firm and pointed. He often wonders about their size and whether she wears the wonder bra. Sometimes he wonders if the tits are real. He always searches of an appropriate way of asking her but he never finds one.

Thirdly, she presents him with more problems. She makes rules for him in his own flat. In the bathroom she leaves notes that read like: PLEASE CLOSE THE TOILET SEAT AFTER USE. On the fridge she leaves notes like : PLEASE DO NOT DRINK FROM THE CARTON. And then she employs her cousins or sisters to stand in for her when she is not around. She seems to be providing her cleaning services to different employers and when she is double booked she simply arranges with her relatives to fill in for her.

Secondly, he had just found out she is running a mini salon from his balcony. She runs a thriving business of braiding, plaiting and doing extensions to her friends. People are crazy about doing their hair. On the streets of Johannesburg, this is a thriving business. People love their hair, more than they love themselves. This leads to a situation of him bumping into strange people in his own flat. She only comes twice during the week but it seems like seven days. Sometimes Deep regrets not being married. One of the drawbacks of being single is that one has to deal with mundane household issues.

He has considered various options available to him. The first option was too fire the maid outright. But on what basis exactly he wondered? For being disturbingly beautiful he asked himself? That could attract bad press if she decided she wanted some fifteen minutes of fame. He could see the headline in bold: RANDY DJ FIRES DISTURBINGLY BEAUTIFUL MAID. The second option was to accuse her of sexual harassment for the way she dressed at the workplace. That would be a first. It would attract even more bad press and would provide a field day for feminists who would defend the right of women to dress as they please without being ogled by horny men. A case like that would provide journalists with a lot of interesting angles. The headline would probably read: DJ HAS FETISH FOR WOMEN IN UNIFORM.

Perhaps a viable option would be to protest against her delegating her duties to other people. He considered being outright unreasonable by demanding she pays for the water, lights and rent space since she was profiting from her balcony business. If she refused, which he strongly hoped she would, he would dock her salary and she would resign in protest rage. That would provide another classic headline: MISER DJ DEMANDS PAY FROM MAID.

“Why is it that things seem to disappear when you most need them” he wonders to himself aloud as he fiddles with some cd’s on his desk. “I could swear these cd’s were here yesterday when I had no use for them”
“I know hey, just like condoms, always running around but you never seem to find them in an emergency” a feminine voice from behind him says.
Deep turns around quickly in complete shock from his desk to see his maid wiping her hands with a dish cloth. Had she really spoken to him about condoms? Could that be construed as sexually inappropriate statement? Definitely, it constituted sexual harassment at the workplace. Just the kind of evidence he needed to use against her. How he wished he had caught that on tape. And how long had she been standing there? Had she been watching him silently? Was she stalking him?

“What kind of condoms were they, I mean what kind of cd’s, all this talk about condoms is playing games with my head” she says.
More a case of her playing games with his mind, he thinks to himself.
“Never mind” he says turning around confused.
He is thinking it would have been a relevant question if indeed he had lost condoms. Then it would be relevant if the condoms were standard government issue or the expensive labels that he used like Rough Rider. He wonders why on earth is she talking about condoms. Does it mean she was thinking about sex?

He suddenly feels very hot. He needs to get out of his flat immediately, before it gets hotter. He rises up for the door informing her he is going out for a walk.
“It’s my birthday tomorrow” she announces happily.

Deep turns around, sweating, he mumbles the words “Happy birthday, eh tomorrow” as he closes the door behind him. The nerve of that woman! He thinks as he walks down the steps. What was he supposed to do now, buy her a present? Was that standard practice between employers and employees? There was so much he did not know. He needed to do some research on these things. What frustrates him most is that he does not know how to handle his own maid. He can hold his own in intellectual conversations but when it came to his maid he runs out of words.

He also has another problem. Trish is extremely jealous of the maid. Once Trish had arrived unexpectedly at the flat to find the maid in a towel after taking a shower. Meeting the maid for the first time, she had initially thought the maid was Deep’s girlfriend. She had wondered to Deep how he had found such beautiful help. Deep explained she had come in like everyone else looking for a job. Who said maids cannot look like beauty queens? She had been the first one to arrive shortly after he had moved in and he had hired her from the spot.

As he approaches Bree Street Taxi rank he thinks maybe it was not a bad idea to buy her maid a present after all. He thinks about the various gifts he could buy her as he negotiates his way around the city centre. While walking down Small Street Mall he is struck by one observation. Johannesburg inner city had two faces, a day face and a night face. The day face consisted of the hustle and the bustle which was intensely challenging to the mind. There was never a time to relax and reflect. People and cars moved too fast, there was a constant sense of urgency. The night face was the other side people were not familiar with. It was peaceful and yet haunting. Suddenly, the people seemed to have been swallowed by the tall buildings and the cars by the long and wide roads. The night face was like a lull before the storm of the day face. Of the two faces, he could not tell which one was the real face of Johannesburg and which one could be trusted.

