Penguin-skrywers wat by die Woordfees gaan optree sluit in Zelda la Grange, De Wet Potgieter, Marguerite Poland en Dennis Cruywagen.
Kom luister na die gesprek tussen La Grange en Piet Croucamp in die Boektent op Maandag, 9 Maart. Die joernalis De Wet Potgieter gaan op dieselfde dag ook met Croucamp gesels oor sy boek, Black Widow White Widow.
PJ Powers gaan op Dinsdag, 10 Maart, gesels oor al die struikelblokke wat sy in haar lewe moes oorkom en Calvin en Thomas Mollett gaan op Saterdag, 14 Maart, vertel waarom hulle net nie die Inge Lotz-dossier daar kon laat nie. Op Vrydag, 13 Maart, gesels Ilse Salzwedel oor haar boek, Van sprokie tot tragedie in die kollig.
Moenie die heerlike gesprek oor vertaling tussen Daniel Hugo en Poland op Woensdag, 11 Maart, misloop nie.
Meer besonderhede oor Penguin se skrywers wat vanjaar by die Woordfees ’n draai sal maak:
Zelda la Grange: Goeiemôre, mnr. Mandela / Good morning, Mr Mandela Datum: Maandag, 9 Maart Tyd: 11:00 Plek: Boektent Koste: R50
As persoonlike assistent vir Nelson Mandela het Zelda la Grange ‘n simbool van versoening in Suid-Afrika geword. Haar Goeiemôre, mnr. Mandela was oornag ŉ blitsverkoper en vertel die merkwaardige verhaal van hoe ‘n jong Afrikaanse vrou se lewe dramaties verander het aan die sy van ‘n wêreldikoon. Piet Croucamp gesels met haar.
De Wet Potgieter: Al-Qaeda in South Africa Datum: Maandag, 9 Maart Tyd: 15:00 Plek: Erfurthuis Koste: R40
Uit die pen van die omstrede, vreeslose joernalis De Wet Potgieter kom Black Widow White Widow. Hy lig die sluier oor Al-Kaïda se bedrywighede in Suid-Afrika – en gesels hier met Piet Croucamp oor ‘n realiteit waarvan ons min weet, en wat mense se nekhare regop sal laat staan.
PJ Powers: Here I am Datum: Dinsdag, 10 Maart Tyd: 16:00 Plek: Die Khaya Koste: R50
Die legendariese PJ Powers se lewensverhaal is deur Marianne Thamm opgeteken in Here I Am. Sonder om doekies om te draai, vertel Thandeka, soos Powers deur haar aanhangers in Soweto gedoop is, van die struikelblokke wat sy moes oorkom. Twee formidabele vroue aan die woord.
Hugo and Poland: Vertaler en vertaalde Datum: Woensdag, 11 Maart Tyd: 11:00 Plek: Boektent Koste: R50
Marguerite Poland word tereg beskou as ‘n grande dame van Suid-Afrika se Engelse letter-kunde. Nou klink haar stem vir die eerste keer ook op in Afrikaans. Die skrywer gesels met haar vertaler, Daniel Hugo, oor haar jongste roman, The Keeper, wat in Afrikaans as Die bewaker verskyn het.
Die Oscar-sage Datum: Vrydag, 13 Maart Tyd: 11:00 Plek: Boektent Koste: R50
Ilse Salzwedel (Van sprokie tot tragedie in die kollig) en Marida Fitzpatrick (Die Staat vs. Oscar), albei gerespekteerde joernaliste, ondersoek die Oscar Pistorius-moordverhoor uit verskeie invalshoeke. Elmari Rautenbach gesels met hulle oor die hofsaak, die komplekse informasieweb rondom die tragedie, en familie en vriende na aan Oscar en Reeva se indrukke.
Bloody Lies: Die Inge Lotz-dossier heropen Datum: Saterdag, 14 Maart Tyd: 13:00 Plek: Boektent Koste: R50
Twee amateur-ondersoekers, Calvin en Thomas Mollett, heropen die Inge Lotz-moorddossier in Bloody Lies. Deon Knobel stel vrae aan Thomas oor hul evaluering van bewysstukke in dié opspraakwekkende moordsaak wat fassinerende en onthutsende inligting na vore ge-bring het. Het die staat en die regstelsel Inge gefaal?
