Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

“We remembered blundering, in fog, into a nudist colony” – Terry Bell shares anecdotes from A hat, a kayak and dreams of Dar

Published in the Sunday Times

It was a book that was supposed to have been written as we travelled half a century ago. But all the notes and everything else we owned was lost, stolen in Madrid. That followed several months of great difficulty being stranded in Equatorial Guinea, being robbed at gunpoint in what was then Zaire and finally arriving in Ndola on Zambia’s Copperbelt, in what our contemporaries described as “an emaciated condition”.

It was a tumultuous time politically in the region and there was no thought of going back to a book I had tentatively dubbed: Paddle Dammit! This after the need for my partner and wife, Barbara, and I to paddle frantically to avoid collisions with ships coming upstream on the Rhone as we careered downstream.

Two years in Zambia were followed by time in Botswana and New Zealand, where a decade after we had paddled down the Thames in London, bound for Dar es Salaam, we were presented with an album of postcards sent by Barbara to her parents throughout our travels. With them came 11 tapes made on a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder during the latter part of our journeying.

There were no machines we could play them on and so they were stored with the postcard album – and we forgot about them. But we often talked about what we had done, the humorous moments and the difficulties. We were encouraged to write up the journey of both a hat and a kayak called Amandla.

I didn’t want to rely on fallible memory and thought that to write such a personal memoir would be self-indulgent. Authors John and Erica Platter disagreed and, encouraged, we took the postcards out of the album and discovered, on the backs, a diary of our journeying. All but one of the tapes were also transcribed onto CDs.

I realised we had an accurate record of where we had been, what we had done and when. Even what we had eaten. To write it up would be a break from the generally worrying areas of economics, politics and labour that I concentrate on; a lighter moment about a more hopeful time when everything seemed possible.

“How on earth do you cook, travelling in a kayak?” asked John Platter. Barbara set to, drawing up a selection of the recipes used for one-pot camping cuisine. We remembered the incidents of blundering, in fog, into a nudist colony; of the terror of our first experience with 250 ton barges; of the roar of the mistral wind and the calm, lovely canals.

It was therapeutic. And it underlined for us how liberating it had been and how hopeful the world had seemed as we blundered our way from swinging ’60s London through the waterways of France into the Mediterranean.

We learned much, lessons that still seem pertinent today. . .

Book details

» read article

Fiksie Vrydag: Jacques de Viljee se kortverhaal, My laaste aand (in Kaapstad)

Foto’s: Jacques de Viljee, Instagram

Jacques de Viljee is ’n skrywer van Kaapstad. Sy werk is al in New Contrast en op LitNet en gepubliseer.

My laaste aand (in Kaapstad)
Jacques de Viljee

“Dis tog vanselfsprekend: Kill your darlings, my kind.”

“Maar wat bly oor?”


[11:41, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: En die verlange na die ruik, proe, hoor, voel?

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Jy kan deurkom.

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Dis net ek.

[11:49, 8/28/2018] +27 73 693 2733: Naak en eerlik.

[12:11, 8/28/2018] Christine van Vreden: Ek wil omhels. Ek wil vergeet. Ek wil glo.

Daar het net nou te veel twyfel opgeduik. Ek kry dit net nie weggebêre nie.

Ek wil, ek wil

Dus vertrou ek dat ’n tydjie alleen my net weer sal laat besef dat my idees/ persepsie nie altyd so konkreet hoef te wees nie. Dat mens bly mens.

Maak dit sin?


Net die skoon word vermoor
Net die sag kry seer
Net die jonk glo
Soos wat net die jonk van hart kan glo

“O Jirre ek moet gaan -” Stamp ’n stoel om, mense wat oor mekaar praat, harde musiek wat krapperig oor die luidsprekers speel, sigaretrook en wierook, vuil kussings en oorvol glase.

“Hierso: Why some aspects of punk spoke to Afrikaans-speaking musicians and not to Anglophone musicians is a theme that further research should investigate more carefully.

What do you think, P?” “Ja, youth culture specialist.” “What do I think? Dude, to be honest I think it’s that brattiness that’s so inherent to punk rock -” “Brattiness?” “What do you call it, a vloermoer? That conscious dissociation with the order, the system, whatever. To break down everything around you, even if you let the walls fall in on yourself. I think that’s why the Afrikaners -” “Afrikaans speakers.” “Vink, fokkit.” “Whatever, man, why they chose punk rock as a medium, rather than something more sophisticated like jazz, which they probably saw as another form of Anglo-imperialism, cultural snobbery or something, you know.”

“Ja, seker.”

“And then youth culture. Like counterculture it just needs confusion and alienation to erupt.” “Maar is hulle nie confused nie? I’m on my way to thirty and I’m confused as fuck!” “Maar jy moet onthou, Ludwig, keep in mind that they’re growing up in this time, they’re used to this continuous and constant change.” “But it’s … exponential …” “They’re okay with that. Only what happens in the moment matters. What happens to the moment doesn’t.” “Expendable present.”

“The best, babez! We dyed our hair purple and watched the first Harry Potter movie!” “That. Is incredible!” “I know, right!” “We’re just fucked, man. Confused. And that’s why the alternative scene or whatever you wanna call it, realness, is being shaped by these geniuses in their late twenniez and thirdiez.” “That’s fuckin’ us!” “That is fuckin’ us, dude! Why do you think I enjoy my job so much? These are the people I work with every day!” “It’s a bless!” “Such a bless, bro.”

Hulle lag. Vat slukke wyn. Ludwig haal sy tabaksakkie uit sy baadjie en sit dit voor hom op die tafel neer.

“Exactly! So I’m making this note in Kitcheners about writing a poem or something about Amelie and Janine meeting at an exhibition in Maboneng, because, I mean, it starts with Janine going up to Amelie and being, like, ‘Stan Smiths are the most comfortable shoes on Earth, am I right, babe? -” “Ja, and we spoke about a psychoman! We both had one! She had this guy they camped with in the Tankwa Karoo and afterwards he called her a desert slut!”

“Haha, what the fuck!”

“And I was chatting to this guy on Tinder and I told him I like cello music.” “Yeh.” “And he stops talking to me. Calls me a cello slut.” “What the fuuuucccckkkkk!!!” “And so, as I write the note this guy comes over to us, and he asks for a lighter. And next moment he has two lighters and a match lighting up his cigarette, shakes his head and smiles this gigantic smile. And the ice is broken. Such a …” “Try streaming happiness, you know what I mean?” “Highly Recommended dude, ons moet dit dan doen. Ons het ’n vyf jaar voorsprong.”

Die deurklokkie lui. Iemand se foon lui, dronk huiweroomblik, dan: “Ek sal dit kry.” “Ruann, dude! Lekker. Ons is by Ryno en Amelie se flat, luister musiek, drink joints en rook wyn. Ja … Um, ja, Ludwig, Phumlani, Jacques, Janine, Vink, Sibusiso … Okay cool, nee, geniet Siblings, dude, laat maar weet as jou planne verander.”

“Wie’s dit, Ami?” “Dis Jesus by die interkom.” “Al weer.” “Patrick Stickles, mahn!” “I feel like that about Kendrick Lamar.” “I know, right! Master historian.” “I only talk for myself. Fuck your association.” “Doesn’t tweet. Like Camus.” “Vink!” “King Kunta.” “Ja, die heeltyd. Daar’s hierdie nuwe ding wat hulle uitgedink het, wel jy het seker al daarvan gehoor, waar jy al jou mediese data in ’n masjien kan upload, en hulle basies ’n kloon van jou kan maak wat nooit sal siek raak nie, so nooit kan doodgaan nie. En jou consciousness …” “Jammer dat ek jou in die rede val. Dis weird. Ek was altyd vreesbevange vir die dood, aande wakkergelê. Nou’s dit die idee van onsterflikheid wat my nie kan uitlos nie.” “Ek voel dieselfde, man.” “Ons het vergeet dat doodgaan deel van lewendig wees is.” “Ja ja ja,”

Ludwig staan verwilderd op, klim op sy stoel, wat onder hom wankel. “Almal almal almal! ’n Heildronk. A toast. Here’s …” Lig sy glas. “To dying!”

Almal saam, “To dying!”