Then suddenly, an idea hits him. The vibrator. The vibrator that started all the trouble. Once he had been struck by this idea of buying unusual gifts for a partner, so he had bought Trish a vibrator and she had not been impressed. Deep felt it was better for a woman to cheat with a vibrator than with a real man. He went on to discuss on his show how his girlfriend had rejected the gift. Trish was even more incensed he had discussed the matter in public. He now remembered the vibrator was still as new and was still in its original wrapping. Why not give the vibrator to the maid? He wanted to prove to her he could be just as shocking. Maybe she could construe it as sexual harassment and resign. To his surprise, when he comes back to his flat he finds Zinger on his balcony with the maid. She is twisting his hair into dreadlocks with a comb and Jabu Stone Hair products.

She offers to do him too for free. He is reluctant, there seems to be something wrong with his maid fiddling with his hair. Zinger convinces him it’s a good idea. Before he can respond she sits him down gently on the chair and starts plaiting his hair into cornrows. Her hands are so warm and gentle when she rummages his scalp with her fingers he soon dozes off. When he wakes up Zinger is gone and she is dangling a mirror in front of his face, he is impressed, she has turned his hair into a work of art. It feels more right that he gives her the vibrator as a birthday present. She is overjoyed. Its a very thoughtful gift she says with child like innocence.

albert camus

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:26 pm

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The Bride Stripped Bare (2009) Reviewed by Nick Jackson

Filed under: literature,rachel kendall,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 9:10 pm

bridestrippedbare.jpg

Rachel Kendall, The Bride Stripped Bare. Doghorn Publishing, 2009. Pp. 114. ISBN 9781907133046. £9.99.

I imagine the author of these stories composing these tiny, incisive works of fiction as if she were setting up one of those miniature theatres, made of paper, in which the characters are poked onto the stage to perform their predetermined roles. With the sweetest of smiles, Kendall will begin to make them suffer. Taking its title from a 1923 art work by Marcel Duchamp: ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even’, this collection sets out to replicate Duchamp’s project of depicting the erotic relationship between men and women. Kendall’s perspective, however, is entirely of the 21st century. Although the stories are played out in the real world, this is life stripped of the comforting veneer of civilization.

In ‘The Seedy Underbelly’ a woman indulges a craving to consume a can of motor oil and vomits up a child, of sorts – part machine, part human: “An adorable little thing with a knife blade grin”. In these stories the maternal instinct is subverted: mothers exploit or exterminate their children; they fear their unborn infants; they are haunted by the idea of giving birth to monsters and often they do.

What is bleak is not necessarily the subject matter as the underlying philosophy. For this author, for these characters, happiness is illusory. What is real and vital is sex and its corollary, death. For Kendall, the death of a character is a significant, creative act, not just a cheap way of getting out of a story. There is something of Clarice Lispector’s dissecting analysis in these tales of banal events which achieve a sudden erotically charged summation. The narratives are honed down to the essentials; the characters seem to coalesce around a single event. In ‘Fly’ a couple lie festering in a bed surrounded by the detritus of their consumer lifestyle until one of them takes it into his head to swat a fly leading to his spectacular and comic annihilation.

The themes are elemental and unerringly sexual: pregnancy, rape, mutilation, deformity, prostitution. Animals and birds squirm in the corners of narratives or howl distantly against a backdrop of blasted trees. But, despite the obsessive darkness of the stories, there is something unflinching about Kendall’s gaze that makes the work compelling. There is no space for authorial disapproval or moralising. This is existence, the stories seem to say, and that’s all there is.

Some of the stories contain coherent narratives in which the characters seek consummation and are, in various ways, satisfied. ‘51 weeks’ takes us into the world of a sado-masochist who seeks the ultimate experience. This is a chilling, but intensely and powerfully written story that touches on the very heart of modern society’s self-destructive alienation.
Other stories, cut loose from narrative convention, seem to drift into a fragmented world of desire and decay. The pieces come to life with a sudden shocking image and the characters wander into the stories like ants into fresh paint. “Watch out,” you want to shout, “Don’t go that way!”

