Author Archives: Karina

About Karina

Author living in Cape Town.

Operation Oysterhood: 12 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

My brother is doing a workshop where he has to answer questions about his childhood. Today, he asked Mom to fill in some gaps and dug out old photographs, and we met on Skype to wander down memory lane. He showed me many photographs that I do not recall ever seeing before. The one above is one that I do remember and love. The two of us have always had a loving, great relationship, and many of the photographs capture this bond – I am so blessed to have a brother like him, the best brother in the universe.

This morning, I read about a completely different childhood, one ravaged by war. Krystian and I did not have it easy growing up as refugees, but we never had to go through the kind of horrors I read about in the memoir. I was relieved to close the last page of the book and to know that the author is alive and has somehow managed to make a life for herself.

News from the isolation front: imaginary symptoms continue, but otherwise I am fine. It was sad to think that I could not host the celebration sale I planned for today, nor go to a birthday tea I was invited to, but otherwise, a quiet, good day. The women’s RG final was completely uninspiring, although I managed to iron all my laundry of the last two weeks while it was on, so I am not complaining, and I loved the ceremony afterwards, especially Barbara Pravi’s performance of “Voilà” (it made me sorry that I missed the Eurovision Song Contest this year) and the delivery of the trophy to the court by two of France’s frontline workers (a deeply moving moment).

Earlier in the day, I sat with Mozart and Glinka in the garden and enjoyed the sun. Salieri’s condition is stabilising – she is eating less food and less often, but actually gaining weight, and I am getting her used to the application of an oral gel on her gums. We are making progress.

Another day of roughly 9000 new infections. The third wave is also making progress, but it is the kind that brings no good news.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 12 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Ulrike and Yolisa

Yolisa Qunta passed away after complications from heart failure on 10 June. She was 41. When I saw Ulrike‘s message yesterday in the morning, I immediately contacted her and she phoned back to share her sorrow at her dear friend’s passing and stories about how amazing and kind Yolisa had been during the time they had known each other as friends.

I met Yolisa because of a review I wrote of the book she’d edited, Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks. In September 2017, the Helderberg Leeskring invited Yolisa to speak about the book to them and asked me to interview her at the gathering after reading my LitNet review. We travelled to the event together, and the moment Yolisa got into my car, I felt her warmth and bubbliness, and by the end of the journey, the connection we established because of our migratory pasts was palpable and translated into a great conversation at the Leeskring, with Yolisa simply winning the hearts of all those ladies for whom reading her book was not necessarily a comfortable experience. The entire morning was a success and I remember it warmly. A little while later we connected again because of a library project that Yolisa was involved in and I delivered a box of books to her. At one point I got the sweetest message from her about my memoir, or rather about my brother and the way I portrayed him in the book: ‘I’m on page 45 and I think I have a crush on your brother,’ she wrote and made my day, and Krystian’s. I will always treasure the inscription she wrote into my copy of her book. I loved her Twitter timeline and the pictures she posted there (she also had a fabulous IG account, I discovered only this morning) – I did not know her well and only spent a few hours in her company, but I know the world is a much poorer place without her in it. I can’t believe that she died at such a young age. Thank you, Yolisa, for those few hours we shared and the many smiles your online presence brought into my life. And thank you, Ulrike, for sharing your stories of this special woman with me. She left too soon, much too soon. My heart goes out to all her loved ones.

~ ~ ~

After this shocking news, it was a slow start to the day. I read in bed for a long time, and then eventually got up and washed my hair and made breakfast. I woke up sneezing like crazy with my nose all blocked – a typical allergic reaction I often experience in the morning, but, of course, I immediately thought: COVID. Twenty minutes later I was completely okay again. No real symptoms whatsoever, but the imaginary ones continue to haunt me.

I had my sole oyster mushroom for breakfast :)

My love delivered groceries to my gate and waved from a distance. It was good to see him, even if only briefly. I did have a proper visitor, though – my doctor friend came to check up on me, but we stayed in the garden, far apart, and kept our masks on. It was comforting to talk to her about my situation. She also brought an almond croissant that I enjoyed with my coffee after she’d left. Still smelling and tasting everything with enormous joy.

My intercom rang once more during the day when these stunning flowers were delivered to my gate – sent by the wonderful Sue Brown, one of Karavan Press’s authors. She sent them to celebrate Karavan Press and all the press’s good news of recent days and to brighten my days in isolation. I do work with the most amazing people.