“Fok ja, kom hier, Ludwig.” Ryno sluk die laaste van sy wyn af. “Daar’s nog bottels in die kombuis.” “Feminism’s failure to acknowledge that beauty is a value in itself, that even if a woman manages to achieve it for a particular moment, she has contributed something to the culture.” “Presies! Jacques, ek –” “Dude, daar’s nog kots op jou baadjie.” “Thanks. Fok.” “Ja, wanneer die wêreld in 2029 in rook en vlamme opgaan.” “Social media, right, we’re all sitting in the same room trying to talk over each other.” “What I wanna know is: Are we cool enough for you, Phumlani? I mean …” “Maar dis wat dit is: Kanye en Drake. Hulle tap in hierdie self-obsessie, want dis so tekenend van ons tyd.” “Volgens my: Tame Impala wat op daai selfde obsessie intap, die gevoel van vervreemding daarteenoor.” “En Maandagaand Stellenbosch!” “Yes! Dit gaan lóóp!” “Dit gaan hárd loop!”

“Fok Buzzfeed! Popkultuur popkultuur popkultuur popkultuur! Ek kan nie.” Die girts van ’n lighter maak ’n vlam. “Aaah! Smoking joints like cigarettes al weer!” “Dude, sit Swanesang op. Die grafsteen van ons jeug, noudat ons op die onderwerp is.” “Nee, Lugsteuring, iets harder!” “Jy’t nie My Chemical Romance op vinyl nie?” “Bra. Jy’t ’n moerse wanpersepsie van my musieksmaak.”

“Krisjan het. Moet ek dit gaan haal?” “As jy nugter genoeg is om die naald te lig.” “Kom, sit.” “Ek sit bietjie op my voete.”

“Ja. Ek en Christine is besig om op te breek.”

“Nee, Jacques.”

“Daar’s net hierdie magteloosheid. Dis eintlik erger, jy weet. Al wat oorbly is woorde om te herstel. En ek weet nie of ek woorde diep genoeg het nie.” Hy trek aan sy sigaret.

“As daar iemand is wat het dan is dit jy, my lief.”

“God. Ek kan net hoop en bid.”

“Weird vraag. Onregverdige vraag. Help dit jou nie? Is sy nie die persoon wat die storie van jou pyn aandryf nie?”

“Vink. Dink jy nie dit is waar die raaisel net joune is nie? Dis soos om te vra waaraan dink jy as jy masturbeer? Dis jou weergalmende heelal, jou orgasme op papier.”

“Vreemd. Ja. Wanneer laas? Ek dink … in ’n treinkompartement op pad Bloemfontein toe. Myne ook…”

“En die boek?”

“Goed. Die einde is in sig. Ek oefen vir onderhoude as ek hoog en alleen is.”

“Goed so…”

“And how is the current political sphere any different to imperialistic missionaries?” “It’s the new entertainment industry.” “Western capitalism in sheep’s clothing.” “And memes are just cultural inside jokes.” “Thanks, Vink.” “It’s true, though.”

“Okay. Ons moet gaan. Come, Sibz.” “Cool, cheers, man. Is julle Uber hier?” “Ons stap sommer. Dis tien minute.”

“Veilig wees.”

“Bye, Vinklief. Bye, Sibz.”
“En hoe voel dit om nie meer ’n werk te hê nie?”

“So bevrydend, joh.”

“En môre vlieg jy?”

“Môre vlieg ek.”

“Vriend, ek gaan jou mis.”

“Ek ook, alles; almal; elke aand.”

“Desnieteenstaande. Feite bly feite.”

“Yoh, P, did you see the newest Jean Kleynhans?” “No?” “A white guy and a black girl sitting in bed, Do liberal black girls enjoy social justice more than sex? at the top, the girl busy on her phone, starting a tweet with tfw, and the guy is busy masturbating, moaning JA! JA!, about to come.” “Jesus.” “Going all political and shit, huh?”

“Politics is porn.”


“Ryno, is jy reg om ʼn pa te wees?”

“Waarvan de fok praat jy, bra?!”

“Net ’n vraag.”

“Ek groei weer my baard, so seker ja, ek weet nie. Dis ’n vreemde vraag, vriend.”

“Ek moet ook gaan, dude, baie dankie.” “So nou is dit net ons en die volksverraaier.” “Julle weet dat ek kan Afrikaans verstaan.” “I’m referring to Ludwig, Phumlani.”

“Ag fokof, man!”
Die plaat het ophou speel. Phumlani is huis toe en Amelie het gaan slaap.

“Al weer net ek en jy, Ludwig.”

“Janee.” Dowwe geklop, gedagtes wat leeg weergalm.

“So jou laaste aand in Kaapstad, nè?”

“My laaste aand in Kaapstad.”

“Die aand voor die groot verkiesing…”

“En ek gaan nie eers fokken stem nie.”

“No Allegiance to the Queen.”

“No allegiance to the queen.”

“Dis Ruann wat gebel het, nè? Waar het hy gesê is hy?”

“In Siblings saam met Darius-hulle.”

“Ah, okay, die skate crew.”

“Yes. Die Enlightened Youths.”


[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: Ja.

[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: Maar ek gaan myself nooit kan vergewe nie

[12:15, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: die seer wat ek gemaak het

[12:21, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: dat my dade jou verhoed om by my te wees

[12:21, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: my verstand kan homself nie begryp nie

[12:23, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: is hierdie apartwees nie genoeg nie?

[12:23, 8/28/2017] +27 73 693 2733: hoe lank moet ons onsself gysel?


(Hey Ludwig, nou net by die flat gekom. Te moeg om uit te gaan. )

(Dink nou net. Wil net weer sê. Gaan vind wat jy soek. Gaan geniet wat jy vind. My goed kan enige dag verander. Moenie daaran vasklou nie. Ek gaan die fisiese jy mis. Ek het jou oneindig lief. Maar ek gun jou als. Daar is so baie wat wag!)

(Hoop julle klomp kuier lekker! Ek sien jou moreoggend. Liefde e)


’n Maand by die see. Grys druppels teen die vensters. Die reuk van groen heuwels en ’n dynserigheid oor die see. Afgeskilferde rotse, soutsmaak branders. My kinderdae, het jy geweet? Rooi oë en geel vingers. Die stilte van die see, druisende geraas oor die sand. God en liefde en verlange en dood en skuld en pyn en vrees en afsondering. Altyd musiek wat my weer na die mens toe terugtrek.


Ma en Pa

Vanaand is my laaste aand in Kaapstad. Môre vlieg ek Suid-Korea toe. Ek het deur Wikus (Wynand se vriend) daar werk gekry om Engels te gee.

Daar is seker twee goed wat ek behoort te verduidelik.

Eerstens, hoekom ek gaan: Ek dink, basies, voel ek net al vir lank asof ek nie meer hier is nie. Ek word surround deur mense met probleme en drome soveel anders as myne. Alles wat ek doen is op die internet. Al my werk, ek lees net op die internet. Dit is waar ek flieks kyk en musiek luister. En ja, ons het al hieroor gepraat, en ja, dis seker hoekom ek boeke begin koop het en al my vinyls. Om te voel asof ek hier is. Maar die mense hier … Niemand voel tuis nie en ek kort ’n tuiste.

En dit beantwoord seker tweedens hoekom ek nie vir julle gesê het ek gaan nie. Hoe sê ek dit met ’n straight face? Julle was nog altyd hier en ek was altyd die een wat gesê het Nee, ons moet vir ewig bly.

As hierdie seermaak hoop ek julle kan soortvan verstaan. Ek gaan vir minstens twee jaar nie terugkom nie, maar julle is welkom om enige tyd te kom kuier. En ek sal e-mail en ons kan Skype en ek is nog steeds op ons Whatsapp group.

Ek sal safe wees. Ek sal laat weet hoe dit gaan.

Groete Liefde


[This message has no subject.]

Do you want to send it anyway?

Cancel | Send Anyway


Ek bel. Dit lui. En lui. En lui.


Die liriekaanhaling in die tweede gedeelte van die kortverhaal kom uit “Oop vir misinterpretasie” deur Fokofpolisiekar.

Die kortverhaal bevat ’n uittreksel vanuit die volgende bron:

Maria Suriano & Clara Lewis (2015) Afrikaners is Plesierig! Voëlvry Music, Anti-apartheid Identities and Rockey Street Nightclubs in Yeoville (Johannesburg), 1980s–90s, African Studies, 74:3, 404-428, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2015.1004850, asook ’n aanhaling van Camille Paglia.