‘Snake’ is one of the pieces which dispenses with narrative convention altogether. In this brief fictional flight, Kendall presents us with a woman, Rosario, who waits for the arrival of a doctor who will perform an operation. But we are never sure of the precise nature of the operation. At times Rosario’s dread implies that the doctor has come to perform an abortion but this is never made explicit and this infuriating lack of certainty is what gives the story its strength or, for some readers, represents its major flaw. I don’t think Kendall wrote this story to satisfy readers who want everything explained. In ‘Snake’ objects mutate, giving the reader the unnerving sense that nothing is quite what it seems. Is the doctor really a doctor or is he a murderer or a priest coming to exorcise evil? Rosario herself seems uncertain about her situation: at times she is petrified, on the point of fleeing; at others she anticipates a state of euphoria. The story is a mere three pages long but it manages to convey Rosario’s changing perspective, her emotional fragility, in depth. Kendall achieves this emotional intensity by presenting the reader with one inexplicable image after another. The story disorientates the reader from the first sentence: “The flotsam and jetsam of insectacentric circles spelling out precious words on the wall. Murder and blood.”

We make of the story what we will. Kendall seems not to care whether we are following or not, yet, with each disjointed image, the story builds to from a multi-layered object, which, like Duchamp’s sculpture, depicts a fragmented whole, a contradiction, a verbal puzzle which must be different for each reader. This is no easy task, since Kendall risks alienating her reader, but what we finally perceive is the central female character, stripped of accepted meaning, violated, but also, somehow, remade and liberated.

Rachel Kendall is fond of manipulating her characters in unexpected and often horrible ways. Only a few of the characters seem to escape this manipulation: in ‘Eat Me, Eat Me’ the apparent victim turns out to be play-acting. And in ‘Solid Gold’ a woman comes into possession of the essence of her cravings. Whilst these two women exercise some element of control over their fate, more often the characters seem possessed by a paralysing lassitude. Their fates have been sealed and they know it; they are merely puppets acting out the fantasies of their creator, who treats them with dispassionate disdain. Men are stripped of their masculinity, women of any vestige of femininity or maternal aspiration. Doom flickers like the bonfire of all their extraneous characteristics – every fibre of vanity or virtue, up in smoke.

This collection is not an easy reading experience, nor is it in any degree comfortable. There were times when I longed for some relief from the pervading atmosphere of existential gloom, yet there is also an invigorating originality in these stories which makes them irresistible. The stories are often experimental and in these days of anodyne and formulaic cultural expression, we must surely celebrate the nerve of an author who takes a calculated risk and pulls it off with such panache.

this review first published here

April 15, 2010

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature,msizi moshoetsi — ABRAXAS @ 5:53 pm

SEVEN

ZINGER

“Nice hairstyle, where did you do it? Trish asks as they sit with Deep on the balcony watching people go by. They have smoked the peace pipe, at a very high cost for Deep, Trish is still denying him his conjugal rights. But half a loaf is better that no bread. Before Deep can respond Zinger and his girlfriend Pat appear on his lenses from the street carrying bags of groceries. They wave excitedly when they spot Deep and Trish.

“Who are the two lovebirds? Trish enquires forgetting her earlier question.
“That’s my new neighbor Zinger, and that is his girlfriend Pat. She is a great fan of my show” Deep explains proudly. Pat seems to find the idea that her boyfriend stays next to a dj exciting. People are excited by titles, they always forget you find bad deejays just like you find bad doctors, and lawyers, and writers.

“Is that the guy who borrows toilet rolls? Trish is excitedly intrigued.
“That’s the one, I wonder if he bought any this time? Deep responds.
“Maybe we will soon find out, here let me have a look at them” she says wrestling the binoculars from Deep and focusing on the street. Deep is dismayed.
“But you are going to see them when they come up”
“I want to take a closer look” she says her eyes buried on the lenses. Deep is frustrated he cannot play with his toy. So he watches her watch people.
“I am organizing a girlfriend for Graphit, he is going to love her” she informs him as she focuses on the street.
Deep is remotely interested. He is dying to have his binoculars in his hands again.
“How do you know he is going to love her?
“She is a vegetarian, and a very passionate woman” she explains.
Deep is not convinced that could be the basis for loving someone. But he does not care, he just wants his binoculars back so he can take a closer look.
“I met her at my boutique, she is beautiful”
That is probably the reason Graphit would love her, Deep thinks.
Zinger appears from his balcony with his girlfriend Pat. He is in a jovial mood as usual. Deep quickly takes the binoculars from Mimi and looks at Zinger and Pat real close. He adjusts and readjusts the focus, they look distant and near, he is happy. Zinger makes some funny gestures in front of the lenses.
“Wait, lets shoot each other, let me shoot you shooting me” he quickly produces a camera from his bag and takes a picture while Deep looks at him through the binoculars.
“I am gonna make you famous” he threatens wagging a finger at them. He smiles at Trish and extends a hand to her.
“I m Zinger, this is my girlfriend Pat and you must be Trish”. They all greet each other shaking hands.
“Today is your lucky night, I am having a birthday party for close friends, and you are the guests of honour” he informs them and explains they would meet at his flat later in the evening before they leave for the Sophiatown Bar Lounge to celebrate.
“Nice hairstyle Deep, we should hire your maid fulltime as our personal hairdresser” is Zinger’s parting shot before they disappear inside.
Deep’s heart sinks. A black cloud descends over Trish’s face, she is looking at him as if she is ready to devour him alive.
“Your maid did your hair, why did you not tell me?
“I did not think it was important”.
“Your maid plays with your hair, and you don’t think that’s important?
There is another argument about the maid. But the fight cannot get worse, he is already denied sex, what can be worse than that?

