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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

There is a sadness in the story, but also humour – Margaret von Klemperer reviews The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in his Head

Published in the Witness (25/06/2018)

Set in the then all-white suburb of Hillbrow in 1967, John Hunt’s novel is a moving evocation of a difficult and different childhood. While the setting might seem strange to those who know Hillbrow in its current manifestation, Hunt’s fine descriptive writing makes it an important and evocative backdrop to the story. But centre stage is occupied by 11 year old Phen.

His real name is Stephen, but he is a stutterer who has more trouble with the letter “S” than any other, so Phen at least offers him a chance to articulate his name. Teased at school by peers and teachers alike, his life is tough. And to compound his problems, his father is dying, slowly and painfully.

His one solace is to get Phen to read to him after school, taking the child into the worlds of Hemingway, Truman Capote and John le Carré, adding colour to the Cold War fantasy games Phen plays in the park while walking his dog. But eventually even his father deserts him in favour of a new-fangled reel to reel tape-deck and non-stuttering audio books.

Feeling sad and supplanted, he befriends a hobo in the park, who tells Phen his name is Heb Thirteen Two, something Phen will eventually decode with surprising consequences which at one point take the reader into what feels like fantasy. But that’s not what it is.

Writing from the standpoint of a child is extraordinarily difficult to do successfully. Hunt makes Phen completely believable, neither too cute nor improbably knowing, as he deals with the tragedy of his father’s impending death and observes with the clear eye of pre-adolescence the behaviour of the adults who surround him. There is sadness in the story, but also humour – Phen’s turn as a tree in the class production of A Midsummer-Night’s Dream is hilarious.

But despite his problems with speech, Phen’s reading has taught him the power of words and given him a love of books. And once he has worked out what Heb Thirteen Two’s name might mean, a new dimension of comfort is added to his life, though Hunt avoids the obvious and the cliched. The ending of the book is deeply moving but the reader can be filled with hope for Phen’s future.

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Listen: Haji Mohamed Dawjee discusses Sorry, Not Sorry with Sara-Jayne King

Why don’t white people understand that Converse tekkies are not just cool but a political statement to people of colour? Why is it that South Africans of colour don’t really ‘write what we like’? What’s the deal with people pretending to be ‘woke’? Is Islam really as anti-feminist as is claimed? What does it feel like to be a brown woman in a white media corporation? And what life lessons can we learn from Bollywood movies?

In Sorry, Not Sorry, Haji Mohamed Dawjee explores the often maddening experience of moving through post-Apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. In characteristically candid style, Dawjee pulls no punches when examining the social landscape: from arguing why she’d rather deal with an open racist than some liberal white people, to drawing on her own experience to convince readers that joining a cult is never a good idea.

In the provocative voice that has made Dawjee one of our country’s most talked-about columnists, she offers observations laced throughout with an acerbic wit. Sorry, Not Sorry will make readers laugh, wince, nod, introspect and argue.

Haji recently discussed Sorry, Not Sorry with Sara-Jayne King on Sara-Jayne’s 702 Book Club programme. Gooi an ear!

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Kalk Bay Books understands readers – Luke Alfred

 
The Art of LosingWhen the Lions Came to TownLuke Alfred, renowned sports journalist and author of The Art of Losing: Why the Proteas Choke at the Cricket World Cup and When the Lions Came to Town: The 1974 Rugby Tour to South Africa, recently paid a few visits to Kalk Bay Books in Cape Town, one of the country’s best loved bookshops, and found it to be one of the finest out there.

Alfred supports his argument by listing, and explaining, the reasons readers read and visit bookshops. Kalk Bay Books, according to him, understands this and presents itself as both a place “with a sense of self and of humour”.

“What academic monographs and run-of-the-mill reviewing fail to do is to take us into this place – part fantasy, part reverie, part stunted friendship – at the very core of how readers read.

“We read soulfully, vulnerably, and the bookshop in Kalk Bay seemed to acknowledge this, resisting the temptation to link the experience of selecting a book, buying it and taking it home to read with any other form of consumption. Here we had a strong black with a dash of milk and one sugar,” Alfred writes.

Read the article, then start planning your trip to Kalk Bay to experience this remarkable bookshop for yourself:

My family and I found ourselves in Cape Town’s Kalk Bay for the holidays. As well as the village’s many delights — the Olympia Café and the decadent seals twirling in the harbour — Kalk Bay possesses a fine bookshop.

If it is not independent of ownership, it is certainly independent of spirit. During several immersions there, I found myself wondering about the shop’s range and atmosphere, realising that as well as the staff clearly being readers and loving books, the shop pedalled a view of the world.

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Image courtesy of SA Venues


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“There is only fear and the possibility of dying” – Read two excerpts from Back to Angola by Paul Morris

Back to AngolaBack to Angola is Paul Morris’ personal account of the filth of war.

Morris, now a counsellor and life coach, shares the story of the misadventure that took place when he was reluctantly conscripted as a soldier into the South African Defence Force in 1987 and sent to Angola where he had to face the terrors of the South African Border War at the tender age of 19.