» read article

The reluctant president: an extract from Mandla Langa’s Dare Not Linger

Published in the Sunday Times

Nelson Mandela never finished the sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Using his draft, notes and a wealth of archival material, Mandla Langa has completed the chronicle of Mandela’s presidential years. This is an edited extract from Dare Not Linger.

The reluctant president

‘My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa was imposed on me much against my advice’
- Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent the night of the inauguration at the State Guest House in Pretoria, which would be his temporary home for the next three months while FW de Klerk was moving out of Libertas, the presidential residence — Mandela later renamed it Mahlamba Ndlopfu (“The New Dawn” in Xitsonga, meaning literally “the washing of the elephants” due to the fact that elephants bathe in the morning).

At about 10am on May 11, the day after the inauguration, Mandela arrived at the back entrance of the west wing of the Union Buildings, accompanied by a security detail of the as-yet unintegrated units of the South African Police and MK. Two formidable women — Barbara Masekela and Jessie Duarte — who were at the heart of Mandela’s administration as ANC president, stepped along as smartly as they could, laden with paraphernalia for setting up office.

Forever in the shade, the temperature in the corridors was one or two degrees lower than outside, forcing a somewhat conservative dress code upon the staff and officials. Previously, when Mandela had met with De Klerk, the corridors had always smelled of coffee brewing somewhere. This morning there was no such smell and, except for the few people Mandela met at the entrance to the building, the place seemed deserted and forlorn, devoid of human warmth.

How Mandela charmed apartheid personnel

Executive Deputy President De Klerk had taken the whole of his private office with him, leaving only the functional and administrative staff.

But conviviality and sartorial elegance were the last things on the minds of Mandela’s staff, whose main business on May 11 was the finalisation of the cabinet of the Government of National Unity and the swearing-in of ministers. It was a small team, composed of hand-picked professionals, which had to deliver an urgent mandate.

As Duarte observed, Mandela was not passive in the selection of staff. When he sought to enlist Professor Jakes Gerwel as a possible director-general and cabinet secretary, she remembered that Mandela “wanted to know everything there was to know about Jakes. He asked Trevor [Manuel] … before he actually sat down with Jakes and said, ‘If we win, would you come to my office?’

“He also spoke to quite a number of activists [about] who this Gerwel chap was; who … would go into government with him.”

A competent cadre in the president’s office was needed to make up for the gap left by the withdrawal of the 60 people on De Klerk’s staff. At Thabo Mbeki’s prompting, a team headed by Department of Foreign Affairs official Dr Chris Streeter took on the role, with Streeter becoming Mandela’s “chief of staff” until the director-general was appointed.

Mandela was quick to dispel the illusion that he would be getting rid of the old personnel. He made a point of shaking hands with each member of staff. Fanie Pretorius, then-chief director in the office of the president, remembers the occasion: “He started from the left and he shook hands with every staff member, and about a quarter along the line he came to a lady who always had a stern face, though she was a friendly person. When he took her hand, he said in Afrikaans, ‘Is jy kwaad vir my?’ [‘Are you cross with me?’], and everybody laughed and the ice was broken.

He continued and gave the message to all the staff. There was nothing more and everybody was relieved. He was Nelson Mandela at that moment, with the warmth and the acceptance. Everybody would have eaten out of his hand — there was no negative feeling from anybody after that in the staff, at least that we were aware of.”

Mandela’s personal warmth towards people from all walks of life, from gardeners, cleaners, clerks and typists to those in the most senior roles, did not go unnoticed. Those who came across him in the course of their work described him as generous, self-effacing and easy-going; a man who knew “how to be an ordinary person”, with a sincerity demonstrated by his “greeting everybody in the same way whether there is a camera on him or not”; “there is never the feeling that he is up there and you’re down there”.

Mandela was respectful but not in awe of the world in which he found himself. Like all confident people who take their capability for granted, he was unhesitant about the road he needed to take to strengthen South Africa’s democracy.

Throughout his political life, he had never shirked responsibility, no matter how dangerous, as evidenced by his role as the volunteer-in-chief in the 1952 Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws — inspired by the sentiment contained in his favourite poem, Invictus, “the menace of the years” had found him “unafraid”.

One term only — that’s the deal

Imprisoned for more than a quarter of a century, Mandela had become the world’s most recognisable symbol against all forms of injustice. He was initially reluctant to become president, perhaps feeling that he had accomplished what he’d set out to do with his stewardship of the heady period from release to the elections.

“My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” he writes, “was imposed on me much against my advice.

“As the date of the general elections approached, three senior ANC leaders informed me that they had consulted widely within the organisation, and that the unanimous decision was that I should stand as president if we won the election.

“I urged the three senior leaders that I would prefer to serve without holding any position in the organisation or government. One of them, however, put me flat on the carpet.

“He reminded me that I had always advocated the crucial importance of collective leadership, and that as long as we scrupulously observed that principle, we could never go wrong. He bluntly asked whether I was now rejecting what I had consistently preached down the years. Although that principle was never intended to exclude a strong defence of what one firmly believed in, I decided to accept their proposal.

“I, however, made it clear that I would serve for one term only.

“Although my statement seemed to have caught them unawares — they replied that I should leave the matter to the organisation — I did not want any uncertainty on this question. Shortly after I had become president, I publicly announced that I would serve one term only and would not seek re-election.

“At meetings of the ANC,” Mandela continues, “I often stressed that I did not want weak comrades or puppets who would swallow anything I said, simply because I was president of the organisation. I called for a healthy relationship in which we could address issues, not as master and servants, but as equals in which each comrade would express his or her views freely and frankly, and without fear of victimisation or marginalisation.”

The ANC — or, more precisely, President Mandela — needed to think clearly and plan well. Without this capability, it would be difficult to synthesise the old, security-oriented, bureaucratised civil service, a carry-over from the insular legacy of apartheid, and the new, somewhat inexperienced personnel, some of whom had recently graduated from overseas academies where they had received crash courses in administration and the rudiments of running a modern economy.

While De Klerk had a functioning administrative office staffed by people who had worked with him for years, Mandela and his deputy, Mbeki, had to start from scratch.

Gerwel was the first senior appointment, bringing gravitas to the presidential staff.

He also brought his extensive political background as a leader of the United Democratic Front and his engagement with the ANC in exile.

As vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, a position from which he was about to retire, he had led the transformation of an apartheid university into an intellectual home of the left. Mandela’s endorsement of Professor Gerwel shows the high esteem in which he held him. It’s even more remarkable that Gerwel came from the black consciousness tradition and wasn’t a card-carrying member of the ANC.

At the time he appointed Gerwel, Mandela had formed a reasonable idea about how he wanted his office to look. Like all obsessively orderly people — at one point he wanted to make his own bed in a hotel — he couldn’t function without a solid base.

Having Gerwel at the helm served this purpose. He respected Gerwel and would take his advice. Masekela later commented on this aspect of Mandela’s character.

“I think it requires a certain amount of humility and self-interest to want the best advice and to take it. He was a little too much admiring of educated people, I would say. He really was seriously impressed by degrees, and so on, and if you expressed some scepticism about someone like that it would be very difficult to convince him.”

Joel Netshitenzhe was a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and national working committee with a strong background in communications and strategic analysis. Deceptively casual and with an aversion to formal dress, Netshitenzhe — working with media liaison officer Parks Mankahlana, who’d come from the youth league — operated a brief that went beyond writing Mandela’s speeches: he was also the unofficial link to the various ANC and government constituencies.

Trusted by the media, mainly because he exuded confidence and candour — and was known to have the ear of the president — he worked hard to simplify the more complex policy positions in various forums.

But Mandela needed more than the cold, crisp analyses of his advisers; he also drew on the counsel of others in the ANC.

Having started a practice of marking Mondays as “ANC day” in his diary, he would spend that day at the ANC head office with the top officials and others, also attending NWC meetings. He had no set timetable, however, when consulting other ANC leaders close to him, like Walter Sisulu.

“Me, in particular,” Sisulu said, uncomplainingly, in a 1994 interview, “he likes to ring. He wakes me up, one o’clock, two o’clock, doesn’t matter, he’ll wake me up. I realise after he has woken me up, this thing is not so important — well, we discuss it, but it didn’t really require that he wake me up at that time.”

Mandela’s involvement in cabinet, however, changed over time.

Early in his tenure, he was more hands-on, keeping himself informed on almost all aspects of policy in order to maintain the coherence of the ANC in the GNU, a measure demanded by the intricate process of transformation.