*****************

As a hilarious gesture, Deep buys Zinger a twenty four roll of toilet paper as a birthday present. The whole room breaks into laughter. There are about a dozen couples in the room who look like peasants. Poverty is in fashion. Most are dressed in loosely fitting jeans that show their underwear. They have a crouching style of walking. Some have bags strapped on their bags even when they are sitted. It is not a heavy load.

They look cool even though it is cold. They also like to use the word “cool” a lot. It is cool to be cool. Some have covered their heads with hoods even though it is not raining inside. Zinger brings forward a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black whisky and various alcohol labels from Heineken to Peroni, Brutal Fruit and Sminorff Ice. He switches off the sound system and calls for everyone’s attention so he could say some grace. When everyone was quiet he closed his eyes and prayed:
“We ask you O Lord to please bless this alcohol we are about to drink in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen”
“This is blasphemy, how can we pray for something that is anti-God” someone protests.
“Its like praying to God for protection before robbing a bank” a young man simply called Blaze says.
“I think its cool” someone says coolly.
A big debate follows as the alcohol flows generously. Zinger argues that great men of the bible like Noah took wine and got drunk. He even reads a verse from his bible that said Jesus had turned water into wine at a wedding.

Zinger’s flat is like a museum of photographs. There are all kinds of photos mostly of naked women. He calls them art. They are graphic without being offensive or sexually suggestive. How can nudity of a woman be offensive? He seems to prefer photos in black white which are the dominant feature of the room.

The arrangement of the room is in disarray. You get the feeling the furniture stands in the way. There is a sense of impermanence about it. It is confusing in the sense that you do not know if the occupants are moving in or moving out. It has something to do with Zinger’s lack of direction. He is one of those people who cannot tell their north from their south or left from right. When he comes to one of those doors that says push he pulls, when it says pull he pushes. That is not the only odd thing about the place. Something seems conspicuous by its absence to Deep amid all the photos. Finally he realizes it is Zinger;s photos which are missing. Which makes sense after all, he is always behind the lens. There are photos of everything except of himself.

Today he is celebrating different things, firstly it his birthday which has concided last week with the news that he had received funding to hold an exhibition that would tour the whole of South Africa. The theme of the exhibition would be “PORTRAITS FROM A Y LENS, VOLUME ONE”. It is not completely an original idea, it is borrowed from a famous deejay’s album. Deep finds it clever.

He engages them in one of his new found favourite riddles. A beautiful girl sees a most handsome man in her mother’s funeral and immediately falls in love with him. The man leaves after the funeral without leaving behind any contact details. Three weeks later she kills her sister. The question is why?
Because the sister slept with the man she loved” everyone speculates
“She finds out she killed her mother”
“It is the man who killed her mother”
the correct answer is she hopes the man would pitch up at the sister’s funeral
everyone is shocked, they all find it grossly sick.
You must all be happy you got this one wrong. It is used by the police to test whether a suspect has psychotic tendencies. Only psychopaths get it right.

Later in the evening they take the party to Sophiatown Bar Lounge which has an air of the fifties and sixties Johannesburg about it. Photos from Drum of yesteryears adorn the walls. The candles on the tables served as a setting for a romantic mood.
Later they move to Bassline. The statue of Brenda Fassie towers in front of Bassline looming larger than life. She looks like she is ready, ready to break into song and dance again. Brenda Fassie had been famous for life, and Newtown had once been her favorite playground. There are many other wooden head statues that line up the streets of Newtown but none have the pomp and ceremony of Brenda Fassie’s.

Maybe it is the romantic mood, or the alcohol but late at night when the liquor is flowing generously Zinger gets down on his knees and proposes to Pat.
A tearful Pat accepts immediately. Everyone is congratulating them excitedly. Later in the flat Deep voices his disapproval of Zinger’s proposal. It is stupid to propose to a girl on your birthday, what if they divorce in future, will he still find his birthdays memorable? This has the potential to spoil all future birthdays for Zinger.