25 years later, Morris returned to Angola to see the country from a different perspective. This trip is documented in Back to Angola, along with his fascinating and thoughtful reflections on childhood, masculinity, violence, memory, innocence and guilt.

For a taste of what you can expect from this brilliant memoir, read a short excerpt, originally shared on the book’s Facebook page:

 

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Suddenly there’s a light whip-crack overhead. Then another. Then: snap. Snap, snap. Like heavy raindrops on a plastic shelter, rifle fire from the AK-47s of the FAPLA forward observation posts starts to seek us out, the bullets crackling ever more fiercely as they break the sound barrier over our heads. It has started. My stomach is tight; blood pounds in my ears. There is a steady crackling of rifle fire overhead, accompanied by regular machinegun bursts that sound like so many strings of Chinese fireworks. The crack-bang of high explosives has started as FAPLA begins lobbing mortar and artillery shells at us, and now we hear the loud muzzle-bangs from cannons. It’s impossible to tell whether they’re from our Ratel 90s or from FAPLA tanks, but they indicate that we have now fully engaged in battle with the main body of the defending force. Our fire orders come through and I prime bombs, ripping charges from the tail fins and turning the nosepiece to ‘fire’ and passing them to John, our Number 2, who is chucking them down the barrel as fast as I can pass them to him. We’re firing more bombs than ever before. Ten bombs for effect. Twenty. We are on target and the enemy is taking a pounding. They’re well dug in and we keep hammering away, but they don’t budge. Shooting back gives me something to do. When I’m not priming bombs my mind has time to scream at me that this is fucking madness – get the hell out. Somewhere through the thick bush our lieutenant is racing to and fro along the front. He’s picking out targets and radioing them back to our fire group. High explosives are churning the sand and splintering trees and I can feel their percussion in my chest as if I’m a drum. The bush is thick. It’s hard to stay in formation. We’re attacking from two directions and our other force has wheeled around, disorientated. For a while we fire at each other without realising it. We pause in our advance, pull back, reorganise and have another go. It’s a long, intense day and time warps and bends in a fog of adrenaline and terror. Some moments feel like the minutes are hours while hours seem to have flashed by in seconds. We speak to one another in lulls and pauses in our firing as the battle ebbs and flows and crashes like angry surf on a jagged coast. In conversation we seek comfort, but there is no such thing in this place. There is only fear and the possibility of dying.

 

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For a longer read, here’s the thirteenth chapter from Back to Angola:

Excerpt from Back to Angola by Paul Morris

 

Related links:

 

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Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie's #FeesMustFall-Flavoured Launch of Maverick and The Cape Town Book

Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie

Readers should expect the unexpected when approaching the fiction of Lauren Beukes. But the same applies to her non-fiction and, it would seem, to her book launches! Collaborating with the firebrand Nechama Brodie only escalates things.

The Cape Town BookMaverickThe Book Lounge was the venue for the recent double launch of Maverick: Extraordinary women from South Africa’s past by Beukes and Brodie and The Cape Town Book by Brodie. It is just a few hundred metres from Parliament, where the recent Fees Must Fall protests took place, and reflecting this important moment in South African history Beukes and Brodie treated those who attended the event to a different kind of book launch.

Lauren Beukes, Nechama Brodie, Pam Dhlamini and Thabo TshelaneBeukes and Brodie included some of the people involved in the Cape Town student protests in the discussion, and two authors and four activists made it an evening to remember. The six powerful personalities linked arms to raise awareness of how history is being written about even as it is being made on the streets outside. The activists described the tensions at UCT, where workers and management continued negotiations to end outsourcing. The seriousness of the situation was brought home when UWC erupted on the day following the launch, with the police reportedly dragging students out of their residences.

The night was remarkable in many ways. The launch of two terrific books, each one worthy of a solo launch, in combination with a bigger vision made for an event that afforded those present a rich opportunity to understand and engage with some of the issues currently dominating the country’s consciousness.

Earlier this year, Beukes teamed up with Brodie, insisting that she was the best person to co-author the expanded and updated edition of Maverick. The book, which features a number of the great and interesting women that populate South Africa’s past, was Beukes’ debut, first published in 2004. Brodie, who is the editor and co-author of the best-selling The Joburg Book and Inside Joburg, is the head of training, research and information at Africa Check, an independent fact-checking agency.

The gifted writer’s latest work is The Cape Town Book, which was also the raison d’etre for the unusual activities at the book launch. It was described by Louanne van Riet of The Book Lounge as “a beautifully rendered portrait of our strange and weird city that makes for essential reading for inhabitants and visitors to Cape Town”.

Readers will certainly find in the pages of these two books much to keep them thinking deeply about Cape Town and about South Africa’s powerful, feisty and courageous women.

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


 

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Facebook Album

 

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Join Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie for the Launch of Maverick and The Cape Town Book at The Book Lounge

Invitation to the launch of Maverick and The Cape Town Book

 
Maverick: Extraordinary women from South Africa’s pastThe Cape Town BookUmuzi, Struik Lifestyle and The Book Lounge would like to invite you to the launch of Maverick: Extraordinary women from South Africa’s past by Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie and of The Cape Town Book by Brodie.

