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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Podcast: Marguerite Poland on the Sense of Isolation and Desolation that Inspired The Keeper

The KeeperMarguerite Poland chatted to Nancy Richards on SAFM Literature about her new novel, The Keeper.

Poland said the story first occurred to her when she was just 14 years old, inspired by a schoolmate who gave a talk about being the daughter of a lighthouse keeper: “It was an absolutely riveting talk, not because of what she did, but the sense of isolation and desolation that came through. It wasn’t romantic, it was just so different.”

The author says the story stayed with her for many years before she decided to write The Keeper.

“It was not writing about a place as much as a state of mind,” she says. “I wanted to get into what would it be like to be that isolated.”

The conversation starts at 10 minutes:

Book details

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Storms and Intrigue in an Excerpt from the First Pages of Marguerite Poland’s New Novel, The Keeper

The KeeperPenguin Books has shared an excerpt from Marguerite Poland’s latest novel, The Keeper.

The extract comes from the start of the novel, when lighthouse keeper Cecil Beukes and his wife Maisie get a report that another keeper, Hannes, has fallen and needs to be rescued.

The bad weather – “white horses right to the horizon” – poses a challenge, but more intriguing is what could have made such a careful man fall: “There were two commandments known to all of them: The light must not go out. The keeper must not fall.”