Aerodrome has shared an excerpt from Melissa Siebert’s debut novel, Garden of Dreams.
This cross-cultural and cinematic novel takes the reader to the dark underworld of child trafficking in India and Nepal, following Eli, a young boy, as he leads a group of children to safety.
The excerpt below reflects the difficulty of journey they have to face as they stand on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, facing the massive crowds of people, animals and different modes of transportation. Eli has brought with him the ashes of a friend to scatter in the most sacred river in India, a task which makes him feel “part of some great mystery, some great secret about the meaning of life, and death”.
Read the excerpt:
Follow the corpses to the river. A shopkeeper had told them that as they’d entered the city. Looking, sounding, smelling like any other Indian city with its hot, polluted haze and traffic of people, cows, rickshaws, motorbikes, buses, cars, all weaving in and out of each other’s way with startling grace.
Or they could follow Sanjit Baba, the holy man they had been following east to Varanasi for the last week, on the road, part of his pilgrimage. Countless other sadhus were converging on the banks of the Ganges, colouring the stream of human, animal and vehicular traffic with their ochre turbans and robes, like mobile flames. Jeeps, vans and pick-ups laden with corpses garlanded in marigolds hooted past, the bereaved families jostling along with the departed. Eli and the girls could get lost in these hordes; no one would ever find them.
R Teresa O’Connell interviewed Ghana Must Go author Taiye Selasi, asking her about the expectation that African writers need to write African novels and her belief that African literature does not exist.
Selasi says: “I don’t perceive myself as writing about Nigeria and Ghana, I perceive myself as writing a novel about a family, in Ghana Must Go, about a young girl in The Sex Lives of African Girls, and about a young boy in Driver, those are my three published works. But because I am of West African origin, the works are perceived as they are commentaries on the countries that my parents come from. Which you know, is tiresome, quite frankly.”
O’Connell also asks Selasi about the theme of migration and identity which seems important in her work, and the visual nature of her writing. Read the article:
We seem to have this expectation that African literature should deal with the same social and political issues that we are shown by our mediatic representations of the continent. Would you say that bypassing these issues could be a solution to paint a different picture?
Not bypass it, but understand the way you would if they were British. I mean, when you read a novel like A Line of Beauty for example, which is a wonderful novel set in 1980s England, it’s not immaterial that it’s the 1980s or that it’s England, it’s just that it’s not the only thing that we talk about. We look at the sexuality of the characters, we look at the neurosis, the nuances, the hopes the dreams the flaws, and in addition to the nationality, in addition to the class, but the geography doesn’t become the novel itself.
It seems that by focusing on this element perhaps a bit less than the literary community would expect you to do, in a novel of this kind, you’re saying just look at these people, and the fact that they are African, which as a role is something that not only we put on people from the african continent but that on the other hand they have only been too ready to put on themselves, I feel like your writing goes beyond that in a way, which doesn’t amount to saying that is solves the issue.
Well yes this whole discourse, I find it…some writers get really pissed off about it, but I don’t. I’m giving a speech in Berlin in September and it’s called ‘African Literature Doesn’t Exist’, and people get pissed off when I say this but it doesn’t, and literature is probably the one space where we can ask a bit more of ourselves, I mean the whole project is looking at human beings and story telling and I think, maybe because I love it so much, that there’s almost something sacred about it. We should know better, we should know better than to talk about an African book. What makes it an African book? Because it’s set in an African country, what does that mean? A book, a detective novel set in Botswana, I just don’t expect it to have anything in common with a family epic set in Ethiopia, which I don’t expect it to have that much in common with a slim, sort of existentialist meditation set in Cairo. But all of these things are on the African continent. But it’s just so empty, there’s not enought there for me, to tack that word onto something as thereful as literature. But people do.