100 days of meetings

Manuel remembers how, on the eve of cabinet meetings, Mandela convened ANC ministers and their deputies in an ANC cabinet caucus at his Genadendal residence in Cape Town. This he did, Manuel says, “so that we could caucus positions that we wanted to take and be mutually supportive. It afforded comrades [an environment] to have a discussion that was quite free”.

In his first 100 days in government, Mandela held meetings to guide the ministers or get their support for positions he held. He maintained a continuous interest in matters concerning peace, violence and stability.

As Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma observed, “I think for me he was more engaged at the beginning, but maybe it was because I engaged him more at the beginning because I myself was not experienced.”

Although Mandela had intended to announce the appointments only after the inauguration, his hand was forced by the media, which had got wind of the debate around the position of the deputy president, with the announcement of the cabinet being made on May 6 1994. It was an incomplete list and some of the names and their corresponding portfolios would be changed.

Setting up the cabinet was not uncontentious, with De Klerk piqued at inadequate consultation in the allocation of some portfolios. However, Mandela’s personal touch was unmistakable. Some of the processes, appearing haphazard at their genesis, ended up bearing fruit. A few of the cogs in the wheel of the machine geared to advance Mandela’s dream were blithely unaware of their importance and how their own lives would change

Dare Not Linger

Book details

» read article

Read an excerpt from the third book in Bontle Senne’s Afrocentric fantasy adventure, Shadow Chasers

Only the Shadow Chasers, with their magical knives, can save the world from the evil that lives in the dreamworld.

“Scary riveting fun! Escape in this magical and modern South African fantasy.” – Nonikiwe Mashologu, childhood literacy specialist

“I love the book because it’s scary and cool. Nom is a very brave girl.” – Gugulethu Machin, tweeny reader

Flame of Truth is the third in the Shadow Chasers series, an Afrocentric fantasy adventure for pre-teens (9 to 12 year olds.)

Bontle Senne is a book blogger and literacy advocate. She is a former managing director at the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation, a trustee of READ Educational Trust and a part owner of feminist trade publishing house Modjaji Books.
Read an excerpt from Bontle’s extraordinary book:

They hear the piercing scream of the Lightning Bird as another ball of flames falls from the dark sky and explodes on the patch of sand at the cave opening.

Nom and Zithembe lie on their bellies in the dirt, trying to stay low in the shadows so that the Lightning Bird does not come into the cave to find them.

“Nom, when we get out of here … ,” Zithembe whispers bitterly, pressing his cheek to the ground so he can look at Nom and she can see how annoyed he is.

Nom rolls her eyes and shifts her attention to the cave opening. She can’t hear the Lightning Bird, but that doesn’t mean it’s not waiting for them just outside the cave, ready to drop another ball of fire. “There was no way I could have known that it was going to come all the way up to the mountains,” Nom says. “I thought these things stayed in the forest!”

“Who told you that?” Zithembe snaps.

“Rosy! Well, kind of Rosy. I think that’s what she said …” Nom thinks back to a few weeks ago when she and Rosy, Zithembe’s cousin, had come into the dreamworld and were chased by the Lightning Bird. The giant black bird had flown over them, circling, stalking. With its long, curved beak, shaggy chest feathers, two sets of wings, and two long, orange legs, it had terrified her and brought back Rosy’s darkest memories.

Now, when Nom reaches out and her hand finds the cave wall, the stone feels cool and wet. She feels the magic of the dreamworld buzzing lightly through the tips of her fingers. It’s the same feeling she sometimes gets when she holds her knife. A Shadow Chaser’s knife has powers that she and Zithembe are only just starting to understand.

“We could go back,” she suggests, already guessing what Zithembe will think of that idea. Zithembe groans as a clap of thunder booms from outside the cave.

“We cannot just go back,” he says. “We have to find my mother. How can we find her if we go back?”

“Zee, we’re not going to be able to get out of here without getting roasted. We can use the special powers in your knife to get home, and then try another night. We can come back in a few days with – I don’t know – a plan or something.”

It is weird for Nom to suddenly be the one with a plan. She’s never really been known for thinking things through. They got stuck here in this cave because when Nom saw the Lightning Bird she turned and ran before Zithembe could even ask what was going on. They had scrambled further up the mountain they were exploring. Then Nom dragged Zithembe into the cave just as the balls of fire began to rain down on them, burning holes the size of soccer balls into the sand. Nom had been right to be afraid, but she could have at least warned him before she started running.
It was so often “act and then think” with her. At least Zithembe had finally gotten used to that.

“I have a better idea,” Zithembe says. “You should use your knife to turn yourself into a Lightning Bird.”

“What?” Nom asks, even though she’s pretty sure she heard him.

“You should turn yourself into a Lightning Bird,” Zithembe repeats, replaying what his mother had told him about the power of Nom’s blue knife to change her into someone – or something – else. “I’ll jump on your back and we can fly out of here and into the forest.”

If they weren’t trapped, crawling on their stomachs in the dark, Nom would punch Zithembe. “But the forest is where it lives!” she says, feeling deeply frustrated.

Nom remembers the forest from her visit to the dreamworld with Rosy, when they fought the Mami Wata.

She remembers the muffled sounds of moans, crying and wild giggling drifting out to them from inside the dark and unknowable Thathe Vondo Forest. Rosy had explained that the forest exists in the real world and the dreamworld at the same time. In the real world, the people who live near the forest believe that it is full of spirits and monsters. In the real world, the people are just as afraid of the Lightning Bird which they call Ndadzi, as Nom is, here in the dreamworld.

“OK, then we fly to the Clearing or to the Lake of Memories,” Zithembe suggests.

Being annoyed isn’t helping, so Nom sighs and tries to be kind instead.

She says, “Zee, listen to me. There are soldiers of the Army of Shadows everywhere. Even now, the shadow men must be marching towards us. Your knife’s power can get us out of here safely. I know you want to find your mom. I want to find her too, Zee, but not today …”

They are quiet for a few minutes.

Nom isn’t sure whether Zithembe is still trying to think of ways to get out of this cave and keep exploring the dreamworld or whether he is trying to accept the truth in her words. As she waits for him to speak again, Nom sees a cloud of pale orange dust float into the cave.

The dust cloud stops just in front of them, blocking their view of the cave’s opening, and then drifts down low to the ground where they lie.

“Nom … Zithembe,” says the soft, faraway voice of a girl.

Zithembe twists his head to look at the floating dust and then back at Nom.

“Did that dust thing just speak?” Nom asks, saying out loud what both of them are thinking.

“I have a deal for you,” whispers the dust. “Help me rescue my friend fromthe Army of Shadows and I will help you find Itumeleng.”

Itumeleng. Zee’s mother.

“Who – or what – are you? Why should we believe you?” Zithembe asks.

There’s a trace of anger dripping into his voice. He wants to save his mother, but how can he trust a floating cloud of dust? Any of the magical things in the dreamworld could trick him into trapping himself or Nom here.

Book details

» read article

Fiction Friday: read Bushra al-Fadil’s winning entry for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing

The Sudanese writer Bushra al-Fadil was announced as the winner of the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing on 3 July. His story, “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookler, was published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK, 2016).

Press release from the Caine Prize for African Writing:

Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction (Comma Press, UK. 2016). The Chair of Judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced Bushra al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner this evening (Monday, 3 July) held for the first time in Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS as part of their centenary celebrations. As a translated story, the prize money will be split – with £7,000 going to Bushra and £3,000 to the translator, Max Shmookler.

“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator, who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying, “the winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”

Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection Above a City’s Sky was published in 2012, the same year Bushra won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award. Bushra holds a PhD in Russian language and literature.

Read “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” here:

The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away
Bushra al-Fadil

Translated by Max Shmookler

There I was, cutting through a strange market crowd – not just people shopping for their salad greens, but beggars and butchers and thieves, prancers and Prophet-praisers and soft-sided soldiers, the newly-arrived and the just-retired, the flabby and the flimsy, sellers roaming and street kids groaning, god-damners, bus-waiters and white-robed traders, elegant and fumbling.

And there in the midst, our elected representatives, chasing women with their eyes and hands and whole bodies, with those who couldn’t give chase keeping pace with an indiscrete and
sensual attention, or lost in a daydream.

I cut, sharp-toothed, carving a path through the crowd when a passerby clutched his shoulder in pain, followed by a ‘Forgive me!’ Then a scratch on a lady’s toe was followed with a quick ‘Oh no!’ Then a slap to another’s cheek, after which was heard ‘Forgiveness is all I seek!’