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

When the call came, Maisie Beukes was alone in the keeper’s quarters.
Cecil had already gone on duty even though it was only five o’clock.
The call, she knew, would be from the Signal Office in the port. It should
have been no different from any other routine call – to relay messages, to list
supplies needed, to send news, to report on the light. The sole link with the
outside world. Island to shore, lighthouse to lighthouse through the medium
of the signalman’s radio phone. One lighthouse on its barren, bird-raddled
plateau – the most forlorn in the world – the other at the edge of a city.
That afternoon, a black southeaster blowing, the static was intense. It was
difficult to make out the words. Even after years of coaxing the radio-telephone
and learning to interpret its sudden startling squeals and plummets – sea
echoes, wind shear – Maisie could decipher little.
‘Hello? Can you hear me?’ shouted the signalman.
‘On and off!’ she yelled.
‘There’s been an accident in the lighthouse on the island. They need a
‘What happened?’
The static crackled again. Maisie turned towards the window to look out at
the bay as if, in doing so, she could make the distance smaller, gaze the voice
into existence at the distant port. It was no day for a boat to be out. There were
white horses right to the horizon.
‘Who needs the doctor?’
‘Mr Harker,’ shouted the signalman. ‘He fell down the tower.’
‘Oh my God! Is he alive?’
‘Yes. But something’s broken. I can’t be sure.’ His voice swooped and
darted. ‘The guano headman called and reported it.’
‘You must send the tug and a doctor. I’ll get hold of a relief keeper to
replace him.’
‘The weather’s terrible,’ the signalman said dubiously. ‘I don’t think the
Port Captain will let anyone sail. And anyway, it’s nearly dark.’
Maisie did not contradict him. She said, ‘Phone again in an hour.’
Goed. Dankie, mevrou Beukes.’ And he was gone.
Maisie glanced out again at the far curve of the bay, the turbulent sea, the
distant dune-fields. On impulse she called the Port Captain herself from the
house telephone in her dining room.
‘Bad weather,’ he said.
‘It’s serious.’
‘Who is it?’
‘The Senior Lighthouse Inspector, Hannes Harker.’
‘It’s dangerous to try and land a man in the dark. The weather will calm down
by tomorrow. Then we can make a decision.’
Maisie bristled. ‘He’s a lighthouse keeper, for God’s sake. If your tug was
going down he’d walk on water to help you.’ She wiped her face with the back
of her hand and drew a deep breath, calming herself.
Only lighthouse people knew; their code was unimpeachable.
‘Has anyone got hold of the doctor?’ the Port Captain asked.
‘I phoned you first.’
Jis!’ he muttered under his breath. ‘This could be a balls-up.’
‘OK, Mrs Beukes, listen. I’ll phone the doc and you find a relief keeper and
I’ll come back to you.’
‘Be quick,’ said Maisie.
‘Stay put.’
Maisie went to the back door and called across the yard. The wind was
strong enough to whip the white-bleached skin of broken shells from the
pathway. ‘Cecil?’
No reply.
A faint voice from the shed. ‘What is it, lovey?’
‘Come quickly.’ She peered out. ‘Cecil? I can’t leave in case the phone rings.’
Maisie went back into the kitchen and dragged the old kettle on to the
hotplate of the coal stove. She pulled the tray across the counter, took the
knitted cosy off the pot and emptied the cold tea leaves into the sink.
There were two commandments known to all of them:
The light must not go out.
The keeper must not fall.
Hannes – so competent, so careful, so assured.
Something had distracted him. Or someone.
And who could possibly distract him on that island?
Maisie wiped her face again. A chill ran through her and she twitched her
shoulders and leaned more firmly against the rail of the old coal stove.
– Don’t be ridiculous, woman. She almost spoke aloud.
She made the tea and set two cups. She carried the tray through to the
lounge, a small waddle in her step, side to side, her slippers slapping quietly
on the wooden floor. The back door opened and her husband, Cecil, called
from the porch. ‘What’s the matter, lovey? Are you hoping for a cup of tea?’
He came in, tugging down the edges of his old green jersey, his nose
purple-veined from the wind outside, his knees pinched by the cold above his
long grey socks. He looked at her. ‘Maisie? What’s the trouble?’
‘Hannes fell down the tower. He’s broken something. He must be in dreadful
pain. That fellow from the signal room phoned. I got hold of the Port
Captain and told him to send a tug.’
‘You should have asked me to do it.’ Cecil was admonishing. ‘What’s he
going to think, being bossed by a woman?’
‘Don’t you talk nonsense, Cecil,’ retorted Maisie, the flush deep on her
neck, her chin bobbing. ‘It’s Hannes, for God’s sake.’
‘Of course, lovey,’ Cecil said. ‘Sorry I spoke.’
‘We have to find a relief at once while they raise the doctor. They’ll call
again soon so we must hurry.’
‘Ockie will have to take over there for a while,’ said Cecil. ‘He’s not going
to like it.’
‘You’ll get exhausted here by yourself,’ objected Maisie. ‘Think about your
heart, Cecil, and don’t be foolish. Can’t we phone Seal Point?’
‘Too far,’ he said laconically. ‘It’s Ockie or me. We can’t leave the light.’
Maisie said nothing. She knew the first rule just as well as he.
Cecil went away to the single quarters to speak to his assistant. Maisie did
not follow him to hear Ockie grumble, sucking at his teeth and pulling at his
great ear and glowering. She could hardly blame him. No one ever wanted
such an exile. Even for a week.
Except Hannes.
For him, a posting to the island was always going home.
When Cecil returned he said, ‘Ockie’s packing and then I’ll run him down
to the harbour.’ He came and sat beside her on the settee, waiting: two old
people, grey-headed, the steam from their cups drifting between them.
Then the telephone rang.
It was the Port Captain. ‘We’ll be leaving in an hour,’ he said.
‘My husband will bring the relief keeper down now,’ said Maisie.
‘The doc’s on his way.’
‘Good man,’ said Maisie as she put down the receiver.
‘Of course I’m a good man.’ Cecil reached for her hand. ‘Even your mother
thought so.’
Maisie – comforted – half laughed. ‘You really are a good man,’ she said.
‘No matter all the other things my mother said!’ And she wiped her eyes.
Oh, Hannes. Not another blow.
She rested the side of her head against Cecil’s shoulder. Then they turned
simultaneously and in silence to peer through the salt-rimed glass at the
darkening sea in the bay and the waves breaking as far as the horizon. The
island lies five miles offshore – south-west from the densely wooded cape
but thirty-one miles from port. Between it and the mainland is a channel,
taupe green, cobalt blue. Sometimes that blue is all of the sky and sea,
indivisible. And sometimes the heat bounces off the island rocks, an aura
of fire, and the waves glitter as if scattered with mica chips. Sometimes
the air is a tumult of gannets – a rising tide of wingbeats – and sometimes
it is so still that the piping of a land-bird blown off course can be heard
above the breathing of the sea. But when the southeaster blows, the wind
whips the water to a saltgrey bile. Even its fish must flee the turbulence.
Even the sharks. It is on those days that boats never venture near.
Nothing comes except the wind – a great baleful beast.