We are proofreading the last of the Karavan Press books that need to go to print before I can – finally! (yes, I know, I have been saying this for weeks now … sigh) – get a break (not imposed by Covid-19 hopefully). Self-isolating is not exactly resting, and the logistics of it do add other pressures to the everyday, but I have been taking it easy, simply allowing my body to have all the chances possible to deal with the virus should I have been infected. It seems that 95% of people infected show symptoms within two weeks from exposure, so I still have a few days to go, but the average time for manifesting symptoms (five to seven days) is behind me. I might have dodged this bullet. Fingers and toes crossed.

The late afternoon and the entire evening was tennis. Some bloody good tennis! I poured myself a glass of Miss Molly’s In My Bed red, got into bed after dinner, The Cats joined me and we … fevered (metaphorically!) and endured until eventually all of us were too sleepy to continue.

My eyes began to close at two all in the fourth set, and I had a feeling that I would not wake up to a miracle. I am never happy when Rafa loses, but what comforts me is the amazing tennis I saw being played on Philippe Chatrier. My tennis-heart is broken, though. And Novaxx Djokovid’s team members screaming their support into the crowds around them without their masks on just made me angry.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 10 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Numb. That’s how I feel. Perhaps this is what one needs to survive a pandemic. But I also continuously experience this numbness as a loss. In the last few days, I found out that someone who is very dear to me got engaged on another continent and is truly happy because she has found her place in the world and a person she loves to share it with – but I haven’t congratulated them yet. I also found out that someone I care deeply about has had an addition (one, not ten!) to the family, but I haven’t found time and headspace yet to phone the family. People I love are getting vaccinated; every day more and more people I know get their jab. Yesterday, a friend phoned to say that he was dying of cancer. And today my love had his medical check-up and his doctor was very happy with the progress since that fateful morning when we ended up in the ICU a little bit over a month ago. I take it all in, apart from all else that is going on, and for a moment I feel real, deep emotion – either elation or despair – and then it all returns to a kind of vacuum of feeling, a numbness, because it is simply all too much to process or to react to appropriately. Because all of it is happening while the world is going through the severe, ongoing, relentless trauma of trying to stay alive and somehow surviving against the odds.

And all I can really do – self-isolating because of exposure to the potentially lethal virus – is compartmentalise, make lists of things to do, go through them carefully while knowing I will forget something essential anyway, and walk around the house and garden, smelling and tasting things just to make sure that I still can. (No worrying symptoms detected.) And then loadshedding comes along and eventually, I just sit in the dark with The Cats sleeping around me, and stare into space.

I have discovered that I have all kinds of leftovers in the fridge and some dry pasta and pesto and other strange groceries that will actually keep me happy for a few days. But the cat food I need to feed The Cats, especially Salieri right now (who is not allowed to lose more weight), I did not have much of because I was still planning to go shopping yesterday when I heard that I had to self-isolate. I tried ordering online, but the shop’s credit card facility did not function and processing the order via EFT would have postponed the delivery until after the weekend, so I just forwarded the order to a friend who lives nearby and she went to the shop directly and delivered the food to us this afternoon. Our superhero of the day.

My friend who has Covid-19 and who I was in close contact with just before her diagnosis wrote this morning to say that she was sorry about what she’d ’caused’. But she didn’t! It wasn’t her. It is this horrible virus – unpredictable and uncontrollable because of its still largely unknown nature. I told her that there is nothing she needs to feel sorry about.

All I care about is that she recovers quickly and that I do not pass anything on to anyone else, not knowingly. And right now, I know I have been exposed and that I could pose a danger to others, so isolation it is.

I had a dream last night that I was standing in a queue at an Austrian pharmacy, begging to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but nobody was willing to help me … Dr Freud would know exactly what to say.

Today, I have harvested the next ‘batch’ of my oyster mushrooms – i.e. just one. Perfect, I suppose, if you can’t share anything with anyone anyway.

My love and I saw each other on Skype tonight.

And did I mention that Karavan Press is going to publish another poetry collection? By someone whom I hardly know personally, but whose creative work I have admired for a long time and with whom I share weird, ancient, literary ties that reach back to the Sestigers. All was written in the stars before we were born.

It’s all a rollercoaster. Occasionally, it all stops in the dark. Thank you, Eskom?