Later at Deep’s flat, Trish breaks down and cries. She finds the whole proposal thing very moving.

April 14, 2010

elias canetti – word attacks

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 9:35 pm

It would be presumptuous of me and it would certainly be pointless to tell you what we owe to language. I am only a guest in the German language, which I learned at the age of eight, and the fact that you are welcoming me in it today means more to me than if I had been born in its realm. I cannot even regard it as a credit that I held on to German when I came to England over thirty years ago and decided to remain. For continuing to write in German was as much a matter of course as breathing and walking. I could not have done otherwise, another possibility was never even considered. Furthermore, I was the willing prisoner of several thousand books that I had been fortunate enough to bring along, and I do not doubt that they would have viewed me as an apostate from their midst had I made even the slightest change in my relationship to them.

But perhaps I can tell you something about what happens to language under such circumstances. How does it resist the unflagging pressure of the new environment? Does anything alter in its aggregate state, in its specific weight? Does it become more domineering, more aggressive? Or does it turn into itself and hide? Does it grow more intimate? After all, it might conceivably become a secret language, that one uses only for oneself.

Well, the first thing to happen was that one confronted it with a different sort of curiosity. One compared more, especially in the most everyday phrases, in which the differences were conspicuous and palpable. Literary confrontations turned into very concrete encounters in socializing. The earlier or chief language became odder and odder, namely in details. /Everything/ about it was conspicuous, whereas earlier only a few things were that.

At the same time, one could sense a lessening of self-complaisance. For one personally saw cases of writers who had given up and gone over to the new country’s language for practical reasons. They lived, so to speak, in the vanity of their new effort, which was meaningful only if it succeeded. How often did I hear both gifted and ungifted people say in almost silly pride” ‘I now write English!’ Yet the man who clung to the earlier written language, and without any prospect of achieving some external goal, must have regarded himself as abdicating in terms of the public. He competed with no one, he was alone, he was also a bit ridiculous. He was in a predicament, it seemed hopeless, the people sharing his fate might consider him a fool, and the people in the host country, among whom he did have to live, viewed him for a long time as a nobody.

Under such circumstances, it can be expected that many things become more private and more intimate. One says certain things to oneself that one would otherwise never have let pass. The conviction that nothing will ever come of it, that it has to remain private – no readership is conceivable, after all – gives one a bizarre sense of freedom. Among all these people who speak their daily things in English, one has a secret language for oneself, which serves no outer purposes anymore, which one utilizes nearly alone, to which one clingsmore and more obstinately, the way people may cling to a faith that is taboo in their greater environment.

Well, that is the more superficial aspect of the matter; there is a further aspect, that one realizes only gradually. A man with literary interests tends to assume it is the works of writers that represent a language to one. To some extent, that is certainly the case; and ultimately, one does live on them. But the discoveries one makes by living in the realm of a different language include a very special one: namely, that it is the words themselves that do not let one go, the individual words per se, beyond any larger intellectual contexts. The peculiar strength and energy of words can be felt most strongly when one is often forced to replace them with others. The dictionary of the hardworking student who has striven to learn a foreign tongue is suddenly reversed, everything wants to be named as it was named earlier and actually. The second language, which one hears all the time anyway, becomes banal, it is taken for granted; the first language, defending itself, appears in a special light.

I recall that in England, during the war, I filled page after page with German words. They had nothing to do with what I was working on. Nor did they join together into any sentences, and naturally they did not figure in the notes I jotted down in those years. They were isolated words, never yielding any sense. It would suddenly take me by storm, and I would cover a few pages with words, as fast as lightning. Very often they were nouns, but not exclusively; there were also verbs and adjectives among them. I was ashamed of these attacks and concealed the pages from my wife. I spoke German with her; she had come with me from Vienna. I know of very little else that I ever concealed from her.

I viewed these word attacks as pathological and did not wish to make her uneasy; like all other people, we had enough things to make us uneasy and that could not be concealed. Perhaps I should also mention that it really goes against my grain to smash words or warp them in any manner, their form is inviolable for me, I leave it intact. Thus, one can hardly imagine a more foolish occupation than stringing together unscathed words. When I sensed that such a word attack was imminent, I would lock myself in as though to work. I ask your forgiveness for bringing up such a private absurdity, but I must add that I felt extremely happy during such fits. Since then, there has been no doubt for me that words are charged with a special kind of passion. They are really like human beings, they refuse to be neglected or forgotten. However they may be preserved, they maintain their life; they suddenly spring forth and demand their rights.