So lost in dreams I could not wait for their reply to my apology.

The day was fresher than a normal summer day, and I could feel delight turbaned around my head, like a Bedouin on his second visit to the city. The working women were not happy like me, nor were the housewives. I was the son of the Central Station, spider-pocketed, craning my neck to see a car accident or the commotion of a thief being caught. I was awake, descending into the street, convulsing from hunger and the hopeless search for work in the ‘cow’s muzzle’, as we say.

I suppressed my unrest. The oppressed son of the oppressed but despite all of that – happy. Could the wretched wrest my happiness from me? Hardly. Without meaning to, I wandered through these thoughts.

The people around me were a pile of human watermelons, every pile awaiting its bus. I approached one of the piles and pulled out my queuing tools – an elbow and the palm of my hand – and then together they helped my legs to hold up my daily depleted and yearly defeated body. I pulled out my eyes and began to look… and look… in all directions and to store away what I saw.

I saw a blind man looking out before him as if he were reading from that divine book which preceded all books, that book of all fates. He kept to himself as he passed before me but still I felt the coins in my pocket disappear. Then I saw a woman who was so plump that when she called out to her son – ‘Oh Hisham’ – you could feel the greasy resonance of the ‘H’ in your ears. I saw a frowning man, a boy weaving an empty tin can along the ground with his feet. I saw voices and heard boundless scents and then, suddenly, in the midst of all of that, I saw her. The dervish in my heart jumped.

I saw her: soaring without swaying, her skin the colour of wheat – not as we know it but rather as if the wheat were imitating her tone. She had the swagger of a soldier, the true heart of the people. And if you saw her, you’d never be satiated. I said to myself, ‘This is the girl whose birds flew away.’

Her round face looked like this: Her nose was like a fresh vegetable and by God, what eyes! A pharaonic neck with two taut slender chords, only visible when she turned her head. And when she turned her head, I thought all the women selling their mashed beans and salted sunflower seeds would flee, the whole street would pick up and leave only ruts where they had been, the fetid stench of blood would abandon the places where meat was sold. My thoughts fled to a future I longed for. And if you poured water over the crown of her head, it would flow down past her forehead.

She walked in waves, as if her body were an auger spiralling through a cord of wood.

She approached me. I looked myself over and straightened myself out. As she drew closer, I saw she was holding tight to a little girl who resembled her in every way but with a child’s chubbiness. Their hands were woven together as if they had been fashioned precisely in that manner, as if they were keeping each other from straying. They both knit their eyebrows nonchalantly, such that their eyes flashed, seeming to cleanse their faces from the famished stares of those around them.

‘This is the girl whose birds flew away,’ I said.

I turned to her sister and said, ‘And this must be the talisman she’s brought to steer her away from evil. How quickly her calm flew from her palm.’

I stared at them until I realised how loathsome I was in comparison. It was this that startled me, not them. I looked carefully at the talisman. Her mouth was elegant and precise as if she never ate the stewed okra that was slowly poisoning me. I glanced around and then I looked back at them, looked and looked – oh how I looked! – until a bus idled up and abruptly saved the
day. Although it was not their custom, the people made way for the two unfamiliar women, and they just hopped aboard. Through the dust kicked up by the competition around the door I found myself on the bus as well.

We lumbered forward. The man next to me was smoking and the man next to him smelled as if he were stuffed with onions. If the day were not so fresh, and were it not for the girl and her talisman and their aforementioned beauty, I would have gotten off that wretched bus without a word of apology. After five minutes, the onionised man lowed to the driver: ‘This’s my stop, buddy.’

He got off and slammed the door in a way that suggested the two of them had a long and violent history. The driver rubbed his right cheek as if the door had been slammed on him. He grumbled to himself, ‘People without a shred of mercy.’

The onion man reeled back around and threw a red eye at the driver. ‘What?’ he exploded. ‘What’d you say?’

‘Get going, by God!’ I yelled. ‘He wasn’t talking about you.’

As the bus pulled away, the onionised man’s insults and curses blended with the whine of the motor. As if the driver wanted to torment us, he continued the argument as a monologue, beginning, ‘People are animals…’

Continue reading here.

» read article

Fiction Friday: read Part 1 of Bronwyn Law-Viljoen’s “If you go down to the woods”

Barry Ronge Award-shortlisted author Bronwyn Law-Viljoen has published a series of short stories, “If you go down to the woods”, on the African literature website Read the first of the four here:


Racism never detects the particles of the other.

Just before six. So. A good hour. The traffic coming up Beyers is a trickle. It will be backed up all the way from Judith by the time I’m headed back, but that’s then. The park and the dogs are now. I can ease into my skin, regard the day first. I glance in the rear-view mirror. Mouse has her front paws up on the back seat. She’s watching me—her eyes are sucked brown sweets—making sure I know what I’m doing, that I’m going the right way. Morris is hangdog. I look at the back of his knobbled head. He’ll have that glazed expression that makes people in the other cars smile. The journey to the park is a rude encounter with cold that he doesn’t like, until, that is, we are in the park.

We pull into the lot at three minutes to. It’s darker than yesterday, winter creeping in, holding onto the night longer and longer. The burgundy Cherokee is there, but no sign of the German woman with her nine rescues given to aggressive pack behavior. They are to be avoided. But not because of Morris, who for all his rock jaw and brick-shit-house body, is not a fighter, but will stand wagging desperately to announce he’s cool—cool man—while the pack rushes him. It’s Mouse, no flight dog, all seven kilos of her ready to punch way above her weight.

I coax them out of the car, and as he touches ground the bull terrier is ready, shoulders squared, line of fur rising along his spine, on his toes in that swagger gait. Mouse is off to the dustbin to find old bones or something rotting, her docked tail erect. The car guard watches us. The park is still.

I walk into the cold and wonder if I have too little or too much clothing on, notice the chill on my ankles above my socks. At the bottom of the hill the dam lies breathing. Our vapour rises into the dark. I check the moonbag—keys, leashes, turd bags and two half treats. I swing the bag around, pick up the pace.

The dogs are all ears, stopping to piss for a moment and then off, noses to ground, Mouse running ahead to find a scent and track it all the way to a pile of discarded KFC, Morris heading left to pick up a trail he found yesterday, angling back across the path to check on me, and then off the other way, his haunches bunching to a stride that’s more bounce than trot, feet high, ears up, his whole body present. His reserves gathered in sleep now squeezed into his veins and his big heart so that he’s on all cylinders, looking for something.

Mouse heads back and suddenly the two of them are off at a sprint, the Jack Russell after the bull terrier, nipping at his arse so that he wheels around in full flight to throw her off but she’s at him, barking and biting at his tender sphincter displayed under his lifted tail, soft grey muscle that contracts when another dog approaches or just before he needs to relieve himself, and irresistible to Mouse. It’s a ritual of tag that circles around my walking until they split apart and pick up a scent, bouncing away at the end of the invisible bungee cords that tie us to each other. Off they go. My thoughts unravel with them in loose threads of dreams and morning.

I settle into a fast-paced rhythm, swinging my arms high, breathing deep to match my stride. We know the routine, fall into it easily, the dogs off and back, off and back, my body working itself into a sweat in the cold air. I focus on my feet and the path ahead and look for signs of movement. I think of Joel, and the list.

So you are out walking your dogs in the park and you see me walking towards you, well not me, but a guy, walking towards you. What happens in your head? How does this checklist work?

Okay, a guy like you, thirties, black, slightly taller than me, alone, no dog, no bag. Do you have a backpack, are you carrying anything?

No, no backpack.

And what are you wearing?

Jeans, t-shirt, jacket.


Jeez, that’s a cliché.

Humour me.

Is it cold? Okay it’s cold, so yes, I have my hood up and my hands in my pockets, and I am walking, head down, no backpack.

Do you have anything in your hands, a packet, say, like a shopping bag?

At six in the morning? No. Just me, hands in my pockets, walking towards you.

Okay, which part of the park are we walking in? That’s important—where we are. In the woods, where it’s still dark at this time of the morning? Or near the dam, which is out in the open and I would have a view in all directions?

You decide. You know the place.

Okay, we’re in the forested part, and we’re walking along next to the stream on the path. The dogs are ahead of me, and you come along.

Okay, so give me the checklist. What plays in your head?