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Lauren Liebenberg: Survival Tricks for Mothers of Sons Out of the “Bad Mommy Memoirs”

Cry BabyLauren Liebenberg, the author of the novel Cry Baby, has posted a blog entry called “Your Pocket Sibling Warfare Survival Guide” in The (Very Bad) Advice Column for Parents on her website.

In this post, she gives her advice for handling sibling antagonism in four steps – with a bonus step included.

Liebenberg’s advice is thoroughly practical, as being a mother of young boys disallows rose-tinted idealism when it comes to parenting.

Read the blog entry:

Step 1: Swear, on mute

I stumbled upon this life line years ago when I found myself stranded in the check-out aisle at Woollies with someone thrashing around on the floor at my feet wailing, “But it’s myyyy turn to push the trolley!” while someone else repeatedly rammed the trolley against my shins.

I’d gone in promising myself that this time it would be different: I’d go in for the toilet paper and two Chicken Noodle Doo’s and leave with the toilet paper and two Chicken Noodle Doo’s without tears, from any of us. Yet the trolley that was now being used as a battering ram contained a half-eaten a packet of Ghost Pops which Russell had stolen and a Kinder Surprise with which I’d bought William off. I’d left him snivelling “But whyyy can’t I have Ghost Pops? You’re so mean. You’re the meanest mom in the world,” somewhere down the tinned foods aisle whose shelves Russell was mounting, and as I’d hurried, slightly, around the next corner and checked back to make sure they hadn’t been abducted by child traffickers, I was greeted with the sight of Russell sprawled on top of William on the filthy floor who was throttling Russell with his bare hands as Russell banged his head on the tiles. I will never forget the look on the face of the mother who witnessed the scene with her two innocent little girls. It reminded me of the last line in Heart Of Darkness:

The horror. The horror.

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Karin Brynard’s Afrikaans Bestseller, Plaasmoord, Now Available in English as Weeping Waters

Weeping WatersPlaasmoordPenguin Books presents Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard, translated by Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon:

Inspector Albertus Beeslaar has left the ruthless city, only to have his hopes of finding peace and quiet in the Kalahari shattered by the brutal murder of artist Freddie Swarts and her adopted daughter.

But Freddie’s journalist sister Sara is not convinced that this was a typical farm attack.

Amid a spate of stock thefts, Beeslaar must solve this high-profile crime, all the while training his two rookie partners, Ghaap and Pyl.

After more murders, the disturbing puzzle grows increasingly sinister, as age-old secrets and hostilities surface, spurring the local inhabitants to violent action. No one is above suspicion, not least the mysterious Bushman farm manager and falconer, Dam.

Weeping Waters is Fowler and Dixon’s translation of the Afrikaans bestseller Plaasmoord, a novel that peels away the layers of a landscape steeped in conflict, and hails the arrival of a bright new voice in South African crime fiction available in English.

About the author

Karin Brynard is the author of the novels Plaasmoord and Onse vaders. She has won several literary awards, including the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize and two M-Net Awards. She is a journalist and has worked as political correspondent for Rapport for many years. She lives in Stellenbosch.

