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Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

See an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, a fotonovela from the latest Chronic – with Isabel Hofmeyr as an evil villain

Read an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chronic

This Fiction Friday, feast your eyes on Jabu Goes to Joburg, a fotonovela by Achal Prabhala that features as a pull-out supplement that rubs with the latest edition of Chimurenga’s Chronic.

The April edition of the Chronic explores “the tensions between reform and revolution, and decolonisation and the neoliberal order in the academy, through the lens of history and via the alternate education paradigms based in indigenous knowledge systems, and also arising from South Africa’s radical anti-apartheid struggle”.

Contributors include Rustum Kozain, Masande Ntshanga, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Florence Madenga, Ed Pavlic, Jon Soske, Meghna Singh, Abdourahman Waberi, Nick Mulgrew, Lindokuhle Nkosi, Wendell Marsh, Nick Mwaluko, and many more.

To buy a copy in print or as a PDF head to the Chronic‘s online shop or find your nearest stockist.

Of Jabu Goes to Joburg, Prabhala says: “I’m particularly excited to see this in print for several reasons, not least of which is that the form itself has been dead for two decades – even though every South African over the age of 30 will recognise what we are doing.

“There are some surprising people in the fotonovela, including Isabel Hofmeyr – an intellectual I deeply admire, and the deeply respectable author of too many books to name – taking on the thoroughly disrespectable role of a fur-clad golden-gloved crime boss. Which is something I hope you’ll enjoy!”

Read an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chronic


Jabu Goes to Joburg was produced by Pam Dlungwana, and the full cast list is: Euridice Kala, Tiyiselani Kubayi, Phindile Cindi, Suraj Yengde, Meghan Judge, Nicky Falkof, Pule, Francis Burger, Nana Zajiji, Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Gilles Baro, Achal Prabhala, Dean Hutton, Skhumbuzo Mbixane, Sibusiso “The General” Nxumalo and Isabel Hofmeyr.

In an interview with the Chronic, Prabhala explains the project:

I haven’t actually seen “Jim comes to Joburg”. I’ve heard of it, of course, but I don’t think I’ll be watching it any time soon. I find it massively annoying that every urban story in South Africa is some version of “XYZ comes to Joburg” – and essentially the same story: good-hearted wide-eyed rural man/woman comes to the city of gold to seek his/her fortune and gets screwed. Alan Paton wrote “Cry, the Beloved Country” in 1948 and that little snowflake he kicked down the mountain kept rolling, and rolling, and became an avalanche. So much so that 70 years later, the big feature films set in the city – I’m thinking of Tsotsi and Jerusalema – are about little more than how the whole place is some kind of torrid hallucination. It’s as if there’s a rule; a mandatory clause that requires all creative people to plumb the stygian depths of Joburg in any narrative of the place, from which no one is exempt – not even, for instance, the young, black, male writer of a promising blog-turned-book called the “Diary of a Zulu girl” in which said Zulu girl makes the long journey to Joburg only to immediately descend into prostitution.

He also has time for some praise for pulp fiction:

One of the casualties of a high-minded literary culture everywhere – from South Africa to India and to the United States – is the devaluation and gradual disappearance of pulp fiction. Literary culture can degrade popular culture all it likes, but the lurid stories being sold on the streets of Lagos, São Paulo, Hong Kong or Bangalore – where I live – have the stamp of democracy. Mostly terrible, sometimes passable, and very rarely wonderful, the book on the street is, however, always a sign of a population in control. And as much as I regret the loss of the steamy paperback in middle-class literary life, I am reminded of how the sentiment still exists when I read the tabloids, or internet fan fiction, or see popular social media memes. Google Mugabe’s misstep on the tarmac, or Zuma’s weekend-special Finance Ministry appointment, and then read our fotonovela: you’ll see the same thing going on – ordinary people crudely photoshopping their reality on earth into the preferred universe of their imagination. Pulp fiction has only disappeared from print, not from our lives.

Chimurenga has shared an excerpt from Jabu Goes to Joburg with Books LIVE. Have a look:

Excerpt Jabu Goes to Joburg, the fotonovela featured in the latest edition of Chimurenga's Cronic by Books LIVE

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Read an excerpt from Julian Barnes’s ‘masterpiece’: The Noise of Time

Julian Barnes The Noise of Time

The Noise Of TimeFor today’s Sunday Read, dip into the latest book from Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time.

The Noise of Time, Barnes’s first novel since his Man Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending, is a fictionalised retelling of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s life under Stalin:

In 1936, Shostakovich, just 30, fears for his livelihood and his life. Stalin, hitherto a distant figure, has taken a sudden interest in his work and denounced his latest opera. Now, certain he will be exiled to Siberia (or, more likely, executed on the spot), Shostakovich reflects on his predicament, his personal history, his parents, various women and wives, his children—and all who are still alive themselves hang in the balance of his fate. And though a stroke of luck prevents him from becoming yet another casualty of the Great Terror, for decades to come he will be held fast under the thumb of despotism: made to represent Soviet values at a cultural conference in New York City, forced into joining the Party and compelled, constantly, to weigh appeasing those in power against the integrity of his music. Barnes elegantly guides us through the trajectory of Shostakovich’s career, at the same time illuminating the tumultuous evolution of the Soviet Union. The result is both a stunning portrait of a relentlessly fascinating man and a brilliant exploration of the meaning of art and its place in society.

