Monthly Archives: February 2019

Richard III at Maynardville

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Literature in motion; an art form difficult to resist. I could never imagine being on stage, but I love sitting in the audience, suspending my disbelief, living and breathing the action unfolding before my eyes.

Theatre.

I prefer sitting in the first row. Small venues are my favourite. Done well, it is pure magic. It transforms.

I go regularly, often twice or thrice to see the same performance – to relive the wonder. I study the texts at home. Not many enjoy reading plays; I delight in them.

A while back, I wrote one. It even won an award. The prize money bought me a gorgeous, wine-red quilt. Last night, I was tempted to take it with me to Maynardville to the opening of Richard III, with Alan Committie in the main role. But the action-packed play and a Shiraz in the interval kept me all cosy and warm.

‘Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile…’

And he does. Smile, murder, seduce. Vanquish. Fall. The vicious circles of power.

The open-air theatre is the perfect setting for the play, the southeaster a willing contributor with uncanny timing. Tall trees haunt the stage. The simple props and the understated elegance of the costume design enhance the superb performances of the entire cast.

Cassandra Mapanda as Queen Elizabeth stood out for me. A true royal presence on stage. But nobody and nothing disappointed.

Shakespeare has never been easy for me. And Richard III was new despite my education and love for the theatre. Yet I never felt lost. As one head after another is impaled and hearts are conquered and torn apart, we are transported into the distant past that has a lot to teach us about our own times, our greed and disenchantment.

I will see it again before the run is over.

Richard III is on until 9 March; Wednesday to Saturday, at 8.15pm. Don’t miss it!

 

Announcing: The Philida Literary Award

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Today is the fourth anniversary of André Brink’s death. As we – his readers and loved ones – remember André, I would like to share the news that from next year on there will be a literary award given in André’s honour. The award will be named after a historical figure, the slave woman Philida van de Caab who entered the archival records because of laying an official complaint against her masters, Francois and Cornelius Brink, distant relatives of André’s. She became the protagonist of André’s last published novel, Philida (2012). André’s rendition of her courage and resilience continues to inspire me – and many others – as a woman and a writer.

As I wrote in the Note on my latest publication, You Make Me Possible: The Love Letter of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink (Protea Book House, 2018), with André’s encouragement and support I was able to acknowledge the fact that I was a writer and that this would be forever my way of being in the world. He was an inspiration to many other writers and he was always generous with his time and expertise in furthering the literary careers of others. It is therefore my wish to establish The Philida Literary Award with the royalties from You Make Me Possible.

The Philida Literary Award will be awarded to a writer mid-career for an oeuvre of between three to five books of any genre. The idea behind the recognition is to acknowledge an author with a consistent record of publishing works of excellence and to encourage them further in their pursuit of a literary career. The award ceremony will take place annually on the anniversary of André’s death, 6 February, starting with the fifth anniversary in 2020. Thus, locally, it will be the first literary award given every year.

Four other judges who are immersed in the local literary community will join me each year in choosing a worthy winner. Each winner will be given an award certificate and an amount of money that will be at first determined by the royalties, and in future on funding which is in the process of being secured.

Picture above: Fragment from the cover illustration of Philida by Joe McLaren.

Thank you to Rachel Zadok, the founder of Short Story Day Africa, for inspiring the ideas behind the criteria of the award.

Review: Somewhere in Between by Niki Malherbe

Somewhere in BetweenHow to be a feminist? What does it mean to be a good parent, especially a good mother? What is success? What is justice and how does it relate to ethics? How can reading and writing help with the answers to these, and other, vital questions? Somewhere in Between is Niki Malherbe’s attempt at resolving some of these conundrums in the context of her own life. She dedicates her book “To all women who try hard to get the balance right and all the men who do too”.

Malherbe is also the author of From Courtrooms to Cupcakes. In Somewhere in Between, she continues the themes of her debut, trying to reconcile her private and professional aspirations. Her background is in law. She is a wife and a mother of four. Writing is her enduring passion. She is an avid reader, and it is the writers who intrigue her, along with her family’s experiences, that fuel her literary pursuits. Somewhere in Between is part diary, part memoir, part essay; throughout, Malherbe comments on the authors she turns to when seeking guidance or comfort. Writing a book is like having a relative in jail, she says: “You don’t want to admit it but it’s very tricky to hide.”

Oscar Pistorius is no relation to the author, but she is writing at the time of his trial. As she watches the proceedings, she approaches the case not only through the lens of her legal training and feminism, but also from the perspective of a mother.

Malherbe tries to narrow and unpick the ambiguities she encounters on her path. Like most of us, she has her blind spots: occasionally dismissing her own writing as “frivolous” and her thinking as “trivial” – whereas she wants to and should be taken seriously; or, probably unconsciously, using terminology that undermines her feminist perspective; and often leaving the women who, willingly or not, never become mothers out of her considerations. However, to her credit, she does not settle for any easy, sloppy answer. And, many of the conflicts she describes remain unresolved, despite her attempt to tackle them head-on. For some, only approximations are possible; there simply are no straightforward solutions.

There were moments in the book where I wished Malherbe had dared more, especially when the narrative becomes self-reflective, but what she already reveals – especially her doubts, anxiety and envy – is extremely courageous and her pursuit of truth and understanding deserves not only applause but close examination. Somewhere in Between opens up many conversations we could all profit from taking further. Along with Mary Pipher, Malherbe believes that: “Using words, writers have the opportunity to bring justice and make their own mark on the world.” That is the incalculable power of storytelling and we can do much worse than endeavour to make sense of the world and find what gives meaning to our existence.

Somewhere in Between

by Niki Malherbe

2018

Review first published in the Cape Times on 1 February 2019.