The novel is based on Torr’s experiences in the real apartheid-era camp Greefswald, situated on the Limpopo River on the Botswana border. During apartheid, conscripts deemed unfit to join the South African Defense Force were sent to Greefswald to be “cured”.
Torr spoke to Grant-Marshall about this “experimental gulag” meant to turn “psychos, subnormals and deviants into fighting men”. It was only in 1976, when three soldiers stood trial for the rape of a Botswana woman, that the existence of Greefswald came to light.
Read the article:
The existence of Greefswald, nicknamed Vreeswald, a shadowy, whispered name in the SADF, was no longer a secret as journalists converged on it for the trial. “After the trial it was destroyed, almost overnight, by the army,” says Torr. “But files remain and we are trying to gain access to them. However, some are still classified.”
He is mystified about the reasons for a democratic South African government classifying files from an apartheid era of torture and brutality, but won’t speculate. “That’s why I have written a novel. It is fiction set in Greefswald.”
And fine fiction it is too. Torr, who was until recently global creative director of multinational advertising agency JWT, has a rich, colourfully textured way with words. He evokes the wide Limpopo, the lala palms, a wonderful variety of birds and animals, but dangerous snakes too that often bite the soldiers. He captures the dialogue between troops so vividly you feel you’re watching a movie.
Penguin Books is giving away one of four Christmas Book Hampers: for men, women, teenagers and children. The four categories contain the publisher’s pick of exciting titles, just in time for the festive season!
The books hamper for him contains More Fool Me by Stephen Fry, as well as books by Jeremy Clarkson and Clive Cussler. Books for her include The Keeper by Marguerite Poland and more books by Marian Keyes, Jojo Moyes and Sylvia Day.
To enter, visit the Penguin Books website and click on the Christmas stocking of your choice. You may enter a maximum of 10 times per category. The competition closes on Tuesday, 23 December, at 11:59 PM.
Expresso spoke to the Van de Ruit, director John Barker and producer Ross Garland about the newest film in the series. Van de Ruit wrote the screenplay for the movie, and has says giving his stratospherically successful book a new kind of life has been thrilling. The cast also spoke about what it was like working on the film, and even played a prank on their interviewer.
The brutal murder of a mother and her adopted daughter living on Huilwater, a Kalahari farm, opens a can of worms. Inspector Albertus Beeslaar, fresh from the city, is tasked with finding the people responsible for this heinous crime but answers aren’t easy to come by.
Read an excerpt from Weeping Waters, where an unsuspecting neighbour finds a scene nobody should ever have to witness: “Like animals. Both of them, just slaughtered. Blood. On everything. Everywhere.”
Read the excerpt:
* * * * * * * * *
The call came through just after two.
He was at his desk at the police station, having his lunch of vetkoek and mince. Washed down, as usual, with a mug of strong black coffee. Three sugars.
He was almost done when the phone rang.
One of the constables on duty in the charge office. “There’s been a murder,” the man gasped, “two dead. A farm killing. Woman and child. White. On Huil¬water farm, about forty kays out on the Upington road.” And then, “The caller’s still on the line. Would the Inspector like to speak to him?”
Inspector Albertus Markus Beeslaar shoved the vetkoek aside.
A man’s voice, shaky and hoarse. “Too late,” he kept repeating, “a madman … a devil …”
The voice broke off.
“Like animals. Both of them, just slaughtered. Blood. On everything. Every¬where.”
He said he was standing in it. Then the man began to sob, stammering about being too late.
It took some coaxing to get a name out of him. “Boet Pretorius,” he eventu¬ally answered. “From the farm next door.”
The child was barely four years old. “Four, just four,” he said, over and over again.
“Where’s the woman’s husband?” Beeslaar asked this several times.
“There is no fucking husband,” was the fierce reply. A foreman, yes, but he was nowhere to be found.
Where was he phoning from?
There was a long silence, as if the man had to think about it.
Then, “Good God, man! Get out of the house, now,” Beeslaar ordered. “Wait outside. I’m on my way.”
