Tag Archives: Tafelberg

Review: The Messiah’s Dream Machine by Jennifer Friedman

The-Messiah's-Dream-MachineFollowing her critically acclaimed debut memoir, Queen of the Free State, Jennifer Friedman returns with a sequel that takes us back to the moment when she was leaving the Free State for boarding school and continues her story into adulthood. The Messiah’s Dream Machine is spread over many more years and settings than the first book, and thus is perhaps more disjointed in its retelling of anecdotes from the chronicles of Friedman’s rather eccentric family. However, like its literary sibling, it focuses not only on a life full of adventure and discovery, but also on the darker sides of adolescence and of growing into the often unexpected roles fate has in store for us.

After recording the trials and tribulations of boarding school in Cape Town, Friedman depicts her married life in Johannesburg and her family’s emigration, first to Israel and eventually to Australia, where she still lives and traverses the skies in her Grumman Tiger plane. But no matter how far she goes, the Free State continues calling her back to the places “transformed beyond recognition, and the ghosts who’ve drifted unchallenged through the years”, and it is Friedman’s narrative that, like amber, encloses these stories into time capsules which will endure in the imaginations of her readers.

“Never is a long, long time … I’ll never send you away, said Ma. I’ll never leave you, Al says now,” Friedman writes and shares with us how to survive broken promises. With her vivid prose and a knack for dialogue, she delivers an array of odd characters that many of us will recognise from our own circles of family and friends. The Messiah’s Dream Machine also features disgusting meatballs, bloody springbok hunts, mice plagues, floods, a tornado, a few funerals and a wedding. “Nostalgia with teeth”, according to Mike Nicol.

The Messiah’s Dream Machine

by Jennifer Friedman

Tafelberg, 2019

Review first appeared in the Cape Times on 12 April 2019.

Book launch: The Messiah’s Dream Machine by Jennifer Friedman

Messiah-invitation-Book-Lounge

Jennifer Friedman was born and raised in the Orange Free State in South Africa. She studied at the University of Cape Town, and her Afrikaans poetry has been published in various academic journals such as Tydskrif vir LetterkundeWetenskap en KunsStandpunte and Buurman, as well as Rooi Rose. She emigrated with her husband and children in 1992 to Sydney, Australia, where she got her pilot’s licence. After her husband’s death in 1997, Friedman bought her own Grumman Tiger plane and she flies to the small outback towns and stations around Australia, often just for a lunch date and wherever the sun is shining. She now lives on the Central Coast of New South Wales with her partner.

Queen_of_the_Free_State The-Messiah's-Dream-Machine

The Messiah’s Dream Machine is Friedman’s second memoir, after Queen of the Free State (2017).

On 4 April 2019, I will be in conversation with the author at the launch of this wonderful book. I look forward to seeing you all at the Book Lounge!

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

Review: Dare We Hope? Facing Our Past to Find a New Future by by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Dare We HopePumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s collection of articles published between 1995 and 2014 offers a fascinating glimpse into the main issues plaguing contemporary South Africa. A professor in psychology, Gobodo-Madikizela was deeply involved in the proceedings of the TRC and wrote the award-winning A Human Being Died that Night, one of the most relevant and haunting books of recent years. It tells the story of her interaction with Eugene de Kock, the apartheid assassin known as Prime Evil.

Gobodo-Madikizela is a leading authority in research on trauma, memory and forgiveness. Many articles in Dare We Hope? focus on remembrance and reconciliation as relating to race, gender and power. Gobodo-Madikizela puts her finger on the insidious everyday ways we work against a common future by “attacking one another…in private and in public”.

Having recognised the seeds of discontent being sown and germinating in our society, Gobodo-Madikizela warns against the next revolution, “one in which the masses rise against a new breed of beneficiaries of privilege.” The “never-ending cycle of nothingness” that is poverty and lack of aspiration “strips away the humanity of individuals.” Unless we can create opportunities for people to lead meaningful lives, we will have no future as a society.

A large section of the book is devoted to dilemmas of leadership and morality. It is an incisive analysis of the “terrible shame”, the “moral rot” of the Zuma years and the terrifying legacy they are threatening to leave behind: “From the beginning, Zuma’s presidency was destined to corrupt the soul of the country.”

Gobodo-Madikizela identifies what is “missing in our democracy”: “a spirit of human solidarity that transcends the commitment to membership of one’s racial group or political party.” Her plea is for a shared humanity, for the understanding and acceptance of our diverse grievances, traumas and complicities, and, crucially, for the triumph of moral responsibility.

The articles in this book repeatedly call for dialogue: “Listening to one another and acknowledging the experience of loss on both sides would be a start.” It is a call for the employment of that wonderful faculty we all have in common: our imagination. It is also a call for moving beyond denial and revenge into a space where guilt can be articulated and forgiveness becomes a lived reality.

Dare We Hope? is an extremely sobering read. Gobodo-Madikizela is under no illusion that what she is narrating is anything but “a gruesome tale”. However, her voice is one of wisdom and, despite all, deep-seeded hope. To ignore her insights and not to heed her warnings could prove detrimental not only to individuals but to society at large. This collection is a much needed reminder that South Africa is in a dire need of more dissenting voices and, even more importantly, true leaders who can lead by example. Gobodo-Madikizela’s vision is a vital contribution in both respects.

Dare we hope? Perhaps. One thing is for certain; a lot of work needs to be done to rekindle the spark of an earlier promise.

Dare We Hope? Facing Our Past to Find a New Future
by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Tafelberg, 2014

Book mark: DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism by Lindie Koorts

MalanFor somebody acquainted with only a broad outline of South Africa’s turbulent past, this blow by blow account of DF Malan’s life, told against the background of the crystallisation of Afrikaner nationalism and its most lethal exponent apartheid, was a real eye-opener. Deeply religious and driven by a strong sense of duty towards his people, Malan was prepared to make great sacrifices to achieve what he believed in: a South African republic where the Afrikaans-speaking community leads economically and culturally viable lives. He navigated the minefields of the country’s volatile political landscape in the first half of the twentieth century with determination that nearly obscures the warped racial ideology which drove him. Although this is Koorts’ first biography, she weaves the individual life story into the larger socio-political context with meticulous skill. At times her narrative reads like a political thriller where the villain is indistinguishable from a hero.

An edited version of this book mark was first published in the Cape Times today, 13 May 2014, p. 32.

DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism
by Lindie Koorts
Tafelberg, 2014