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Die bewaker se vertaler Daniel Hugo pols die skrywer Marguerite Poland oor haar roman

Die bewakerThe KeeperMarguerite Poland se jongste boek, The Keeper, is na Afrikaans vertaal deur Daniel Hugo. Die bewaker het pas op die rakke verskyn en die vertaler het met die skrywer gesels om meer uit te vind oor hierdie roman.

“Dis ’n liefdesverhaal – met die teerheid, hoop ek, wat inherent is aan die beste verhoudings tussen mans en vroue. Maar dis ook die ontginning van die idee dat selfs mense wat in die mees intieme en interafhanklike omstandighede woon (versterk deur die geïsoleerdheid van die eiland) na binne leef en soms nooit praat oor wat vir hulle die belangrikste is nie,” sê die skrywer en beaam Hugo se gevoel dat die verhaal “oor die liefde en die kompleksiteit van kommunikasie tussen mense” gaan.

Poland vertel meer oor haar fassinasie met vuurtorings, die eiland waar die verhaal afspeel en die karakters en dialoog wat in die boek verskyn:

Jy ken vuurtorings baie goed – waar het jy jou kennis opgedoen?

Groot masjinerie het my nog altyd gefassineer – skepe, treine, vuurtorings. Ek het deeglik navorsing gedoen oor vuurtorings.

Ek het ook baie tyd in die vuurtoring by Kaap St. Francis deurgebring – een van die mooiste strukture wat ek ken. Dis geweldig indrukwekkend.

Het jy ’n spesifieke vuurtoring en eiland in gedagte gehad?

Ek het die geskiedenis van Bird Island naby Port Elizabeth bestudeer en ’n groot deel van die storie het daaruit voortgespruit. Maar ek wou ook hê die eiland en vuurtoring moet ’n produk van Rika se verbeelding wees. Ander mense se stories of oorvertellings skep hul eie landskappe in ons verbeelding, net soos boeke. Daarom wou ek my nie laat inperk deur absolute feite nie.

In der waarheid is die geskiedenis van die eiland so ryk dat dit ’n groot historiese roman verdien, maar dit was nie my doel nie. Ek was nog nooit op Bird Island nie, hoewel ek daardie kus so goed ken dat die eiland ’n verlengstuk is van wat ek sedert my kinderdae intens ervaar het.


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Join Marguerite Poland for the Launch of The Keeper in Durban

The KeeperPenguin Books and Dulcé Café in Kensington Square would like to invite you to the launch of The Keeper by Marguerite Poland.

Poland will be talking about her latest novel, which is about the profound isolation of lighthouse keeping.

The launch will take place on 25 September at 5:30 for 6 PM at Dulcé Café. Booking is essential, and entrance costs R60.

See you there!

Event Details

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Die bewaker: Daniel Hugo se vertaling van Marguerite Poland se jongste roman, The Keeper

Die bewakerDie bekroonde skrywer Marguerite Poland se jongste roman is nou ook beskikbaar in Afrikaans as Die bewaker, vertaal deur Daniel Hugo:

Vuurtoringwagter Hannes Harker word met sy vrou na ’n afgeleё eiland verplaas. Hy ontdek iets wat lank in die toring weggesteek was wat hom sy balans laat verloor, en hy val. In die hospitaal vertel hy met rukke en stote aan verpleegsuster Rika sy lewensverhaal – van sy ma se geheimsinnige dood, van sy onbeheerbare jong vrou, Aletta, en van die verlate eiland waar net die vuurtoringwagters en ghwanowerkers woon. Dié twee groepe leef saam maar tog ook streng apart op een van die onherbergsaamste plekke op aarde. Met die aankoms van ’n karakter uit Aletta se verlede kom haar eie geheime onvermydelik aan die lig, net soos die pruttende spanning en onregte wat die ghwanowerkers so lank verduur het tot uitbarsting kom in ’n enkele, skokkende gebeurtenis.