I watch Morris head into the bushes. He’s after something. Human faeces, maybe, so I run to catch up, calling him out before he can eat it. He comes running back, big grin, looking for the head pat. Mouse is on her mission amongst the trees, but she’s close enough that I know she’s going to come when I call. The cord is slack.

So let’s say I have about fifty paces to do this. Here’s the list. Male, young—not too young, but, say, twenties, thirties—in the woods, alone, no dog, dark clothing, hoodie, no bag. Actually ‘no bag’ comes after ‘no dog’ and before ‘dark clothing’. You have no bag, so that means you’re not going to work. If you were you’d have a backpack and maybe a lunch bag, Pick ’n Pay usually.

Christ, you know the brand of the bag?

Pick ’n Pay is easy—red, blue and white. That’s for your lunch, otherwise why else would you have that kind of bag in your hand at six in the morning? And definitely a guy with evil intentions is not carrying a Pick ’n Pay bag. Remember, this is a suburban park, surrounded on all sides by houses, streets, shops, small businesses. We’re not in the bush here. Technically, we’re in the city. Or very near.

Okay, so you start with male. Are you sure? Doesn’t black come first?

Well I’ve thought about this a lot, trying to assess the level of my prejudice, but no, if you’re male, young, white, alone, no dog, hoodie, no bag, I’m just as worried as I would be if you were all of these and black. So no, it’s definitely male that comes first. A woman coming along the path who checked every box except the gender one wouldn’t worry me. If she were black I’d only wonder a little because mostly it’s white women walking in the park and only in the last several months have I encountered black women walking, but then it’s black women in their late thirties with a dog or a child, or both. Middle-class black women. A young black woman would surprise me, except if she were in running gear. A young guy walking alone in the park would make me start checking the list.

Okay, so first gender, and then age, and then race?

Well, I have to admit that I’ve not been able to test this theory because I’ve never encountered a young white male on his own, walking, in a hoodie, in the park at six in the morning. So there’s that.

Okay, so you’re hoping, in a way, that if you did, you’d be afraid. Because that would reassure you—in respect of your prejudice I mean. You’d be afraid but at the same time relieved to find that your reaction to a young white male was the same as your reaction to a young black male?

Continue reading here.

» read article

Read an excerpt from Hedley Twidle’s Firepool in the new issue of the JRB

The latest issue of the Johannesburg Review of Books is out now and contains an excerpt from Hedley Twidle’s Firepool: Experiences in an Abnormal World, a chronicle of South Africa in the ‘second transition’ – one in which the foundations of the post-apartheid settlement are being shaken and questioned in all kinds of ways.

From the complex legacy of artists like Moses Taiwa Molelekwa and JM Coetzee to the #FeesMustFall protests, from the N2 highway to the gnawing uncertainty of our nuclear future, Hedley Twidle treats serious subjects with a sense of playfulness, mischief and imagination.

Read Twidle’s essay on three South African men who contributed to the country’s music and literature scene in the 1990, yet passed away at the age of 27:

Phaswane Mpe (1970–2004)
Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (1973–2001)
K Sello Duiker (1974–2005)

Three talented men, three great hopes for a post-apartheid South African culture, gone too soon. The first an academic and novelist, author of the strange and prophetic short work Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001). The second a pianist and composer, whose major works are Finding One’s Self (1993) and Genes and Spirits (1998), with Wa Mpona (2002), Darkness Pass (2004) and several live albums released posthumously. The third, the author of two key novels of the South African transition – Thirteen Cents (2000) and The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001) – who was working as a screenwriter at SABC1 when he took his own life.

If Molelekwa carried the hopes of South African music in the 1990s, then for literature perhaps it was Duiker and Mpe. Yet each of these talented, troubled men would be dead before the end of South Africa’s first decade as a democracy, leaving a great sense of sorrow and emptiness. For me they are bracketed together: discovered together (late). What they share (Taiwa and Sello especially): earnestness, naivety. A voice that was vulnerable, that was still in the process of working itself out. The occasional false notes that come with the ambition of trying to get somewhere else, somewhere new. Also: an unwillingness to talk about the circumstances of their deaths. Can one listen to the 1990s through their work, at a time when the 1990s seems very far away, when a period that you lived through has now become historical?


In an interview, pianist Moses Molelekwa named his three biggest influences as Abdullah Ibrahim, Herbie Hancock and Bheki Mseleku. Ibrahim for his hard-won simplicity; Herbie for the way he treats the keyboard as a site of restless experimentation; Mseleku for his merging of jazz techniques and southern African melodic lines.

In finding out more about Bheki Mseleku – who suffered from diabetes and bipolar affective disorder, who spent two years on retreat in a Buddhist temple and many more in exile – I learned that he had once met Alice Coltrane in Newport. Here she gave him the mouthpiece that John Coltrane had used during the recording of A Love Supreme. When Mseleku returned to South Africa in 1994, this was taken during a burglary in Johannesburg – an event which, according to his 2008 obituary, ‘seriously destabilised him’. The mouthpiece Coltrane used in the recording of ‘Prayer’ and ‘Ascent’, a mouthpiece which he bit into, and which would have carried his teeth marks – this went missing in Johannesburg, perhaps dumped in a skip or a storm drain, perhaps finding its way to an unwitting musician. For weeks I carried around this footnote, stunned, not really knowing what to do with it.


‘Does life begin at 40?’ asked an online tribute to a South African pianist and composer who died in 2001 at the age of 27: ‘That’s the time signature Moses Taiwa Molelekwa would have reached on Wednesday, 17 April 2013.’

‘Time signature’ is a musical term for the number of beats in a bar. I want to stretch it to consider the musical signature of a time – 1994 to 2004, the first ten years of South African democracy – that is by now a historical period. Now when an album like Molelekwa’s Genes and Spirits or a book like K Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams, which once seemed so contemporary, have become period pieces. So what does it mean to listen to those years, in both Molelekwa’s playing and the verbal signature of Duiker’s prose?

Continue reading here.

Book details

» read article

Louis Greenberg is working on a post-cyber noir novel

Acclaimed author, academic – he holds a doctorate in English literature from Wits – and specialist in the post-religious apocalyptic fiction of Douglas Copeland, Louis Greenberg, has a new novel in the making.

Greenberg recently blogged that he’s putting the finishing touches on his post-cyber noir novel, Green Valley. Exploring themes of truth and falseness, questioning who we can and can’t trust, and asking what we’re willing to risk for those we love, Green Valley is being marketed as “True Detective meets Black Mirror”.

As intrigued as we are? Read the first two paragraphs of the synopsis here:

The world has turned against digital technology in a neo-Luddite revolution. At its height, over eighty per cent of people in Stanton wore The I – to bank, to work, to shop, to ride. But for eight years, what’s left of Zeroth Corporation, The I’s developer, has been holed up in Green Valley, an enclave sealed in a concrete bunker from the rest of the world.

When Lucie Sterling gets a call from her ex-husband David in Green Valley, her complacent lifestyle in Stanton is shattered. She hasn’t told her partner Fabian Tadic, a high-power anti-technology campaigner, that she has a nine-year-old daughter – she let David take Kira into Green Valley and close themselves behind the wall and they faded into her past – but now David’s telling her that Kira is missing. Over the years there’s been a trickle of invisible kids through the Stanton morgue, Green Valley children who occasionally turn up dead outside the enclave, and who officially don’t exist to Stanton law enforcement. For Lucie, the invisible kids have suddenly become personal.

» read article

Read the first chapter of Paige Nick’s Unpresidented

In the irreverent tradition of her best-selling Death by Carbs, Paige Nick rounds up a fresh herd of sacred cows in another hilarious local satire. But this time it’s Number One who gets the treatment…

It’s 2020, and ex-president Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza has just been released from prison on medical parole, with a dangerously infected ingrown toenail. Now he’s back home with his two remaining wives, a skinny dog, a rapidly dwindling entourage, and a fire pool to maintain. Plus the municipality is demanding he pay a vast outstanding rates bill.

But Muza has plans – big ones – that include a memoir of alternative facts being ghostwritten by disgraced journo Matthew Stone. Will Stone meet his deadline, as publisher, agent, and drug dealer all breathe down his neck? Will Muza pay the money in time and succeed in his plans to conquer the world? Will his long-suffering parole officer stay one jump ahead of him? And which side is he limping on today?

Enjoy the first chapter of Unpresidented: A Comedy of Errors:


‘Writer, did you type up all those words I gave you yesterday?’ The ex-President asks as he lumbers into the room without apology. I shouldn’t complain, he’s only forty-five minutes late. Better than yesterday, when I stared at the four walls and a damp-stained ceiling for an hour and a half before he and his entourage deigned to grace me with their presence.

