Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category
A long weekend, the perfect time to catch up with reading. Why not start with this excerpt from This Day by Tiah Beautement?
This Day is Beautement’s second novel, published by Modjaji Books, and was recently longlisted for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize. (See the full longlist here.)
The novel takes place during a single day in the life of Ella Spinner, who has suffered a loss that has left her alone to care for her clinically depressed husband, Bart. Sarah Lotz calls it: “A searing and sensitive exploration of grief and loss”, adding “This Day held me in its thrall in one sitting and will haunt me for a long time. The writing is pitch-perfect, beautifully crafted, and full of acute and witty observations.”
Read the excerpt:
Turning to go into the house, I spot the remaining chard, still waiting to be planted. I rush over, kneeling down beside their wee leaves with red and yellow stems. Footsteps come up behind me. ‘Ma’am, I would be happy to do that as well, if you wish.’
I glance over my shoulder. ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you, but no. It will only take me a moment.’
His expression is unreadable, but I am sure I must sound barking mad. How to explain? I can’t. As the headmistress at my boarding school used to say, ‘Discretion is a virtue too often overlooked.’ I say nothing. Thankfully he does not press the point and, without further comment, returns to the lawnmower.
The moment leaves me exhausted, sad. A desire to quit beckons. My eyes sting, willing me to give in. Pressing my teeth firmly down on my tongue I mentally begin stacking the bricks, focusing on this day’s plans: Kamala this morning, the meeting at noon, Luxolo at three. I repeat the mantra over and over again, stacking the bricks higher. My heartbeat slows. A deep breath and then another. At last the final chard is planted without incident. Each one receives a gentle pat with the edge of my fingertips before I dash indoors.
For a moment the location of my camera eludes me. It has been so long. There was a time when it lived around my neck. I wanted to hold every moment. Show everyone how the world looks through my eyes. Beauty was everywhere, even in the wrinkle of flesh or a can abandoned in the gutter. I wanted to treasure all of it as the lens pulled me through each day, providing an avenue through which to interact with South Africa.
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In anticipation of her new novel which is set to be released later this week, The Telegraph’s Gaby Wood interviewed “the unwavering voice of black America” – Toni Morrison – about God Help the Child.
Morrison told Wood about her career, which includes working at Random House for 20 years, and this new novel, which has been seven years in writing. God Help the Child addresses, among other important topics, one of modern day America’s most raging issues: race. ““Race is the classification of a species. And we are the human race, period,” the great author told the interviewer. They also discussed her childhood and years at college, which gave her “a career-long project to – in her words – ‘turn the gaze’.”
This will be Morrison’s first novel to be set in the present, weaving a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult. This fierce and provocative novel, written as only Nobel laureate Morrison can, shows what becomes of a daughter when her mother forgets that what you do to children matters – and they might never forget your actions.
Earlier this year The New Yorker shared an excerpt from the novel, offering the mother’s defence that what happened to her daughter, Bride, was not her fault.
Read the plea made by Sweetness, and decide for yourself:
It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened. It didn’t take more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs for me to realize something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me. Midnight black, Sudanese black. I’m light-skinned, with good hair, what we call high yellow, and so is Lula Ann’s father. Ain’t nobody in my family anywhere near that color. Tar is the closest I can think of, yet her hair don’t go with the skin. It’s different—straight but curly, like the hair on those naked tribes in Australia. You might think she’s a throwback, but a throwback to what? You should’ve seen my grandmother; she passed for white, married a white man, and never said another word to any one of her children. Any letter she got from my mother or my aunts she sent right back, unopened. Finally they got the message of no message and let her be. Almost all mulatto types and quadroons did that back in the day—if they had the right kind of hair, that is. Can you imagine how many white folks have Negro blood hiding in their veins? Guess. Twenty per cent, I heard. My own mother, Lula Mae, could have passed easy, but she chose not to. She told me the price she paid for that decision. When she and my father went to the courthouse to get married, there were two Bibles, and they had to put their hands on the one reserved for Negroes.