Word attacks of that sort are certainly a sign that the pressure on language has gotten very great, that one not only knows – in this case – English well, but also that it very often forces itself upon one. A rearrangement has formed in the dynamics of words. The frequency of what one hears leads not only to one’s noting it, but also to new inducements and suggestions, motions and countermotions. Many an old, current word freezes in the struggle with its adversary. Others rise above any context and radiate in their irreplaceability.

This is not a case – as must be stressed – of mastering a foreign tongue at home, in a room, with a teacher, backed up by all the people who speak as one is accustomed to hearing in one’s own town, at all hours of the day. Actually, one is at the mercy of the foreign tongue in /its/ precinct, where all people are on its side, and together and with a semblance of legality, they smash in on one with their words, heedlessly, steadfastly, and incessantly. Furthermore, one knows one remains, one does not go back – not after a few weeks, not after months, not after years. Hence, it is crucial to understand everything one hears; that, as everyone knows, is the hardest thing at first. Then one keeps imitating until it too is understood. In addition, something happens in reference to the earlier language: one has to make sure it does not intrude at the wrong time. So it is gradually repressed, one encloses it, one propitiates it, one puts it on a leash; and as much as one secretly fondles and caresses it, in public it feels neglected and rejected. No wonder that it sometimes takes revenge and ambushes one with swarms of words, which remain isolated, do not join into any meaning, and whose onslaught would be so ludicrous for others that it merely forces one to be even more secretive.

It may seem highly inappropriate to make such an ado about these private linguistic situations. In a time when everything is getting more and more enigmatic, when the existence of not just individual groups but literally all mankind is at stake, when no decision turns out to be a solution, for there are too many mutually contradictory possibilities, and no one is capable of even sensing most of them, because too much is happening, and we find it out too soon, and before we have even grasped it, we are already finding out the next thing – in a time that is swift, menacing and rich, and developing more and more richly because of that menace, in such a time, if a man takes the liberty of thinking, one would expect something different from him than the tale of the agony of words, occurring independently of their meaning.

If, however, I /have/ said a little about that, then I owe you an explanation. It strikes me that today’s man, charged with more and more in his fascination with the universal, is seeking a private sphere, which is not unworthy of him, which is clearly distinct from the generality, yet is perfectly and more accurately reflected in it. What I mean is a kind of translation from one into the other, not a translation that one selects as a free game of the mind, but one that is both incessant and necessary, forced by the constellations of external life, and yet is more than a compulsion. For many years now, I have been involved in this translation; however, the private sphere in which I have settled now, albeit not comfortably, and in which things should be conscientious and responsible, is the German language. Whether I shall succeed in satisfying it in this fashion – I cannot say. But the honour which you have paid me today, and for which I thank you, is something that I shall take as a propitious omen that I might still succeed.

1969

god of the church of johannesburg

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:10 am

EIGHT

He has to travel the long and wide way of the street. Unlike the countryside, in Johannesburg there are no short routes to traverse, you have to take the long and wide way of the street. The way that is full of theatre. The theatre where people play their respective roles, with or without fail at the fall and rise of the curtain. In Johannesburg the streets are slippery. You have to tread carefully. You have to guard against stumbling across someone’s dream, or someone’s defeated dream, like a bed of a hobo on the street.

Hawkers are peddling pornography as he goes by. Naked porn stars line up every street corner as he goes by. The whole Johannesburg is clothed with nakedness. There is something about summer that makes Johannesburg want to strip naked. Less is more is the unofficial rule of the street. Everywhere he goes women’s nipples stare at him. The nipples are so daring and flirtatious, they look you straight in the eye and smile.

But no one cares. Everyone is dazed. We back in the daze. We are drifting in a haze. We stare with an empty gaze, As we choke in a blaze.
Our waning star has no glaze, Sanity is the new craze. Maintain your sanity, in the face of all insanity. Ignore the gunfire, if you cannot see the stray bullets. But can you see the stray bullets mingling with innocent bystanders? One of these days, the stray bullets are gonna hit home and render all of us invisible. The violence has moved from the national stadium into the family yard. Nakedness has ambushed our collective national psyche. We all feel it with our minds on a more personal level. It is so close it has become our second skin.

Hawkers line up the streets of Johannesburg as if in a guard of honor. Soon there would be more hawkers than buyers. If that is not already the case. It either signifies unemployment or entrepreneurial spirit. Nigerian dvd’s are some of the most successful commodities on the street. The mr Ibu character has established a cult following on the street. People stop on the street to watch his videos played by the hawkers

Deep is a flyer collector. Flyer distributors line up the streets next to hawkers and slip the flyers through your fingers as if it was some big world conspiracy. They never make eye contact. Deep collects the flyers and scans through them. One is about CHEAP ABORTIONS, another about PENIS ENLARGEMENT whilst the other is about the services of a powerful traditional healer from West Africa. He throws them away in the next available bin in full view of the flyer distributors. The distributors do not care. They have done their job. They are minus another troublesome flyer. The flyers are too many anyhow.

