OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.
6 February, fifteen years ago, I proposed and he said yes. We were married four months later. 6 February, six years ago, I whispered, ‘I am here. I love you.’ The last words spoken between us, just before André passed away over Brazzaville on a flight between Amsterdam and Cape Town. 6 February, today, we paid tribute to his life and work and announced the 2021 winner of the Philida Literary Award, established in André’s memory a year ago.
The news was received with much joy in the literary community and beyond, and I hope that one day we will all be able to celebrate together. Last year’s celebration with Mohale Mashigo had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, and this year, we can’t even plan one yet for Qarnita, but there will be a day again when it will be safe to gather and laugh and toast these amazing writers and their work.
6 February brings with it memories that seem too much to hold for one day, but when I decided that this would also be the day of the award’s announcement, I had hoped that it would be transformative, over time molding and reshaping the memories of the tragedy of 2015 into the joys of the past and the anticipations of the future. I had hoped that eventually remembering would not be crushed by pain. And so it is. There is sadness, but it comes in gentle waves. And beyond it is the warmth of the rising sun of possibility.
There is gratitude, for everything that has been shared, for what lives on in hearts and words. It continues in magical ways through and around the award. To say that the past year has not been easy, is an understatement. To conceptualise and realise anything in these circumstances is so much more difficult than before. I wasn’t sure it could be managed, because I wasn’t doing too great and did not know where to find the energy to keep everything running smoothly. So, remembering how well we had worked together, I reached out to the award’s judges of last year and asked them to step in and assist again. Their enthusiasm and help made this year’s award possible. And again they brought so much joy into the occasion. A conversation that I will be forever grateful for.
And one only has to read a few chapters of any of Qarnita’s novels to understand how much insight, fun and compassion she brings into the lives of her readers by sharing the stories of her characters with us. She makes us laugh and cry and care. Once you pick up one of her books, it is difficult to put it down. There is another one coming and I, along with an entire community of Qarnita’s fans, can’t wait to encounter her characters on the pages of her next novel.
Fittingly for the day, after the announcement and the bit of admin that goes with it, I returned to reading and, apart from a simple, delicious lunch with my love and a Skype meeting with Mom and Krystian, I spent the day reading and remembering. Glinka, who inspired the famous Kleinkat in Philida, André’s last published novel, accompanied me throughout the day, from the announcement (above) to the afternoon reading session on our picnic blanket in the garden (below).
To beer or not to beer, that is the question.
‘Glinka, when it is Hoghouse beer, beer!’ I said to her (and that is why I am having another one as I type).
Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.
“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”