Die bewaker is die verhaal van twee geslagte vuurtoringwagters – mans verbete in hulle plig, en vroue wat saam met hulle in skrikwekkende afsondering leef. Dit is geskryf in die kenmerkende meevoerende styl waarvoor Marguerite Poland so bekend is, nou vir die eerste keer in Afrikaans.

’n Roman oor die krag van geheime, die krag van die liefde en die krag van stories.


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Join Maguerite Poland for the Launch of The Keeper at Love Books in Johannesburg

The KeeperLove Books and Penguin Books would like to invite you to the launch of The Keeper by Marguerite Poland.

Poland, one of South Africa’s most well-known and best-loved novelists, will be discussing the inspiration for her latest novel.

The launch is being held on 23 September at 6 for 6:30 PM at Love Books in Melville.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 23 September 2014
  • Time: 6 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books
    53 Rustenburg Rd
    Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Kate, Love Books,, 011 726 7408

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Penguin Authors at Open Book Festival 2014 (17 – 21 September)

The 2014 Open Book Festival will take place in Cape Town from Wednesday 17 to Sunday 21 September. Penguin authors to look forward to are Marguerite Poland, Melissa Siebert, Fiona Leonard, Sampie Terreblanche, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Jeremy Nell (Jerm), and Zelda la Grange.

The KeeperGarden of DreamsThe Chicken ThiefWestern EmpiresNothing Left to Steal

Jerm WarfareGood Morning, Mr MandelaGoeiemore, Mnr. Mandela


Wednesday 17 September

Venue: Book Lounge
Time: 10 AM
Price: Free
Philip Hensher, Marguerite Poland and Melissa Siebert. Chaired by Michele Magwood.

Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Time: 6 PM
Price: R40
Andrew Brown, Justin Fox and Fiona Leonard discuss their entertaining, issue driven novels with Diane Awerbuck.

Thursday 18 September

Venue: Book Lounge
Time: 10 AM
Price: Free
Sefi Atta, Fiona Leonard and Zukiswa Wanner. Chaired by Kgomotso Matsunyane

Venue: Fugard Annexe 1
Time: 4 PM
Price: R40
Kader Abdolah, Damon Galgut and Marguerite Poland discuss constructing the literary foundations of their respective novels. Chaired by Jacqui L’Ange.

Venue: Hiddingh Hall
Time: 5:30 PM
Price: Free
Fiona Leonard sits on panel with four MA students from University of Cape Town’s Creative Writing MA Programme to discuss all things writing. Presented by the Gordon Institute of Performing and Creative Arts and UCT Creative Writing Programme.

Friday 19 September

Venue: Fugard Annexe 1
Time: 4 PM
Price: R40
Kader Abdolah, Rabih Alameddine, Tiah Beautement, Philip Hensher and Fiona Leonard read from their work.

Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Time: 6 PM
Price: R40
Sampie Terreblanche launches his magnum opus: Western Empires, Christianity and the Inequalities Between the West and the Rest 1500-2010.

Saturday 20 September

Venue: Fugard Theatre
Time: 12 PM
Price: R40
Charles King gets the lowdown from Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Antony Loewenstein and Songezo Zibi.

Venue: Fugard Annexe 2
Time: 12 PM
Price: R40
Sheng Keyi, Fiona Leonard and Niq Mhlongo discuss their respective novels with Derrick Higginbotham.

Sunday 21 September

Venue: Fugard Theatre
Time: 10 AM
Price: R40
Zelda la Grange talks to Marianne Thamm.

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Join Marguerite Poland for the Launch of The Keeper at Kalk Bay Books

Book Launch: The Keeper


The KeeperPenguin invites you to the launch of Marguerite Poland’s latest book The Keeper at Kalk Bay Books on Wednesday, 17 September 2014.

The launch will start at 6 for 6:30 PM. The Keeper is the story of two generations of lighthouse keepers obsessed with their duty to the light and how their family comes to terms with the isolation.

See you there!

Event Details

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