Deep has also done his bit for social responsibility and job creation. Everyone is happy. In some building entrances there are other flyer distributors who call on to people about jobs inside. These ones fascinate him the most. He wonders why they do not take the available jobs (if indeed they are available) for themselves. Are they happy with the job of shouting to passersby?

A man in a women’s dress calls on customers with a loud hailer as he dances to a kwaito hit inside a retail shop. They always play kwaito or house, they never play jazz, or the blues. Most shops sell different ranges of products from mobile phones, irons, stoves, television sets and dvd players. Surveys say it costs less than four hundred to buy a dvd player in South Africa. They are right, he can see the prices ranging from two fifty to four hundred. Statistics say more people prefer to watch dvd’s at home than go to the cinema. Well he does not belong to the more people category, he is going to the cinema.

Well toned figurines advertise the clothes on display. There is never a fat figurine, or a short one. All are tall and slim, this is considered the desired figure, a paragon of size perfection. They usually have the same colour, which looks neutral and unoffensive.

He looks at the clothes on display with no intention of buying. He looks just for the fun of it. He looks at a vest on display. He never wears vests. Those fitness fanatics put him off vests permanently. They would wear those vests in scorching cold just to show off their muscles. They walk broad shouldered, arms flinging like rigid robots. They never move out of the way. They want you to feel the impact of their shoulder bump. Victims of excess-size. They walk like they are looking for war. They should all be sent to the Middle East.

In Johannesburg there is no dust which rises up in July. Everything is concrete. People walk on concrete. And they have also become concretized like the world they walk on. They have become immune to sensitivity. It’s a dog eat dog world. Many live on bread and water alone. Mostly just on hope. And hope itself is losing hope fast. Dreams themselves dream of a better tomorrow. They dream of being realized sooner than later. They dream of better imaginings from their hosts. But right now they are too confined to fame, fortune and glory. No one dreams of the heights of godliness. No one dreams of wisdom. Which perhaps inspired one Biblical prophet on proverbs 1: 20 to lament:

Wisdom cries out in the street
In the squares she raises her voice
At the busiest corner she cries out
At the entrance of the city gates she speaks
“how long, oh simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you
Because I have called and you refused
Have stretched out my hand and no one heeded
And because you have ignored all my counsel”

People look up at buildings as if in awe of them. As if they are the ultimate things to look at. They never look up at the heavens. The people up the buildings look down on people. Need we say more? The buildings are decaying and grey. Others are young and vibrant. It is art, or is it technology, mimicking life.
.
It is a Tuesday which means he can watch two movies at Goodhope in Market Street for five rands. When the double feature ends he proceeds to Kine in the Carlton Centre where he watches another movie for ten rands.

When the movie is finished in the afternoon he crosses Commissioner to Market, he turns right and crosses Von Weiligh. The problem with Johannesburg is that the streets keep calling you. Johannesburg is not like Durban or Cape Town. There is no sea to stop you on your tracks. The streets keep calling your name with a spellbinding chant. He goes further down towards Doornfontein and is surprised to find a shady cinema on the corner of Market and Mooi.

He walks in to kill some more time. He is even more surprised they screen double feature adult movies for ten rands. The small cinema is very dark and the darkness seems to filter further into your mind. An attendant helps him to find a seat with the use of a torch. There is a break after the first movie and the attendant comes in to sell them snacks, pies and cold-drinks. He looks around him and sees there are about twenty people. He wonders if the cinema makes much profit. In the second movie the sex scenes are explosive but he feels they could have done better with a stronger storyline. You see one sex movie you have seen them all he thinks. He goes out before the movie is over and is surprised to find the night has set in.

His mind thinks about his maid as he walks the street. The maid is haunting him for no particular reason. She haunts him just for the fun of it.. He walks up Troye and sees prostitutes lining up the streets. Second and third hand women selling their souls to everyone, even to the lowest bidder. He sees policemen patrolling in vans as if they are also looking for sex. They should be arrested. But who would arrest them? As he passes one derelict building a prostitute whistles to him from the shadows. A black mini skirt barely covers her succulent thighs. When he comes closer she gives him the prices. It is twenty rand for a blow job. Thirty rand for sex with a condom and fifty rand without a condom. They could have been discussing the price of meat and she the butcher.