‘I did, sir, but I need to discuss this with you…’

‘Excellent. Read those words back to me now, comrade, so we can hear how it sounds before we proceed with Chapter Two. I think this is going to be a very, very great book, a bestseller definitely.’

His gang all nod and two of them high-five each other. I try again, forcing respect into my tone: ‘Yes sir, but the thing is…’

‘Ah, you are intimidated by me, Mr Stone. And I understand, I know it must be unnerving being so close to a living legend, but remember, I am still just a man who is made of flesh, bones and blood.’

‘No sir, actually, that’s not it…’ I begin again.

‘And you don’t have to call me sir. You can call me Mr President.’

‘Ex-President,’ I mumble.

‘You can begin reading now, Mr Stone. I’m an important man, with a sore toe, and I’m sure you don’t want to waste any more of my time.’

Trying to reason with him appears to be useless. I roll my eyes so far back in my head I can see the wall behind me. When they roll back around again, I tilt my laptop screen to offset the glare, clear my throat, and read as un-sarcastically as possible. Which isn’t easy.

‘Chapter One,’ I begin. ‘It was a beautiful day outside, but I had to be patient when I was released from prison, because it took forever for the gates to slide open so I could step into freedom, wearing my expensive suit. Even from behind my tinted glasses, I had to blink away the glare of the sun and cameras. It would take me a while to adjust back into the world after my time away.

‘With all eyes on me, I overcame great pain from the considerable injury that resulted in my medical parole, and limped to the podium. I am from the people of the sky – amaZulu. We are warriors, and a great man does not allow something as inconsequential as a life-threatening physical injury to hinder him. It takes more than a small axe to fell a great tree.

‘During my time away I had lost the padding I gained during my presidential years, and replaced it with this lean, agile physique I have now. When I finally got to the podium…’

‘I believe it was “of a boxer”,’ Muza interrupts me.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘The line you just read out, comrade writer: it’s supposed to say that I replaced my bulk with the lean, agile physique of a boxer. You said the words, “lean, agile physique”, but you must also include the boxer bit. It’s a very important detail.’

The ex-President’s men grunt. I type in his changes, bashing at the keyboard with two reluctant fingers, then reread the revised sentence in a monotone.

‘…During my time away I had lost the padding I gained during my presidential years, and replaced it with the lean, agile physique of a boxer.’ I look up to see if he’s satisfied. His double chins wobble as he nods, and his gang add their bobble-head-dog-on-the-dashboard nods, so I continue reading.

‘In the glare of hundreds of thousands of camera flashes, the first thing I saw from the podium, with my tireless lawyer, comrade Zwelani, by my side, was the massive crowd. In their excitement to be near their idol, thousands of people surged forward, roaring my name, “Muza, Muza, Muza!” The men were dancing, the women ululating. Some of the people in the crowd were even crying – with happiness, of course!

Fans threw flowers at me as the press jostled to get the best shot for the world’s newspaper covers the next day. They had to be pushed back by the police! I waited for the crowd to settle, so I could be heard over the cheering. Then I spoke directly to my people for the first time in three years, eight months and twenty-seven days. It is a triumphant moment I will never forget. In prison, not a day went by that I didn’t visualise my great resurrection! My holy revival! Viva Muza, viva!

‘The crowd hung on my every word. History will report that I am a great orator. And so, in this historic speech that will be quoted until the end of time, I did not shy away from the truth! I recalled the contentious circumstances of my detainment, outlining how my opponents and adversaries colluded and abused the ends of justice to bring me down! The crowd roared! They saw before them a man who could not be kept low! A man who would soon lead them once again!

‘Then other VIPs came to the podium. A preacher spoke of how I made this country great while I was President. Then a community leader bore witness to my charity and intelligence. Of course the press will not report on these things, comrades, because they are out to get me, spreading hateful propaganda. But believe me, I heard and saw these events with my very own eyes and ears.’

I peer over my screen as I come to the end of the chapter. The ex-President’s eyes are closed, and he’s mouthing the words as I read. When I’m done, he starts clapping, and everyone else joins in.

‘Very good, Mr Stone. Very, very good. You are clearly a talented writer. This is rousing, powerful stuff, don’t you agree?’

‘I would agree, sir, except … except, I didn’t write a word of it, and none of it is really true, is it?’

Muza glares at me as the room goes quiet.

‘What are you saying, writer?’

‘I’m saying, sir, Mr ex-President, sir, that what you dictated to me and instructed me to type up, isn’t exactly how things really played out on the day.’

‘How do you know what happened on that day, Mr Stone? You weren’t there from what I understand.’

‘No, you’re right about that part at least, I wasn’t there on the day you were released from prison.’

‘And neither were the millions of people who will be buying and reading this book, were they, Mr Stone?’ says the ex-President as he sips from one of the Cokes his men have handed round. I note that nobody has offered me one.

‘No, sir, once again you’re right, the people who will buy this book probably weren’t there on that day, but you see, the press were there, and they had cameras. People tweeted and Facebooked and Instagrammed about it. And from everything I saw, the events on the day were vastly different to the ones you’ve had me write down here.

‘For example, there were no speakers, and the crowd had to be held back because the police were concerned for your safety. You say people were throwing flowers, but there are only reports of some rotting fruit and veg flying around. And the bit about how much weight you lost, well, I don’t know how to put this delicately, sir, but many have referred to your parliamentary pillow…’ I say, noting his massive bulk. He’s wearing a grubby leopard-print vest with a hole just under the armpit and a pair of faded black tracksuit bottoms. His boep stretches the fabric of the vest to its limits. Boxer’s physique, my foot. Maybe in the heavyweight category. Float like an elephant, sting like a buzzard.

‘Comrade Stone, clearly you have a lot to learn about politics,’ Muza booms. ‘Just because the press says something doesn’t mean it’s true. If we believed everything the press have accused me of in the last twenty years, where would I be today?’

‘Probably still in jail,’ I mutter.

‘Exactly!’ he shoots back. ‘And I’m not, am I? I am here, back in my majestic, magnificent Homestead, where I belong. Working on some very big business plans and preparing to lead this great country once again. So you see, you can’t always believe what the press prints.’

‘Weeeeeell…’ I say.

‘And whose memories are these anyway? They are mine, not yours, Mr Stone. Mine,’ he snaps.

Muza’s veneer of charm is thinning. Not that I care. What’s he going to do, call SARS and have me audited? Fire me, hire someone else to do the job, fire them, and then hire someone new all in one weekend? Complain to Cyril? Set The Hawks on me? Hardly. He’d be lucky to find the power or the airtime to set a budgie on me. Although I don’t like the looks I’m getting from his heavies.

‘First of all, it’s a memoir, not memories, sir. And secondly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that you’re under contract with my publisher. We have a month in which you’re contractually obliged to tell me your story: the truth as it really happened, not a bunch of alternative facts that you’ve whipped up.’

‘And let me remind you, comrade Stone, that you TOO are under contract with MY publisher. You are supposed to write down everything I tell you.’

‘Yes, but right now there’s a rather big difference between everything you tell me and the truth.’

‘Are you calling me a liar, comrade Stone?’

We glare at each other, neither wanting to look away first. Until he starts his trademark chuckle, and everyone else in the room starts laughing too. I’m thrown; it’s not a reaction I was expecting.

All challenge leaves his eyes as he changes tack: ‘You must relax, comrade Stone. You worry too much. You will have your stories, and the publisher will get their book in time.’

‘Are you sure? Because we only have a month, and I’ve already been here for three days, and all you’ve done so far is keep me waiting, and then dictate a bunch of fake news, and make me write it down with a lot of exclamation marks. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to use any of it, unless the publisher decides to put this title on their fiction list instead.’

‘So, Mr Professional Writer, you don’t like the way I work. Why don’t you tell us all how you would like to do this instead?’

‘Well, for one, we’re going to need to spend a lot more time together if we’re going to get your story down in the time we have left. And you’re going to have to allow me to write it for you. What’s the point of having a professional writer if you don’t let me actually write anything? If your idea is to dictate your version of the story to me, then let’s rather just get a typist. But I think you’ll find I’m a damn good writer, if you give me half a chance.’

‘Perhaps you’re right, comrade.’


‘Sure,’ he says.

‘So you’ll agree to meet with me every day for a few hours, and if you’re going anywhere or having any meetings, perhaps I can shadow you?’