Read Wood’s article about the interview with Morrison:
Toni Morrison is, without a doubt, a world-class novelist. Her work as an editor, however, has received much less attention. Morrison worked at Random House for 20 years, leaving in 1983, just before she set out to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved.
At her apartment in lower Manhattan, I ask her about the ways in which American literature has changed, and she volunteers that she “had something to do with that”. But she is not referring to her own fiction. “I said, I can’t march, I have small children,” she tells me. “I’m not the marching type anyway. So when I went into publishing, I thought, the best I can do is to publish the works of those who are out there – like Angela Davis, Huey Newton – and the literature. And let it be edited by someone who understands the language, and understands the culture.”
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Deji Bryce Olukotun leapt onto the literary stage with his 2014 debut, Nigerians in Space, which Matt McGregor described in a review for Warscapes as “a transnational mystery novel replete with assassins, abalone poaching and an international fashion model who exudes light from her skin”.
Olukotun was born in New Jersey and is half-Nigerian, half-American. The author obtained an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town under the guidance of André Brink, Mike Nicol, Andre Wiesner and Henrietta Rose-Innes.
Electric Literature chose Olukotun’s new ePublication, We are the Olfanauts, as their recommended read of the week and shared an extract from the chilling story.
Renton, the protagonist, works for Olfanautics, the “global pioneer in scented social media”, and holds a world of smells at his fingertips.
Read the excerpt:
Our team was based in a multibillion-dollar technology park fifteen kilometers outside Nairobi, and our data servers, which would have made us liable under Kenyan law, floated above national airspace in tethered balloons. The Danish architect had modeled the Olfanautics complex after a scene from Karen Blixen’s novel, as if that was what we secretly aspired to, a coffee ranch nestled against the foothills of some dew-soaked savannah. The cafeteria was intended to replicate the feel of a safari tent. Catenary steel cables held up an undulating layer of fabric, which gleamed white in the midday sun. In reality, the tent was the closest I had ever been to a safari. I only left Nairobi to go rock climbing.
Aubrey found me as I was ordering a double veggie burger with half a bun and six spears of broccollini. I could tell from the few frayed braids poking out of her headwrap that she had not slept well last night, nor had she gone to the campus hairdresser to clean herself up. I reached for her thigh as soon as she sat down but she swatted it away.
“I told you to send it up.”
“Nice to see you, too, Aubrey,” I said.
“I’m your boss, Renton. If I say send the video up, then send it up. You’re making me look bad.”
That was the problem with dating your supervisor. She thought any discussion could be resolved by pulling rank.
“Didn’t you whyff the strawberries? They were hilarious, hey. That girl’s an actress or something.”
TBN Fiction also shared an extract from Nigerians in Space, a crime thriller about Africa’s “brain drain” set in South Africa, Nigeria and America.
In the excerpt, Leon is trying to teach Thursday the intricate art of harvesting abalone:
It took four nights of heavy drinking, cajoling, and a wet kiss from Leon’s girl Fadanaz for Thursday to say he would consider going into the water. Even then he never thought it would come to pass. But soon they were sitting in the Merc next to a row of strelitzia palms that wound along a dirt road to the beach in the dusk, their fronds spreading out like press-on fingernails. He would have been able to hear the pounding surf if Leon wasn’t thumping his Kwaito music, and they’d both grown up near the sea so he didn’t smell the seaweed any more. Thursday had resolved that this time he would be firm with Leon—he was not going in the water, there was no way he was going in.
“I can’t do it, my broer,” Thursday declared. “I don’t know how.”
“Come on, Thursday,” Leon said. “I started with nothing. I was out there in the rocks all alone with the police, pulling myself on the kelp.” Leon laughed, in awe of himself, reminiscing. “Should have been on the news. I can barely even swim. You’ve got the breather and my lank equipment. The breather is easier than a tank.” He began pumping his head to the syncopated rhythms of the Kwaito.
“Can’t you give me your mask?”
“I gave you my old mask, voetsak. My new one cost a thousand bucks. It’s not my fault you’ve got a conch for a nose.”