What is the real worth of a human being? What is the real value of her vagina? Does she sell body parts or the whole package? What is the totality of her body parts? What is the price of the act in your mind heart and soul? Is the spirit left intact after the transaction? Is her very life part of the deal. Does it include her pride and dignity? For how much was Joseph sold by his brothers to the Egyptians. How does she work, does she moisten her vagina and switch off her mind, her entire life, momentarily for his own bliss. They say to be happy you must love your job. Does she love her job, is she happy? So many questions. The questions are always easier than the answers.

She ushers him inside a disused building with broken windows. She leads him to the second floor as they jump over mattresses. In the second floor they find another man and prostitute having sex on a mattress on the floor. She lays down a mattress on the floor and begins taking off her blouse. He slids down his trousers and underpants but finds out his member would not rise to the occasion. The girl rubs his penis with her hands to get it up to no avail. Guilty feelings are overwhelming him.

Images of Trish flood his mind. He is uncomfortable with the fact that other people are having sex in the same room as them. Under the bright lights he no longer finds the woman sexy. What if the policemen raided the place? He sees a headline in his mind “DJ CAUGHT WITH HIS PANTS DOWN”. Suddenly he sees the image of his mother bending down to suck his penis. It is the most excruciating experience he has ever had. His penis goes limp. He quickly pulls his pants up and tells the woman he does not feel like it anymore but will still pay for her time. She is greatly offended he thinks his dick is too good for her pussy. She takes the money complaining she does not take charity. She calls him a snobbish faggot as he walks away with wounded pride.

MANCHILD

He tries to walk everyday, it is healthy. The problem with the world is that people do not walk anymore.
On market street he meets a young boy of about seventeen who offers to sing for him at a fee of fifty cents. The boy is not a boy, he just assumes he is a boy.
“I know you” Deep says “you sing for commuters at the Noord Street Taxi Rank”
“It’s a free country” the boy says “I sing everywhere I want”
Deep walks away dejectedly. He is disappointed the boy knows that line about a free country. There are too many clichés and common expressions in modern language. No one ever says anything new anymore. Does it mean that everyone, despite their social classes, read the same books, watch the same channels and listen to the same people?
Deep is so disappointed with the manchild he needs to talk to him some more.
“What’s your name” he asks
“My name is Lucky, but I don’t feel lucky” he responds penetrating him with his eyes. His eyes do not look so much as to search you.
Why?
“If I was lucky I would not be literally singing for my supper”
When Deep takes a closer look he realizes the boy is a man trapped in the body of a boy. His voice when he speaks is deeper than when he sings. His voice is full of scars earned from history but not broken.
“Why don’t you change your name then?
Manchild thinks about it and his face suddenly lights up as if some revelation has just dawned on him.
“Of course, change my name and change my destiny, I have never thought of it that way” he exclaims searching him some more with his eyes.

“When I changed my name, I also changed my spirit, you can do the same thing for yourself, in fact I can change your name in the most spectacular way”
The idea Deep has is to invite the manchild to his show and the listeners can vote on a name after hearing him sing. During the show manchild tells the listeners his whole story. He is a man struggling to free himself from the body of a boy. At the age of twelve, he had been sentenced into taking his youthful face into the future. He had resigned himself to the reality he would never grow up. And people condemned him to that realization: you, you will never grow up” they said.

They blamed him for not growing up: this one never grows up they said. He also spoke with a lisp in his tongue which made his speech incoherent. And people shouted at him: don’t speak too fast, we cannot hear you. Manchild, once a bubbly child, began withdrawing to himself. He seldom spoke but found his expression in singing. To his surprise, he found out when he sang he did not sing with a lisp. And people blamed him when he sang: he sings so well because he is old” they pointed fingers at him. So manchild began to resent the home and the community he had loved so much.

He ran to the bright lights of Johannesburg hoping to find respite and some stardom and fortune. But the stardom and fame were so elusive he found himself on the foyer of Park Station. He learnt to survive by singing for his lunch and supper. Though he sang for his belly, he did not sing much from his belly as from his heart. He sang himself through tears to sleep. When he finishes telling his story to the spellbound listeners he starts to sing. He sings in a long haunting voice. His voice sounds like it is squeezed between a hard rock and a hard rock. It is a sad but beautiful voice.

It reminds Deep of the dark alleys in Hillbrow, of silence screaming in an empty space, a sharp knife gyrating against a tender skin. His voice makes the listeners so sad they are happy. And because they are happy they cry.
One listeners calls in and asks: do you have any happy songs?
Anything happy would not be from my heart” manchild replies.
Because the listeners feel his voice embraces their collective soul they resolve to name him ‘Zwilethu” our voice.

nelson mandela on d.j. opperman

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 11:05 am

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