Tag Archives: LitNet

Review: Leaving Word by Steven Boykey Sidley

As Steven Boykey Sidley says in the acknowledgments of his latest novel, Leaving Word, it is true that “writing a book with a fiction editor as its main protagonist is asking for trouble, on many levels”. Writing a book about the publishing industry as a whole might be asking for even more trouble. But, if anyone can pull it off with aplomb, it is Sidley. And Leaving Word, his fifth novel, is a rollicking read because of it…

Continue reading: LitNet

Leaving Word
Steven Boykey Sidley
MF Books, 2019

189

Review: I Wish I’d Said…Vol. 2 edited by Johann de Lange and Mandla Maphumulo

I Wish I'd Said

‘…A similar sentiment is captured in two exquisite lines of “Two images, after a call” by Nick Mulgrew: “The gentle go gentle. Even in daydreams you cannot wound,/ more the way you left your book unread; cold tea on the table.” The same way these images of loss spoke directly to my innermost thoughts and feelings, there will be numerous others that each individual reader will find touching. Across the different languages, the poems illuminate the universality of grief. And we live in a time of worldwide loss, not only because of the threat to the welfare of the people we know and love, but because our entire way of being is changing on a seismic scale as we enter a period of global transformation and have to cope with the grief that goes with the gradual vanishing of security and vision.

A broken tree, a pillar falling, a mountain collapsing, loved ones going to sleep – these are metaphors often referring to our demise; a “human library” departing features in “It’s time” by Moses Seletisha (second place winner in Sepedi), and life is described as a “paper fire” in “That’s life, my child” by Nolusindiso Mali (original in Xhosa). I suspect that a lot of the beauty of many of the poems’ original rhythms and imagery is lost in translation, but numerous sparks of uniqueness shine through the layers of various languages, as in this delicate line: “Sleep when wounded and accept,” with which Neliswa “Sange.M” Sampi-Mxunyelwa ends the fourth-place contribution in the Xhosa category…’

To read the entire review, please see: LitNet

I Wish I'd Said_excerpt

I Wish I’d Said … Vol. 2

Edited by Johann de Lange and Mandla Maphumulo

Naledi, 2019

Review: J.M. Coetzee – Photographs from Boyhood, edited and introduced by Herman Wittenberg

JM Coetzee Photographs from Boyhood

“What struck me most about the book is that along with the aspiring artist’s curiosity and professionalism, it conveys, perhaps even unintentionally, a certain kind of vulnerability that probably should have been but wasn’t immediately obvious in my thinking about the author and his writing. This is a young man who was still searching for his medium of expression, watching – often unbeknown to his subjects – and recording them in a soul-searching, piercing, yet seemingly detached manner that reflects later in his writing. And this is a boy trying to define for himself what it means to be a man in the world.”

To read the entire review, click here: LitNet

J.M. Coetzee: Photographs from Boyhood

Edited and introduced by Herman Wittenberg

Protea Book House, 2020

Review: South African Writing in Transition, edited by Rita Barnard and Andrew van der Vlies

South African Writing in TransitionIt has been a while since I’ve read, edited or contributed to an anthology of theoretical essays on South African literature. But, occasionally, I still have academic longings; therefore, I approached South African Writing in Transition, edited by Rita Barnard and Andrew van der Vlies, with great anticipation, and found the collection most engrossing. The individual contributions focus on a fascinating and relevant selection of primary sources, mostly novels and short stories, reaching as far back as Sol Plaatje’s Mhudi (1930) and incorporating contemporary texts into the diverse readings of the South African literary canon. The work of other South African literary greats – Njabulo S Ndebele, Zakes Mda, Mongane Wally Serote, Nadine Gordimer, Marlene van Niekerk and Ivan Vladislavić among them – is discussed along with an array of new, equally exciting voices, exposing striking continuities and departures.

By its very nature, theoretical writing takes time to compose and publish. South African Writing in Transition is the result of several international conferences which took place between 2012 and 2017 in South Africa and overseas. Most contributors are not based locally, which perhaps limits the scope of the inquiry as a whole, but the collection testifies to South African literature’s continuous appeal to international scholars. Also, the anthology’s topics are pertinent to our present in highly productive and sometimes uncanny ways. As Barnard writes in the introduction to the book: “[I]t is now time to consider the many loops and twists, the stasis and acceleration, the paralysis and hope of postapartheid experience.” We find ourselves in an unprecedented global reality in which the interest in world literature, its contributions and theories, will become more significant than ever, and understanding the South African experience, past and present, socio-historical and literary, as part of it could be of notable value.