Photo courtesy of ReturnoftheDeji and Deji Olukotun (@dejiridoo) on Twitter
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George RR Martin, the author of the wildly popular Song of Ice and Fire Series, has shared a chapter excerpted from the forthcoming installment The Winds of Winter.
The publication date for The Winds of Winter, which is the sixth book in the series, has not yet been announced. However, the author wants to have it on shelves before the season six of Game of Thrones, the television show based on Martin’s series, airs next year. (The first episode of the fifth season will air for the first time in South Africa on M-net at 3 AM tomorrow, 13 April.)
Game of Thrones fans have been baying for the next book since shortly after the release of A Dance with Dragons in 2011. The next book promises to be worth the wait; in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that he is thinking of adding a massive twist to the story. He says it is “nothing I’ve ever thought of before”.
The tantalising excerpt below is narrated from the perspective of Sansa Stark, who is disguised as Alayne Stone. At this point, she is evading Lord Robert Arryn’s romantic pursuit.
Read the excerpt:
She was reading her little lord a tale of the Winged Knight when Mya Stone came knocking on the door of his bedchamber, clad in boots and riding leathers and smelling strongly of the stable. Mya had straw in her hair and a scowl on her face. That scowl comes of having Mychel Redfort near, Alayne knew.
“Your lordship,” Mya informed Lord Robert, “Lady Waynwood’s banners have been seen an hour down the road. She will be here soon, with your cousin Harry. Will you want to greet them?”
Why did she have to mention Harry? Alayne thought. We will never get Sweetrobin out of bed now. The boy slapped a pillow. “Send them away. I never asked them here.”
Mya looked nonplussed. No one in the Vale was better at handling a mule, but lordlings were another matter. “They were invited,” she said uncertainly, “for the tourney. I don’t… “
Alayne closed her book. “Thank you, Mya. Let me talk with Lord Robert, if you would.”
Relief plain on her face, Mya fled without another word.
“I hate that Harry,” Sweetrobin said when she was gone. “He calls me cousin, but he’s just waiting for me to die so he can take the Eyrie. He thinks I don’t know, but I do.”
“Your lordship should not believe such nonsense,” Alayne said. “I’m sure Ser Harrold loves you well.” And if the gods are good, he will love me too. Her tummy gave a little flutter.
“He doesn’t,” Lord Robert insisted. “He wants my father’s castle, that’s all, so he pretends.” The boy clutched the blanket to his pimply chest. “I don’t want you to marry him, Alayne. I am the Lord of the Eyrie, and I forbid it.” He sounded as if he were about to cry. “You should marry me instead. We could sleep in the same bed every night, and you could read me stories.”
No man can wed me so long as my dwarf husband still lives somewhere in this world. Queen Cersei had collected the head of a dozen dwarfs, Petyr claimed, but none were Tyrion’s. “Sweetrobin, you must not say such things. You are the Lord of the Eyrie and Defender of the Vale, and you must wed a highborn lady and father a son to sit in the High Hall of House Arryn after you are gone.”
Robert wiped his nose. “But I want — ”
She put a finger to his lips. “I know what you want, but it cannot be. I am no fit wife for you. I am bastard born.”
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In the spirit of April Fools’, Books LIVE announced on Wednesday that Japanese bestselling author Haruki Murakami was moving to South Africa. We didn’t convince anyone – our Facebook and Twitter followers called our bluff from the get-go.
We feel a bit bad about the fib so, to avoid becoming victims of karma, here is a short story by Murakami. Enjoy!
Granta has shared a short story by Murakami entitled “Lederhosen” which was translated from Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum.
In the story the narrator, a Japanese man, is listening to the fascinating story of an unlikely divorce as told by his wife’s friend. The reason for her parents’ divorce is weighing heavily on her mind as she tries to understand it through telling the tale.
It all started when her elderly mother went on a trip to Germany and decided to buy her father a pair of “lederhosen”, or leather breeches for men, as a souvenir. She searched far and wide to find the shop that sells these items and jumped numerous hurdles to buy the correct pair for her husband, but when she finally purchased the garment she came to a sudden realisation.