For a moment Beeslaar didn’t move. So much for a peaceful life on the plat¬teland, his dream of a quiet small-town post. He threw the vetkoek into his wastepaper basket and told the constable on duty to send more backup to Huil¬water. He rounded up two colleagues and got a car. The Citi Golf. The only one available in a carpool of two. No air con, a hundred and eighty thousand on the clock.
They squeezed in, ready to tackle the forty kilometres of dirt road.
Sergeant Pyl had to take the back, with Ghaap in the passenger seat. Beeslaar crammed his own two-metre frame behind the wheel. Cursing under his breath, as he did each time he got into the tiny car: the steering wheel too close to his knees, the seat too narrow, no legroom, his head against the roof, leaving him feeling hemmed in and pissed off. This afternoon was no exception. He was in a foul mood already, even before they hit the road that led to the murder scene.
But all that didn’t irritate him as much as the fact that he was still struggling to find his feet in this post: real city boy, ill at ease in a world of farmers and cattle and farm roads and sand and snakes and blazing-heat-without-air-con. He’d barely arrived, blissfully under the impression he was heading for a quiet job in a peaceful backwater, when the shit hit the fan and started flying in all directions.
He arrived right in the middle of an unprecedented wave of stock theft. And either he wasn’t a detective’s backside any more, or he was dealing with a super-sophisticated mafia. Because he could find neither hide nor hair of these crooks, no matter how hard he tried.
The farmers were at their wits’ end. And furious, because they were being nailed. Everyone wanted results, arrests – while he was having a hard time telling his arse from his elbow, let alone rounding up a cunning bunch of stock thieves.
And then, just a fortnight ago, two farm workers were brutally murdered on Vaalputs. They must have caught the thieves in the act. The remnants of a flock of sheep, some with throats cut, others with hock tendons slashed, had lain there, bleating and bleeding to death, all goddamn night. Till the farmer discov¬ered them the next morning and put them out of their misery. And only then found the bodies of the workers, the Jacobs brothers, underneath the carcasses, trampled to shreds by the panicked beasts.
And he, Albertus Markus Beeslaar, sat there like a damn fool. With everyone looking to him, the new guy with so many years of experience. Big Man from the Big City. Schooled by the cream of the crop of Johannesburg’s old Murder and Robbery Squad. But here he was now, blowing around like a lost fart. With not a clue about what to do next.
If only he had caught the thieves, the Huilwater woman and her child would still be alive to—
He narrowly dodged a pothole. Bumped his head, berated himself – stop brooding and focus on the road: the potholes were the size of chest freezers.
With half an ear, he listened to Sergeant Pyl behind him – the hyperactive one, who couldn’t keep his trap shut for a second, even if he had to shout to make himself heard above the din of gravel clattering against the chassis. There was lots of gossip, he said, about the single woman farming on Huilwater. An eccen¬tric artist from Johannesburg. And the Griqua girl she was adopting, and that weird Bushman farm manager of hers. Pyl’s voice was virtually drowned out as they rattled over a corrugated stretch of road, so that Beeslaar couldn’t always follow the thread.
Half an hour of shuffling, shaking and head-bumping. Pyl prattling on dog¬gedly from the back. Ghaap, his long, skinny body folded up like a stick insect on the seat next to him, was thankfully less talkative. Then they finally found the turn-off to Huilwater and stopped at the back door of the farmhouse.
Boet Pretorius was sitting on the back steps, his large figure hunched over. There was blood on his clothes. Stains on his knees and forearms. Even in his hair. There was vomit on his shirt, and a dark smear on the hand that was clutching a cigarette.
Around him a wordless gathering of men: farmers from the district, driven in from God knows where.
Who’d sent word? Beeslaar wondered fleetingly. Pretorius?
One was still hovering in the kitchen doorway, his face pale and frightened. Probably went in to satisfy a macabre curiosity, Beeslaar thought as he headed for the group.
“Beeslaar,” he introduced himself, “and Sergeants Pyl and Ghaap. How many of you have been inside?”
He got his answer in the form of downcast faces, hands fumbling with a hat or a pistol at the hip.
“Christ,” he muttered, and walked past them.