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 9 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

When in doubt, read poetry. This beautiful collection arrived in my postbox just in time for my first bout of stage four loadshedding and my stint at isolation due to Covid-19 exposure. One of my dear friends with whom I have had close contact in the last few days tested positive for Covid-19. The results arrived late this morning and turned our lives upside down. My friend is very sick and all my secular prayers go out to her and her family. May she make a full and speedy recovery. I have spoken to a doctor friend, informed everyone I had any kind of significant contact with in the last few days since my exposure, cancelled all my appointments, meetings and social engagements, and settled down to my isolation.

I can’t say that I have prepared well for this eventuality (near empty pantry/fridge, no relevant medication, etc.), and, of course, I am worried about possible symptoms – all imaginary so far – and, most of all, the risk to my recovering love with whom I have spent quite a lot of time since my exposure, but I am trying to stay as positive (mood-wise) as I can.

After discussing the logistics of my isolation with my love (I am going to miss him soooooo much!) and cancelling all my engagements for the next while, I just sat in the sun and had a mug of rooibos tea with honey and lemon from my garden and soaked up the healthiness of nature. My doctor friend said to keep hydrated, eat healthy, rest and not panic.

I spoke to Mom and Krystian on Skype before loadshedding and read during the time I was without electricity. I have not cried, although there were a few moments where I was close to tears.

It all feels like lockdown level five all over again. Plus loadshedding.

These are dark times indeed. Good night.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

CANCELLED: Pop-up sale on Saturday!

KP

Dear Readers,

A friend I was in close contact with in the last few days has tested positive for Covid-19 and I need to follow doctor’s orders and isolate. I am not showing any symptoms, but SAFETY FIRST. The sale is CANCELLED. We will celebrate when it is safe to do so again.

I hope my friend will recover soonest.

Literary greetings,

Karina

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Operation Oysterhood: 8 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

An emotional ride of a day. Great news on the vaccine front: loved ones either getting vaccinated or getting appointments for their turn. But then, the news of a dear friend being very ill (not with Covid-19 as far as we know at this stage, but seriously ill nevertheless). And my poor Salieri … her vitals are much better, she has gained a little bit of weight on her medication, and her new blood results will be in tomorrow, but it was not all good news. She will have to have an op to remove two of her teeth when her thyroid/general condition has stabilised. I burst into tears when the vet told me. It was just all a bit too much. But what was very moving was to witness Salieri having her blood pressure taken – with the miniature pressure cuff around her paw and the vet cuddling her during the procedure. She was so brave. After the appointment, I rushed home to prepare the house for loadshedding. My love and I were supposed to have dinner at my place, but … I just asked him to come to us after work because I needed a hug and Salieri a cuddle. Together, in the dark, we took a few deep breaths, made a plan, and had some takeaway pizza. Pizza by candlelight – romantic dinner à la loadshedding.

On the professional front a mixed bag. Manuscript submissions on the rise because of the shortlisting – the interest is a kind of recognition, but I do not understand why anyone would want to submit their manuscript to a press without reading a single book the press has published … Anyway, the other side of the process is pure joy: I met a Karavan Press author today to discuss the drafts of his cover. They are all striking, and it is a brave book. Can’t wait to share all the details soon.

Another beautiful book in the making. If only all things were that rewarding.

The health minister on special leave. Loadshedding moving in permanently. And I will be lucky if I get a vaccine this year …

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 7 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

50% OFF all Karavan Press titles

(and other great offers :))

Let’s celebrate! I have decided to have a pop-up sale in the Karavan Press garden this coming Saturday. An opportunity to meet up with our Readers and raise a glass to Dawn Garisch on the occasion of the shortlisting of her Karavan Press novel, Breaking Milk, for the Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award. (I am still pinching myself – what an amazing recognition for this beautiful, wise novel.)

Covid-19 safety protocols will be observed. We will be outside and the garden will offer lots of space and a relaxed atmosphere. The Cats might join the party. I can’t wait. I am starved for more real-life bookish conversations.

Monday. The refuse collectors were exceptionally early this morning, but they rang my bell, so I did not miss the collection. A morning of admin and emails. Then a lovely meeting on my stoep with a Karavan Press author. Lunch, more computer work until it was time to take my love’s cat to the vet for her monthly appointment. She is a dapper one – a cat with nineteen lives. Dinner was a quiet affair at home with my love.

Tomorrow is Salieri’s turn for her check-up to see whether the meds are working. She has been very good about them, so I hope we will get some good news.

Rafa is in the QF of RG – looking great! About to watch a bit of Iga Świątek’s match before I go to bed.

Hope to see a few of you at the celebration sale on Saturday!