Read the excerpt:
‘They weren’t really shorts,’ she says. ‘They were lederhosen.’
‘You mean those hiking pants the Germans wear? With the shoulder straps?’
‘That’s right. Father wanted a pair of lederhosen as a souvenir gift. Well, Father’s pretty tall. He might even have looked good in them. But can you picture a Japanese wearing lederhosen?’
I’m still not any closer to the story. I have to ask, what were the circumstances behind her father’s request for these souvenir lederhosen?
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’m always telling things out of order. Stop me if things don’t make sense,’ she says.
‘OK,’ I say.
‘Mother’s sister was living in Germany and she invited Mother for a visit. Something she’d always been meaning to do. Of course, Mother can’t speak German, and she’d never been abroad, but it’d been ages since she’d seen my aunt. So Mother approached Father, how about taking ten days off and going to Germany, the two of us? Father’s work wouldn’t allow it, so Mother went alone.’
‘That’s when your father asked for the lederhosen, I take it?
‘Right,’ she says. ‘Mother asked what he wanted her to bring back, and Father said lederhosen.’
Image courtesy of The Independent
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This Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from Ayesha Harruna Attah’s second novel, Saturday’s Shadows.
Ayesha was born in Accra, Ghana, and educated in the United States, at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Columbia University. She earned an MFA in creative writing from New York University in 2011.
Her first novel, Harmattan Rain, was published in 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. (Read an excerpt here.) Her recently released second novel, Saturday’s Shadows, was shortlisted for the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2014.
Ayesha currently lives in Senegal, where she is studying and translating Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the oldest sources of African literature.
Read the blurb for Saturday’s Shadows:
“An evocative and bright novel where stories of family and country intersect in textured landscapes of upheaval, hope, and desire. Saturday’s Shadows is at once familiar and fresh, a compelling offering from a sensitive writer.” - NoViolet Bulawayo
Saturday’s Shadows is based in a West African country at the end of a 17 year military dictatorship. It weaves the stories of four members of the Avoka household, where everybody is lurching toward self destruction. The father, Theo, is recruited to write the memoirs of the dictator turned president whom he loathes. Zahra, matriarch of the house, rekindles an affair with an old lover and barely keeps her family and sanity together. Theo and Zahra’s son Kojo has just started the boarding school of his dreams but finds out it’s nothing like he imagined. Their new help, Atsu, recently transplanted from the village, struggles to understand the eccentricities of her new family. Saturday’s Shadows is a novel about the slow, yet unpredictable implosion of a marriage, it is also a tale of love and devotion, as well as a study in the psychology of tyrants and how their rule destroys not only their subjects but themselves.
Read the excerpt:
Excerpt from Saturday's Shadows
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Bloomsbury Publishing has shared an extract from its new publication Writing Short Stories: A Writers’ and Artists’ Companion, featuring writing advice from Henrietta Rose-Innes.
Rose-Innes’ much anticipated new novel, Green Lion, will be launched at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May
Read the excerpt:
Henrietta Rose-Innes is a South African writer based in Cape Town. She is the author of a short story collection, Homing, and three novels, Shark’s Egg, The Rock Alphabet and Nineveh. Her story ‘Sanctuary’ won second place in the BBC International Short Story Award in 2012, and she won the South African PEN Literary Award in 2007 and the 2008 Caine Prize for African Writing.
There was that one about the body of a green giant, washed up on a beach. And the one about the blue birds, who made you happy if you stroked their feathers. The brother and sister, wandering through an infinite graveyard. A man, erotically instructed in a train carriage as it crossed a dark plain on a foreign planet, lit by
These pictures are all from short stories, 30 years old or more. Maybe you read them too; maybe you remember a different set of pictures.
Most of them are science fiction stories, I think, because that was what I was reading age 12, 13, when these images pressed themselves into my receptive brain. Crouched between the shelves in the Cape Town Central Library, lost in the sci-fi compendiums. I don’t recall their titles or the names of the authors. Back then I wasn’t concerned with provenance, just greedy for raw images.
