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Andrew Brown and Karin Brynard Launch Weeping Waters Amidst Tears of Mirth

Karin Brynard

Congratulations are in order! That was the message, loud and clear, at Cape Town’s popular literary spot, The Book Lounge, last Monday night. It was bustling once again with readers eager to hear Andrew Brown and Karin Brynard discuss the latter’s book Weeping Waters. This book, which was written in Afrikaans and published in 2009 as Plaasmoord, was translated by Isobel Dixon and Maya Fowler.

Brown said, “There’s a lot that is fresh and new in terms of South African crime fiction writing, both in the author’s handling of the issues and in her style.” He said that hers is an important new voice in the local crime fiction writing scene.
Karin Brynard and Andrew BrownWeeping Waters

Brown asked Brynard about the challenges of writing violence and the taboos she encountered around depicting the grisly death of a child. Despite the fiendish and brutal nature of Weeping Waters, this was one point when the tears of mirth flowed: “Writing violence is a bit like writing sex,” she said. “I really struggle to write a steamy scene,” she confessed. Brown noticed that sex-writing had been avoided, “They were in the pool, then their clothes were coming off … and then they were having drinks afterwards?”

“Hmmmm … that part was a bit more explicit in the Afrikaans version,” she said, giggling. “Some Afrikaans words just don’t translate.” Language aside, Brynard said, “It’s difficult to get the pitch right for a good sex scene. You can go to the one side and it becomes purple-ish; on the other hand it’s too pinkish. To keep it right is very difficult. In terms of very gory violence, the story is good enough to carry it. It is justified.”

Brown concurred that the level of violence and gore had to serve the narrative and affirmed that this was a mark of Brynard’s skill. He said: “I don’t have a problem with lots of violence. If you read the violence in there, the scalping and the blood, the rivers and the stealing of bodies and body parts. It is so excellently written.” He then turned the conversation to the nature of the book in English as opposed to the original Afrikaans.

Brynard reflected on the nature of language in Postmasberg, where she grew up. “So much of it is a soundtrack that contains a whole history and the colour and tonality of the landscape of the book. If I think of the Karoo and the Northern Cape, looking at the people who live on the farms and name their farms, it is a very Afrikaans environment. Having grown up in a very typical Afrikaner home, very conservative, very far-removed from anything English, to us, the English were aliens.” Brown assured her that the English are, indeed, that.

Brynard referred to her AA Fellowship meetings, and the challenges of being in a predominantly English environment. “To really express myself about something I feel deeply about, I can’t do it in English. The moment I switch to English, it feels fake. Now, to see these earthy characters in the book, especially the Griquas, speaking English…”

Brown said that Weeping Waters works incredibly well in English. He wondered aloud whether it worked better in Afrikaans. Brynard said, “It’s hard to tell… I’m not an objective observer any longer.”

An animated question and answer session wrapped up a fabulous evening and many queued to have their books signed and to shake the author’s hand afterwards.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:


 

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