The man at the door quickly stood aside. “There’s no one left,” he told Bees¬laar, who took a moment to comprehend what the man was trying to say.
“From now on, you all stay clear of this house,” Beeslaar barked. “This is a murder scene, not a fucking freak show!” He swallowed back his anger and then tried again, more evenly, “Please see to it that nobody leaves this place before I’ve talked to every one of you! Understood?” He waited sternly until they assented. Then he turned and went inside the house. Over his shoulder he ordered Pyl to man the back door – no one, apart from the forensics team from Upington, was permitted – and Ghaap, meanwhile, should start taking statements and round up some officers to find the farm labourers.
It was a particularly gruesome scene. In twenty years with the South African Police Service, he’d not witnessed anything like this. He saw the child first. In the first bedroom. Lying on her side, in a pool of blood. He could see the blood was fresh – a few hours, at most.
The woman’s body was in a second bedroom. She was sitting on the floor, her back against a chair. Her arms hung loosely, hands relaxed, palms open to the ceiling. Like a ragdoll propped upright on a child’s bed. But without a head. Or rather, from where he was standing in the doorway, he couldn’t see one. And he didn’t want to get too close – he’d wait for the team from Forensics. Not that this was a pristine murder scene, exactly.
The two bedrooms and the passage were covered in bloody tracks from the farmers traipsing in and out. Beeslaar felt his blood pressure rise.
The forensics team from Upington turned out to be one bloke. “Sorry I’m so late,” he said, introducing himself as Hans Deetlefs. “Without my gps I’d never have found the place!” He looked pretty pleased with himself and his gps, this man with the fresh face and big specs. He was a short man, but clearly minus the accompanying syndrome. And he seemed smart. Already kitted out in his plas¬tic coveralls and shoes, bag of tricks in his left hand, camera hanging from his neck. “Welcome to the wild North West, Inspector,” he said, blinking his little eyes in a self-satisfied way. “I hear you’re all the way from Joburg!”
Beeslaar mumbled a response, in no mood for chitchat.
Cheerily, Hans Deetlefs unpacked his case and deftly set to work, pointing out a detail to Beeslaar every now and then. Such as the fact that the woman’s head was actually there. Quite simply, her throat had been cut so deeply that her head fell backwards into the hollow of the seat. Together, they inspected the chaos in the bedroom. The drawers had been pulled from the wardrobe and emptied onto the floor in a tangle of underwear, scattered items of jewellery and cosmetics, and the mattress half dragged from the bed. As if someone had been searching for something. A low bookshelf lay upended and several books were spattered with blood; this had apparently happened before the killing.
“She must have sat watching,” Hans happily declared. “Bet you a hundred bucks they fed her roofies before murdering her.” He blinked up at Beeslaar.
“I’m not a gambling man,” Beeslaar grunted.
The blood was everywhere: walls, floor, bed. The woman’s long summer dress, light blue, was stained black. And outside, the front stoep too was a mess, with three sheepdogs and a mongrel lying in pools of blood.
Deetlefs wasn’t much bothered by the fucked-up state of the murder scene. “Shit happens,” he said with an irritating grin as he blinked again. His words were still hanging in the air when more shit threatened: Sergeant Ghaap appear¬ing in the doorway without foot protection, glowing cigarette in hand.
“Inspector, the guys outside wanna know if you can … umm, how long it’s going to take. They want to go.”
Beeslaar began counting to ten, but didn’t even reach three. “Fuck off with that cigarette! And then go and tell that bunch outside: if they want to spend the night in the cells, they must just try and leave here!”
When Beeslaar was finally satisfied that he’d seen everything, he left Deetlefs to it and stepped outside for some fresh air. And to listen to Pretorius’s story.
But there was a commotion and more violence threatened.
The farm manager had arrived. Before Beeslaar could stop them, a group of
young farmers pulled the man roughly from his truck and onto the ground, ready to beat the hell out of him. And then shoot him. Ghaap, Pyl and a couple of their colleagues had to break it up.