The event will take place at The Book Lounge on Friday, 6 November, at 5:30 for 6 PM. The two authors will be speaking about their new books.

See you there!

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A Whirlwind of Waiting: Louis Greenberg's Catalogue of a 13-day Mystery Tour

Dark WindowsLouis Greenberg, author of the moody literary thriller Dark Windows, recently embarked on a 13-day mystery tour, sharing his travel album on Instagram.

The journey, titled “A Whirlwind of Waiting”, exhibited “the magic and the mundane, an obsessive cataloguing of ‪‎transport‬ and ‪‎waiting‬, very likely art and food and beer, and unexpurgated pretty random #onthehour shots”, Greenberg wrote on his website before the adventure started. “I’ll be searching for fuel for big questions and the comfort of minutiae; we may find what I’m looking for along the way.”

The question is: will this mystery tour inspire a new novel, or even just fuel the fire of a story he was already working on? We can’t wait to find out!

Head on over to the Instagram account dedicated to Greenberg’s whirlwind of waiting to see snippets of this journey which saw him stopping in magnificent places like London, Brussels and Berlin:

 

 

Have a look at Greenberg’s own Instagram account, where he posts images related to things that inspire him creatively:

 

 

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For a taste of Dark Windows, read an excerpt we shared last year:

Johannesburg is becalmed. A wave of New Age belief and an apparent cure for crime have radically altered South Africa’s political landscape.

Jay Rowan has been hired to black out the windows of random vacant rooms. He’s trying to keepout of trouble, but he’s a pawn in political aide Kenneth Lang’s project Dark Windows. A mystical charlatan has convinced Lang’s boss that she can affect the ultimate transformation with a supernatural visitation, the Arrival, and Lang needs to prepare for its coming. When Jay and his married girlfriend Beth realise that someone has died in every room, political and personal tensions come to a head and Jay, Beth and Lang must confront the past they’ve been trying to avoid.

 

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There’s It! Win a Copy of Road Tripping in a Justin Bonello and Suzelle DIY Hamper

Justin Bonello and Suzelle DIY competition

 
Road TrippingPenguin Random House South Africa is giving away a copy of Road Tripping by Justin Bonello and Helena Lombard, along with goodies from Bonello and Suzelle DIY.

The hamper includes a Suzelle DIY mug, all the ingredients to prepare Petrus Madutlela’s Upside Down Banana dessert and a “braai master” mystery prize.

To stand a chance to win, all you have to do is enter your details on the company’s website:

Competition closes 4 September, 2015.

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Henrietta Rose-Innes Reflects on the Magic of the Road Trip

Green LionHenrietta Rose-Innes has shared a lighthearted travel piece she wrote for SA High Times recently.

Rose-Innes latest novel, Green Lion, was released in May, and launched at The Book Lounge with Hedley Twidle, who gave the book a glowing review in the Sunday Times.

Her SA High Times piece is a humorous but insightful look at the magic of youthful holidays – although admittedly in this case it may have been caused by something slightly more sinister:

P and I are big road-trippers. Conditions have changed in the years we’ve been together – starting out, more than a decade ago, we hauled cross-country in a succession of ancient cars that rapidly collapsed into flakes of rust around us. These days, we get where we’re going without a vehicular mishap, and shell out for a B&B when we get there. Things were not always so.

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Lees oor Amanda van Blerk se ervaring op die Shingwedzi eko-roete op pad na Mosambiek

Travel Guide to Maputo and Southern MozambiqueAmanda van Blerk het onlangs in ‘n konvooi van ses voertuie na die noorde van Mosambiek gereis, of altans probeer reis, om dié deel van die kontinent te verken.

In ‘n artikel vir Weg skryf sy oor die avonture en misavonture van hierdie vakansie wat onverwags deur Moedernatuur in ander rigtings gestuur is. “Soos met elke toer, neem ons nuwe vriende en hulle addresse huis toe. Die nag is lank, maar nie so lank nie, en die son breek gou weer in die ooste. Mosambiek is mooi hier. En miskien sal ons altyd wonder hoe die Shingwedzi eko-roete regtig was,” skryf Van Blerk.

Vir meer oor Mosambiek raadpleeg gerus Travel Guide to Maputo and Southern Mozambique deur Bridget Hilton-Barber, ‘n Penguin-publikasie.

Die Shingwedzi-ekoroete is al talle kere aan my beskryf as een van die lekkerste eko-roetes in Suid-Afrika. Dit begin by die piekniekplek by Pafuri in die Krugerwildtuin, en gaan verby Crook’s Corner, uit by die Pafuri-grenspos na Mosambiek. Die Koorsboomwoud en Limpopovallei, asook Mosambiek-bier by Mapai en kamp by die Mambapan, is alles op die spyskaart.

Ons wou graag die noorde van Mosambiek gaan verken en het ons plek op die roete bespreek. Maar minder as ’n week voor ons vertrek word ons ingelig dat die grenspos by Pafuri verspoel het en ons nie die oorspronklike roete sou kon ry nie.

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