Continue reading: LitNet

Review: Remnants Restante Reste by Annette Snyckers

Remnants-Restsante-by-Annette-SnyckersIt isn’t often that you can delight in a poetry collection in three languages, but Annette Snyckers’s debut Remnants Restante Reste invites you to do precisely that. Writing in English, Afrikaans and German, Snyckers explores the possibilities of translation and creative expansion. Not all the poems included are presented in all three languages, but the ones that are add a magical layer to the poetry as the individual manifestations enhance and augment one another. The author notes: “Where a poem appears in more than one language, the first version is not necessarily the original version. Poems were written in different languages as I felt the need to write them, and all subsequent translations were done by me.” I feel fortunate to be able to enjoy all three versions in meaningful ways, but even if one of them eludes you, the remaining offerings in the collection are rich enough to suffice for a satisfying read…

Continue reading: LitNet

Remnants Restante Reste
by Annette Snyckers
Modjaji Books, 2018

Review: Lacuna by Fiona Snyckers

You are concerned for my sake, which I appreciate,Lacuna

you think you understand, but finally you don’t. Because you can’t. 

— Lucy Lurie in JM Coetzee’s Disgrace

 

Reluctance. That is what I felt approaching Fiona Snyckers’s latest novel, Lacuna. Only after the third attempt did I manage to get beyond the second sentence of the first chapter: “My vagina is a lacuna that my attackers filled with their penises.” I eventually continued when asked to review the novel. And boy, am I glad that I did!

Lacuna is the story of Lucy Lurie, a fictional woman who shares a name with one of the main characters in Disgrace (published exactly two decades ago in 1999). It is a feminist “reply”, for want of a better word, to JM Coetzee’s most famous — or infamous (depending on one’s reading) — novel.

Why my reluctance to read Lacuna? It’s complicated. But let me try to explain…

Continue reading: LitNet

Review: Secret Keeper by Kerry Hammerton

Secret KeeperSecret Keeper
Kerry Hammerton
Modjaji, 2018

To read the entire review, click here: LitNet

[…]

The keeper of the titular poem tends to secrets as others tend to bees. Like the insects, the secrets always return, “hairy bodies crammed into my mouth” wanting to escape (“The secret keeper”).

The last part of this captivating book, not unlike life itself, consists of poems of loss and grief. Here, too, there is a before and after, and once again it is impossible to imagine how “to get to the other side” (“This year”) when a loved one, the father, dies. The mourning child states: “I am better at my other life,/ where no-one is dead,/ where sadness doesn’t press/ its cold weight into my sternum/ creep along my clavicle, breathe into my spine” (“My other life”).

In Secret keeper, Hammerton manages to capture the essentials of most adult lives – love, loss, loneliness, anxiety, ageing and death – and leaves us pondering our own mortality, and that deep longing not to feel our insignificance “at night” when we are all alone under the “black sky, stars,/ the milky way”.

[…]

To read the entire review, click here: LitNet

You Make Me Possible reviewed on LitNet

btr“Biography lovers may despair that the internet is making it improbable that biographers will still discover old, forgotten letters in dusty attics, revealing juicy secrets about celebrities. It still remains a problem when writers discard electronic records of their correspondence, but this book proves that emails can be every bit as romantic as old-fashioned letters, and all the more immediate.”

— Elkarien Fourie

Read the entire review here: LitNet.

Review: There’s Always Tomorrow by Abner Nyamende

theres-always-tomorrowThe overwhelming impression I had while reading Abner Nyamende’s There’s always tomorrow was that the novel had not been edited properly, if at all. It began with the first page, where the word “darkness” features six times without apparent reason. And the unnecessary repetitions are only the tip of the iceberg. After finishing, out of curiosity I looked up Partridge, the publishing house, and was informed that, although backed by a giant international trade publisher, the company provides only self-publishing services to their authors. Editing seems to be part of the professional packages on offer, but I cannot imagine that it was employed in this particular case. In this regard I was appalled at the quality of the final product, and it is a pity, because the book has an important story to tell. If the author did pay for editing of any kind, he was cheated…

Continue reading: LitNet

Book review: Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks, edited by Yolisa Qunta

Writing What We LikeFor a white person, reading Writing What We Like: A New Generation Speaks might feel like gatecrashing a party where some ugly truths will be revealed about you. Provocative and penetrating, Writing What We Like is a difficult book to review when you happen to be white, because one feels that one should not be talking at all, but listening only. One is torn between possible accusations of one’s own “intellectual arrogance” and the need for dialogue. And yet, a way to disrupt entrenched ways of thinking and to establish connections across barriers imposed on us by a turbulent and harrowing history is to try to imagine ourselves into the skins of others. That is where creativity and empathy begin – in writing, reading and interpretation – where we cease to view ourselves in any other categories but human. The ultimate goal is understanding, coupled with compassion. Everything else will follow from there.

If there ever was a timely book, Writing What We Like is definitely it. It is the brain child of Yolisa Qunta, who over the period of the past two years interviewed and collected essays written by her fellow young black South Africans for this remarkable publication. Only a few of the pieces first appeared elsewhere.

Qunta was concerned about the “dearth of books” published by her black peers and felt “duty-bound to record” their lived experience of transformation. She hopes the book will “help to shape the debates currently taking place in the workplaces and the bars, and over dinner tables ekasi and in suburbs across the country”.

Twenty-four contributors deliver twenty-eight pieces ranging in topics from hip hop and Rhodes Must Fall to Nkandla and BDSM. Unfortunately no biographical notes about the authors were included in the collection.

Continue reading: LitNet