Adam de Kok was his name. An interesting figure, the Bushman foreman that Ghaap had mentioned. He’d been in town all day – with the Huilwater house¬keeper, Mrs Beesvel – doing the weekly grocery shopping and collecting stuff from the farmers’ Co-op. Beeslaar took them aside, walked with them to the manager’s house some thirty metres from the main homestead. They settled on the back stoep, where Beeslaar spoke to them both. But they were both shocked, knew nothing – the poor woman could hardly talk, she was so distraught. She broke down, speaking in gasps between sobs, about “her little ones”, “the evil world”, “too late”, “bad people”. The evil world indeed, Beeslaar thought, as De Kok comforted her.
There was little point in pressing them further right now. De Kok said he would take Mrs Beesvel – Outanna, he called her – inside for a cup of sweet tea, while Beeslaar stayed on the stoep to finish the questioning. He had the rest of the workers brought to him for interviews. Same story from each one of them: “saw nothing”, “heard nothing”. All of them were clearly beside themselves. Two more had to be fetched from a distant camp where they’d been repairing fences. And apart from the fact that they were also clearly shaken, they too knew noth¬ing.
Then Beeslaar moved on to the waiting farmers. Starting with Boet Pretorius.
“Went into town this morning, just the usual, Co-op and bank. Quick burger at the Dune, left at about half past one. And on my way back …” He grimaced. “I’m on the farm next door, Karrikamma,” he said. And no, he hadn’t noticed any strange or unusual vehicles around here, or along the way.
“I just wanted to stop by, the house is so close to the road, you know, you can just quickly pop in.”
Seven o’clock, almost five hours later. Deetlefs had just given the green light for the bodies to be taken away. The ambulance guy, an unwashed fellow with wine on his breath, had a hard time loading them up. The closest available pathologist was in Postmasburg.
The yard was suddenly quiet. The farmers gone, the one-man team from Up¬ington gone. Ghaap and Pyl on their way back to the station with the ops guys.
Beeslaar was alone. Sitting on the back steps, where he’d found Boet Pretorius earlier that afternoon. Looking out over the yard, at the two giant blue gums shading the back door. A lane of white karees separated the manager’s house from the main house.
A big zinc dam stood at the front of the house, a windmill alongside, its pump
straining, screeching as it drew water, its blunt blades a metallic grey against the sky. Dusk was falling. The setting sun flared red in the fine dust that hovered over the yard.
Beeslaar felt slightly nauseous. Not just because of the bloodbath he’d wit¬nessed that afternoon. It was the water. He’d been in this godforsaken place for two months, but still couldn’t get used to the brackish water, water that turned soap to scum and left chalky limescale rings in every glass. His body yearned for the stale swimming-pool flavour of Joburg tap water.
He tried putting Joburg out of his mind. It was a different life. He was here now. On this farm, in this heat.
Sweating like a pig. And thirsty, always thirsty.
But he also knew that now, sitting here, this thirst was the very least of his problems.
The novel is set in Southern Africa, in a remote town which the powers-that-be have conveniently neglected. Alois, the book’s eponymous thief, is a young man trying to scratch out a living. His town is one in which many people, and a number of hardy hens, are trying to scratch out a living.
In the excerpt, Alois is out stealing chickens. He has learned how to do this the hard way. He says there is always a manual for the easy things that you could really figure out yourself. For the difficult and dangerous things, you are on your own.
Read the excerpt:
Alois smelt the intruders before he saw them–or rather, he smelt their anger first. He knew the smell of anger well. He had learned to smell it coming, and to duck and run. The chickens knew too; they were restless, wings brushing against the wire that caged them in. They knew something was wrong, and yet it was not him they smelt. He had been here many times before. Even though tonight his bag was lighter than it should have been, Alois pulled himself back up into the branches and waited.
On average, Alois stole five to ten chickens per night. Five was a good take, easily achieved: ten, and his spirits soared. He kept his operation tight, spacing each grab, with no more than two chickens per house. Any more than two and he figured he might as well be running bare-arsed down the road and in the front door of police headquarters. No bird will stay quiet forever while its sisters disappear head first into a flour sack. Solidarity amongst chickens had been the death knell of many a careless thief.