The pictures remain as bright as postage stamps, steamed free from the letters they came on. I’ve lost the envelopes, lost the addresses. Lost the letters, too: I don’t remember plots, characters, the beginnings or endings of any of those stories. Just: the green giant, the blue birds, the gravestones, the train. And others. Each image has its own particular synaesthetic taste, sharp or bittersweet. Mystery, longing, adventure, a touch of grief.
These lucid moments are, for me, the unique gift of the short story. (The sense memory of a novel is different: less concentrated, a more complex accretion.) And this is what I grope after in my own writing. Each story I have ever written has been an attempt to print a vivid postage stamp and mail it to the reader: the bust of a queen, a national bird … I’d love to know that some bright image, peeled off one of my stories, has found a place in someone’s collection.
It is harder to have that purity of experience now. The sensations don’t arrive so cleanly. These days, my reading – and my writing – is more selective, cautious, tangled up in awareness of canon and context. I take note of authors’ names. My books are bought not borrowed. If I need to, I can lay my hand on a particular story, I can cross-check. I may never lose a story again – and perhaps I’ll never find one again in quite the same way, with that same serendipitous magic.
Over the years I’ve thought of those stories often. Replayed so frequently, the images become fixed, and no doubt distorted. By now they are probably unrecognizable facsimiles of the original. I’ve often wanted to track them down. Recently, after a couple of tries, I successfully googled that green giant; I thought he might be one of Ray Bradbury’s monsters. Turns out the story was, of course, Ballard’s ‘The Drowned Giant’ – and the giant was never green, but ‘pearl-coloured’. I think I’ll let the other stories stay lost. I rather like my pictures as they are.
Presenting Green Lion, The New Novel by Henrietta Rose-Innes
Henrietta Rose-Innes About Winning the François Sommer Literary Prize for Ninive, the French Translation of Nineveh
Fiction Friday: Excerpts from New Stories by Richard de Nooy and Henrietta Rose-Innes
20/20: A tiny story made of 50 first lines by Henrietta Rose-Innes
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This Sunday, read an excerpt from African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou, who was announced as a finalist in this year’s Man Booker International Prize last week.
Mabanckou is one of just six African authors to have been nominated for the prize since it began, in 2005. Four of those six are on this year’s shortlist: Mabanckou, Mia Couto, Ibrahim al-Koni and Marlene van Niekerk.
Mabanckou was born in Congo-Brazzaville in in 1966, and left for France at 22 to study law. Today he lives in the United States, where he teaches literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has written six volumes of poetry, 10 novels and four books of essays. Among his many awards are the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire, the Prix Renaudot – one of France’s most prestigious literary prizes – and the Grand Prix de la Litterature Henri Gal.
African Psycho was first published in 2003, and in 2008 became the first of Mabanckou’s books to appear in English. It concerns a would-be serial killer, Gregoire Nakobomayo, who considers himself the heir of a much more successful serial killer, but who is unable to commit murder himself. The New Yorker called it “disturbing – and disturbingly funny”, adding: “Although the title invokes American Psycho, the book owes more to Dostoyevsky and Camus, as the narrator broods and dithers, longing to ‘exist at last’.”
Read the excerpt:
I have decided to kill Germaine on December 29. I have been thinking about this for weeks—whatever one may say about it, killing someone requires both psychological and logistical preparation. I believe I have now reached the necessary state of mind, even if I have yet to choose the means with which I will do the deed. It is now a question of detail. I’d rather give myself a bit of latitude on this practical point, and in so doing add a measure of improvisation to my project.
I am not looking for perfection, no—far from me the thought. As a matter of fact, I do not like to undertake anything without due consideration, and a murder is not going to change the way I go about things . . .
Reading news items in our town’s dailies, I find that no gesture is as simple as that of bringing someone’s life to an end. All you need is to procure a weapon, whatever it may be, set a trap for the future victim, and finally commit the act. The police and the courts will then get on with their job, trying to figure out the murderer’s motives. These keepers of the law will even go so far as to endow a scoundrel with genius when in fact his deed was so absolutely clear that it needed no such speculation. But the poor bastards have to work, don’t they? This is what they get paid for, and to some extent it is thanks to people like us that they earn a living. I wonder what they will say about me once I have committed my crime. The worst would be that it goes unnoticed. Of course I am not about to consider this humiliating possibility. I mean, why then spend days in deep reflection, during which my brain got all tangled up trying to choose the right weapon for this upcoming crime—so much so that I nearly found myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown?