Muza nods, and his entourage domino-nods.

I’m flooded with relief. I press record and place my dictaphone on the coffee table between us.

‘That would be brilliant. Why don’t we start with how it really felt to come back to the Homestead that day, after being away for so long? Did you know that three of your five wives had left you while you were in prison, and that you would be coming home to a much emptier Homestead than the one you left three years, eight months and twenty-seven days earlier?’

Muza stares at the dictaphone. He shifts in his seat and winces.

‘Those are interesting questions, comrade writer. You have given me a lot to think about and I need to consider my responses carefully. So I think that is enough work on the memories for today, don’t you?’

‘But it’s only eleven,’ I say as Muza makes a few false starts at getting to his feet, rocking backwards and forwards. Finally he clutches the armrest to heave himself out of the leather couch.

‘Can we talk again later?’ I ask.

‘I have a phone call with the Minister of Finance now, and then an important meeting with my campaign manager that I need to prepare for, so regrettably I will have to cut our work on the memories short today.’

‘Can I sit in on the calls?’

‘I would invite you, comrade, but it’s sensitive business. Top secret, in fact.’

‘Sir, Mr ex-President…’ I begin, my voice stern.

‘Alright, alright, I have a meeting with my parole officer in a few days. You can join us for that. One last thing before I go, comrade Stone.’

‘Yes?’ I say, hopefully.

‘You wouldn’t have a couple hundred I could borrow? A bottle of Johnnie Walker Black would definitely help me get my creative juices flowing, so we can write these memories together in time.’

‘That’s the point I was trying to make before, Mr ex-President. Please don’t flow with creative juices. I don’t want your juices. The creativity part is my job. I just need you to tell me the truth in your own words: how you feel and what you’re going through. People want to hear about the real man behind the legend.’

‘Precisely, comrade Stone, you are right of course. And I think a bottle of Johnnie Black would definitely help me find that man for you.’

‘Didn’t you just get a massive advance from the publisher?’ I ask.

His jaw sets. ‘Do you have any idea how much it costs to run a place like this?’ He indicates the mouldering ceiling and stained walls.

‘I think most of South Africa has some idea,’ I murmur. ‘Not to mention the legal fees from my early parole.’

Legal fees: that’s a euphemism if ever I’ve heard one, I think, as the ex-President puts his hand out, palm up. And he’s not waiting for a high five. I take cash out of my pocket and he grabs a corner of the wad. I grip my end of it tightly.

‘If I give you this, do you promise we can do some more work together later today, after your calls?’

‘Of course, comrade, you have my word,’ he says.

I let go of my side of the wad, and the cash is secreted in his tracksuit pants in under a second.

‘And if not today, comrade, we’re definitely on for tomorrow,’ he adds as he waddles out of the room, followed by his crew. He’s quick on his feet for a man with such a dangerously infected ingrown toenail that he’s been released from prison years early on medical parole.

I look around for something to punch, but everything in this room looks like it already had the life punched out of it ages ago.


Book details

» read article

Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Now That You Are Black in America by Eneka Chinagorom

Emeka Chinagorom was born in Onitsha, Nigeria. His fiction and non-fiction has been published on and the Hawai’i Review. An earlier version of his short story, “Now that your are black in America” appeared in the Hawai’i Review and won the 2017 Ian MacMillan Award for Fiction. Chinagorom currently lives in the United States and is working on his first novel.

An excerpt from “Now that you are black in America”, by Eneka Chinagorom:

I want you to hold out your ears and listen.

Hold my ears?

You are not too old for this, for this is a matter of life and death, and I am not about to sit and watch the only palm nut I have roasting in the fire burn. Besides, I am your mother. I carried you in my womb for nine months, and if I say draw your ears, you should ask me how hard. So, now hold your ears.

Your father and I have taken to watching American news more than we watch Super Story. We want to understand what is happening over there. Our hearts are up to our mouths in worry. We still do not understand most of it and we rely on your Uncle Benji to explain sometimes. He says there is nothing happening now that did not happen when he was there as a student. I cannot imagine what it feels like being so young and finding yourself in a place where you are suddenly black before anything else. Especially in a place where it is the worst thing you can be.

I do not want to say I told you so, but I wish you had listened to me and chosen the scholarship in London. Uncle Benji – always the headmaster – agrees. He says that it is not as though people do not encounter racism over there in London, or anywhere else for that matter, where there are people of different colours, but he says that racism in London is just like their humour – it is not apparent; that you have to be looking for it to see it. Unlike in America, where everything they are serving you is in your face, delivered to your very doorstep like it is mail.

Have your held your ears, are you listening?

I hear you.

No. No, this is not one of those “I hear you” moments, only for you to go on doing what you have been doing. No, this is not one of those times we say things that you listen to with one ear and cast away through the other. Understand that this is life and death for us. Your father and I had gone through hell before we had you. I was then at an age when pregnancy was nothing short of a miracle; you cannot imagine. So you must take this serious.

You worry too much, Ma.

Worry too much? Worry too much? Are you planning to kill your father and I before our time? Eh? Are you?

Do not cry, Ma. I am listening, I promise. I am holding my ears.


On TV, the other day we listened to a man who said that the biggest problem facing young black men in America is getting home after they leave the house. We want to make sure that in four years, you will be back to us safe and sound.

Now listen.

I raised you well. It is unfortunate that I have to instruct you again on some of these things as though you were a small boy. If you were here, among people that look the same as you, these are things you should not have to worry about, but now that you are black in America, they matter a lot.

First of all, you have to know the rules and follow them.

About police. I do not assume that any black person in America is ignorant of how encounters involving black people and police officers end up. It is on TV every day. You must know and follow the rules and do everything right.

How is your little car? I hope all is well with it. Uncle Benji and your father now think it was a mistake to have given you money to buy it in the first place. I only wish we could afford something better, something newer so that it would be less likely that you have one of those dreadful encounters. Although I have now seen on TV that having a newer car is as much reason to have a police encounter as driving a jalopy as long as you are black. So my son, please take good care of your car. Do not do anything to it that will attract undue attention.

Do not decorate it; what your Uncle Benji say they call pimping. It is a car, not a house.

Do not play music too loud in it. It is a car, not a disco parlour.

Do not drive with anything broken or any expired document. I would rather have you go hungry than have anything out of order in your car. Always have your license. Are you still in the habit of forgetting your wallet? If you are, take a picture of your license with your cell phone as that is one thing young people never forget to take with them. I am not quite sure if doing so would help anything, but it is something.

Do not over speed. Stay in your lane. It is better to arrive at your destination late than not to arrive at all. If ever a police officer stops you, be very respectful and use as many “sirs” as possible.

Do not argue.

Do not cuss.

Do not talk back. Keep your hands where anyone can see them. Explain whatever move you are going to make. Say you have to open the door and get out or have to bring out your license or have to unfasten your seat belt.

Do not forget to add “sir” to whatever you say. Speak correct English. Did you lose your accent yet? I hope not. I saw on TV that Americans have an ear for people whose tongues are thick on their words. Your accent could divert attention and show that you are a different kind of black in a place where black has only one shade.


Say you are an only child and that you have an old mother back in Nigeria who would die if anything were to happen to you. Saying that might not mean a lot in that country where human life is trivial and dogs have more dignity than black people. In a nation of the most intelligent people, I find it unfortunate that they do not seem to understand how one person’s untimely death can ruin many lives. They do not see how one life is like a road leading to others and those others leading to much more. It would not just be your father and me who would not survive if anything were to happen to you. It would also be your uncles and aunts who cannot wait for you to do well in your studies, get a fine job and help them with your cousins. So it is not just your life; it is many lives now and generations down the line.

Uncle Benji is not quite sure you should mention that bit about Nigeria. He says you cannot be sure if the police officer has received one of those emails from a Nigerian prince who has a large inheritance coming and wants help to see it released. If so, then just say you have a mother who would die if anything were to happen to you. Hopefully, the police officer has a mother as well who has trained him well and whom he loves.

Do not get involved in anything illegal.

Do not be at any place where you are not supposed to be.

Do not touch anything you are not supposed to touch, eat or drink anything you are not supposed to.

Make sure to do all you have to do during the day and be back at your hostel before the sun goes down. I always told you that if anything were to happen to anyone in daylight, there are more chances there would be people there to witness and offer help if it is needed.

I forbid you to go out at night.

Continue reading here.

» read article