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 6 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch is on the Sunday Times/CNA Fiction Award shortlist! First time ever that Karavan Press titles were in the running and we have had Death and the After Parties by Joanne Hichens on the Non-Fiction Award longlist and Dawn’s novel has made it one step further onto the Fiction shortlist. I am beyond thrilled for these two amazing writers.

I first read a draft of Breaking Milk more than a decade ago and after a rewrite saw it again and completely fell in love with the manuscript, recommending it for publication. The publisher who commissioned me to do the reader’s reports at the time decided not to publish and the manuscript returned to Dawn’s drawer. But I could not forget it – the story and Dawn’s beautiful writing stayed with me. I continued reading her other work, and when Karavan Press became reality, I immediately asked Dawn whether I could read the novel again and consider it for publication. Fortunately for me, she said yes. We published Breaking Milk, Karavan Press’s third book, in 2019. A year later, we published her second poetry collection, Disturbance, together. And the debut collection of Dawn’s short stories is next. The manuscript of Breaking Milk was one of the reasons I wanted to become a publisher. I wanted to share this story with readers. To see it on the shortlist this morning felt more than a dream come true. It was literary magic.

I immediately shared the news with Dawn and my love, and then rushed out to get the Sunday papers. I had a sip of bubbly on an empty stomach to celebrate and then chatted to Mom and Krystian who were also delighted to hear the news. After some food, I enjoyed the rest of the celebratory glass of bubbly.

And there was more good news for Karavan Press today: a great review of An Island by Karen Jennings in Rapport.

Karen Jennings is one of the most exciting contemporary writers. Her brilliance, genre versatility and power of storytelling blows my mind every time I read something by her. A few days ago, I finished reading her next manuscript and I am in awe. Karen is it, a defining voice of her generation (and she is not even forty yet!). I count her among the greats of contemporary literature, and I feel honoured to have An Island on the Karavan Press list.

6 June has special significance for our family history: exactly three decades ago on the 6th, we returned from the States to settle in Europe again; and nineteen years ago on this day, my Mom’s older brother died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – his was one of only a few cases in Austria at the time. He is the first of our family to be buried in Austria.

Today, new memories have been made: magical – literary and otherwise. At the end of the day, my love roasted a chicken for us and the Furry Ones, and we had a quiet, happy evening at home.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 5 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

In the end it was popcorn and cheap red Spanish wine, and Sarah Moss’s Summerwater in the hot bathtub. One-and-a-half hours in the bath, and the little bit of loadshedding darkness that was left afterwards we spent in bed. We slept well for the rest of the night.

Saturday morning continued in bed with the Cat Ladies and another manuscript submitted to Karavan Press. As always, Salieri eventually fell asleep on the job. But it wasn’t because of the manuscript, which is tense and harrowing reading because of the traumatic story it tells. We hope to finish reading it tomorrow.

We spent the early afternoon in the garden, mowing grass, weeding, cleaning the pool, chopping wood and sweeping. This time Mr Mozart and the Prince Frog (camera-shy as always) joined the party.

Then it was time for a late leftover lunch and some tennis before I made my way to my love’s house for more tennis and a simple, delicious dinner and more laziness in front of the TV.

Sad literary news: the Woordfees was cancelled yesterday. Two of Karavan Press authors were supposed to feature on the programme. Bummer. But I think I have an idea, or two. I am starved for bookish conversations that do not involve computer screens.

Jeanette Winterson – whose work I treasure – burned the latest editions of her novels because she did not like their new blurbs. Her actions are difficult to understand or defend, especially in the context of the history of book burning, but we might not know all the essential details of the story, so maybe our stones have been cast too soon. The reports about the book burning made me remember the only time I burned a book. A combination of utter helplessness and rage led me to it. The act itself felt sacrilegious and incredibly empowering at the same time, and I would do it again any day, but only to this one author and this one book. Fortunately, it is out of print anyway, so it won’t be necessary.

Sometime you actually have to be a witch to survive.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD

Operation Oysterhood: 4 June

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

My local post office is closing at the end of the month. I was there this afternoon and the news hit me hard. I really don’t like going anywhere else and feel lost just thinking about the future. I am quite a regular post office client and I am not good with change …

Today was one of those run around, do a lot of stuff, achieve little kind of day. With passing glimpses of tennis. My life needs a revamp.

And loadshedding … Ugh. But I have a plan for tonight’s upcoming hours of darkness: candlelight bath, pink wine (or maybe a cold beer?) and a novel I have been meaning to read for ages. That should make the evening bearable.

My love is coming for dinner first: that makes everything bearable.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”

— NICD