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Chris Barnard's Classic, Mahala, Now Available in English (With Excerpt)

MahalaMahalaChris Barnard Alert! UK publisher Aflame Books has just released Chris Barnard‘s Afrikaans psychological thriller classic, Mahala, in English.

Aflame’s mission is to bring readers the “finest world fiction in English translation”. The imprint featured in BOOK SA’s annals not so long ago for its edition of Sibusiso Nyembezi’s The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg, translated by Sandile Ngidi, which received two glowing reviews.

Mahala is translated by Luzette Strauss. Here’s the English blurb, followed by an excerpt:

DEEP IN the African bush, Delport lives alone, and in fear. For nine long years he has endured nights of mosquitoes and mysterious drumming, and days of burning sun, waiting for his past to catch up with him. His past arrives in the form of a young woman with a mask that bears an unsettling resemblance to his nemesis.

The arrival of the mask coincides with the death of one of his employees. His self-imposed exile in the wilderness of southern Africa begins to have him questioning not just those around him, but those whose very existence is questionable.

From one of South Africa’s great writers comes this psychological thriller of existential proportions which delves into the angst of a generation.

Barnard, one of the writers of what is known as the sixties’ generation of South African writers, spent time in Paris and encouraged Breyten Breytenbach to have his first works published. Now, 40 years later, Breytenbach is one of South Africa’s best known writers.

A work of literary fiction, set in the wilderness of southern Africa, Mahala encapsulates the angst of a generation of white South Africans who had such power but lived with such (hidden) fears.

Excerpt from Mahala by Chris Barnard

Fear had been part of him for so long that he no longer recognised it as fear. It was in his careful, almost skulking manner of walk; in his restless, mistrustful eyes, in his unusually soft voice; in his oft stammering manner of talking.

He seldom still reminded himself that he had to be careful, had to keep his eyes peeled. It had long been habit that he would rather not meet strangers, that he only go to Caipemba if it was absolutely essential. The noise and frivolity of bars irritated him. Strangers bored him. People tired him out. But he no longer related any one of these things to fear.

So he had not been thinking of Ritter that afternoon when the girl suddenly spoke to him. He only knew that he wanted to get rid of her; because someone, he thought – anyone – must be careful of a girl who accosts you in the street. Even if she barely looks sixteen. Even if she looks innocent and very unsure of herself.

He was way ahead of his shadow heading back to the river. The boat would leave in a quarter of an hour. The afternoon was sharp and hot and his shirt clung wetly to his back. Then he saw her jump down from the veranda of a shop and head for him, between the flies and the blacks’ fruit baskets. She was skinny and quite short, a little forlorn in her sweaty dress. Her shoulders were naked and brown from the sun and her hair, cut short, tied behind her head with a ribbon.

“Senhor,” she said, “do you know when the boat leaves?”

“The packet?” he asked and stood expectantly.

“Faz favor.”

“In quarter of an hour.”

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