Ideally, I would benefit from as much media coverage as my idol, Angoualima, the most famous of our country’s assassins, used to get. From time to time, to give thanks for his genius, keep him informed of what I am doing, or even just for the pleasure of talking to him, I make my way to the cemetery of the Dead-Who-Are-Not-Allowed-To-Sleep and kneel in front of his grave. And there, as if by magic, I swear, the Great Master of crime appears before me, as charismatic as in his glory days. We converse in the privacy of this sinister locale, the haunt of crows and other birds of bad omen . . .
I refrain from dreaming.
Angoualima had intuition; crime and highway robbery fit him like a glove. Can you imagine someone who was born with one extra finger on each hand? Not the type of additional little fingers you notice on some individuals, which surgery can fix with success. Those were real fingers, as necessary as the other ten, and he could really move them around. He would use them to scratch his body’s hard-to-reach places, no doubt, and to satisfy his criminal impulses as well. I myself do not have such additional fingers, I know. I am not going to make a mountain out of it.
Read more Man Booker International coverage:
Author image courtesy of Babelio
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Child Witch Kinshasa is Romanian-based British author Mike Ormsby’s compelling novel about a young Congolese street child, who has fled to the largest city in the DRC because he is being persecuted by religious zealouts for being a witch.
Ormsby’s novel has been widely praised for casting an authentic and convincing eye on an African phenomenon traditionally not covered in media.
The protagonist of the novel, Frank, is a journalist who meets the young boy on the street and decides, after much inner conflict, to help him. What follows is a clash of altruism and scepticism set against the backdrop of a relentless civil war.
Read an excerpt from Child Witch Kinshasa as this week’s Fiction Friday:
The story so far:
British journalist Frank has recently arrived in Kinshasa during a lull in the civil war, to work with local reporters on covering international peace talks. A new British acquaintance – Jerome Braddock – has invited Frank to visit a local church to watch a midnight ‘exorcism’. Frank is curious enough to go, because noise from the church woke him up last night. Braddock is a UN Special Investigator – tracking Hutus from Rwanda for their role in the ’94 genocide – and also knows all about life in DR Congo, notably how self-styled religious pastors often pursue and persecute ’possessed’ kids.
The Kindle edition of Child Witch Kinshasa is on special at Amazon.com, costing $0.99, until March 30
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This coming week sees the announcement of the finalists for the 2015 Man Book International Prize, an event which will take place in Cape Town, South Africa. Therefore it seems fitting to present to you, as this week’s Sunday Read, a story by a previous winner of this esteemed literary award, Nobel laureate Alice Munro.
Granta has recently shared an essay by this award-winning author, entitled “Night”.
In it, she recalls the night her appendix had to be removed, remembering that “there seemed to be never a childbirth, or a burst appendix, or any other drastic physical event that did not occur simultaneously with a snowstorm”. This night led her to think about cancer for the first time, albeit briefly as topics such as that were not to be discussed.
Munro goes on to recount her sleeping habits, or lack thereof to the point where she was not herself any more. The essay on sleep evolves to reveal the dark thoughts that almost overwhelmed her, and her eventual victory over sleeplessness.
Read Munro’s essay about the period between sunset and sunrise, a story which first appeared in her anthology called Dear Life:
By this time it wasn’t sleep I was after. I knew mere sleep wasn’t likely. Maybe not even desirable. Something was taking hold of me and it was my business, my hope, to fight it off. I had the sense to do that, but only barely, as it seemed. It was trying to tell me to do things, not exactly for any reason but just to see if such acts were possible. It was informing me that motives were not necessary.
It was only necessary to give in. How strange. Not out of revenge, or even cruelty, but just because you had thought of something.
Image courtesy of BBC
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