Alex Preston of The Guardian calls the book “Barnes’s masterpiece”:

The Noise of Time initially appears to be the latest addition to a hybrid literary form with which we are increasingly familiar – the fictional biography. Recent examples range from Colm Tóibin’s The Master (which presented a repressed and unhappy Henry James) to Nuala O’Connor’s excellent Miss Emily (which gave us a wilful and tormented Emily Dickinson). As with all great novels, though – and make no mistake, this is a great novel, Barnes’s masterpiece – the particular and intimate details of the life under consideration beget questions of universal significance: the operation of power upon art, the limits of courage and endurance, the sometimes intolerable demands of personal integrity and conscience.

Read an excerpt from the beginning of The Noise of Time:

One to hear
One to remember
And one to drink.

It happened in the middle of wartime, on a station platform as flat and dusty as the endless plain surrounding it. The idling train was two days out from Moscow, heading west; another two or three to go, depending on coal and troop movements. It was shortly after dawn, but the man – in reality, only half a man – was already propelling himself towards the soft carriages on a low trolley with wooden wheels. There was no way of steering it except to wrench at the contraption’s front edge; and to stop himself from overbalancing, a rope that passed underneath the trolley was looped through the top of his trousers. The man’s hands were bound with blackened strips of cloth, and his skin hardened from begging on streets and stations.

His father had been a survivor of the previous war. Blessed by the village priest, he had set off to fight for his homeland and the Tsar. By the time he returned, priest and Tsar were gone, and his homeland was not the same. His wife had screamed when she saw what war had done to her husband. Now there was another war, and the same invader was back, except that the names had changed: names on both sides. But nothing else had changed: young men were still blown to bits by guns, then roughly sliced by surgeons. His own legs had been removed in a field hospital among broken trees. It was all in a great cause, as it had been the time before. He did not give a fuck. Let others argue about that; his only concern was to get to the end of each day. He had become a technique for survival. Below a certain point, that was what all men became: techniques for survival.

A few passengers had descended to take the dusty air; others had their faces at the carriage windows. As the beggar approached, he would start roaring out a filthy barrack-room song. Some passengers might toss him a kopeck or two for the entertainment; others pay him to move on. Some deliberately threw coins to land on their edge and roll away, and would laugh as he chased after them, his fists working against the concrete platform. This might make others, out of pity or shame, hand over money more directly. He saw only fingers, coins and coat-sleeves, and was impervious to insult. This was the one who drank.

The two men travelling in soft class were at a window, trying to guess where they were and how long they might be stopping for: minutes, hours, perhaps the whole day. No information was given out, and they knew not to ask. Enquiring about the movement of trains – even if you were a passenger on one – could mark you as a saboteur. The men were in their thirties, well old enough to have learnt such lessons. The one who heard was a thin, nervous fellow with spectacles; around his neck and wrists he wore amulets of garlic. His travelling companion’s name is lost to history, even though he was the one who remembered.

The trolley with the half-man aboard now rattled towards them. Cheerful lines about some village rape were bellowed up at them. The singer paused and made the eating sign. In reply, the man with spectacles held up a bottle of vodka. It was a needless gesture of politeness. When had a beggar ever turned down vodka? A minute later, the two passengers joined him on the platform.

And so there were three of them, the traditional vodka-drinking number. The one with spectacles still had the bottle, his companion three glasses. These were filled approximately, and the two travellers bent from the waist and uttered the routine toast to health. As they clinked glasses, the nervous fellow put his head on one side – the early-morning sun flashing briefly on his spectacles – and murmured a remark; his friend laughed. Then they threw the vodka down in one go. The beggar held up his glass for more. They gave him another shot, took the glass from him, and climbed back on the train. Thankful for the burst of alcohol coursing through his truncated body, the beggar wheeled himself towards the next group of passengers. By the time the two men were in their seats again, the one who heard had almost forgotten what he had said. But the one who remembered was only at the start of his remembering.

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Read an excerpt from Roland Rugero’s Baho! – the first Burundian novel to be translated into English

Read an excerpt from Roland Rugero’s Baho! – the first Burundian novel to be translated into English

Baho!It’s Fiction Friday! Read an excerpt from Roland Rugero’s Baho! – the first Burundian novel to be translated into English.

Baho! was translated from French by Chris Schaefer.

The novel is published by Phoneme Media, a nonprofit publishing house for literature in translation based in the United States, who last year released Cameroonian author Inongo-vi-Makomè’s English-language debut, Natives.

Rugero is a writer, journalist, and literary activist, and the author of two novels. He is the co-founder of the Samandari Workshop and helped establish the Michel Kayoza and Andika Prizes. He lives in Kigali, Rwanda.

French speakers can enjoy a video of Rugero, taken during his time at the prestigious International Writing Program residency at the University of Iowa in the United States.

YouTube Preview Image


Read two excerpts below

About the book

In Baho!, the first Burundian novel ever translated into English, the 28-year-old Roland Rugero uses elements of fable and oral tradition to explore the themes of miscommunication and justice in his war-torn Central African nation.

When Nyamugari, an adolescent mute, attempts to ask a young woman in rural Burundi for directions to an appropriate place to relieve himself, his gestures are mistaken as premeditation for rape. To the young woman’s community, his fleeing confirms his guilt, setting off a chain reaction of pursuit, mob justice, and Nyamugari’s attempts at explanation.

About the author

Born in 1986 in Burundi, Roland Rugero grew up in a family where reading was a favorite pastime. He has worked as a journalist in Burundi since 2008. His novels include Les Oniriques and Baho!, the first Burundian novel to be translated into English. Rugero has held residencies at La Rochelle and at Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program. In addition to his work as a writer, in 2011 he wrote and directed Les pieds et les mains, the second-ever feature-length film from Burundi. Rugero is active in promoting Burundi’s literary culture, co-founding the Samandari Workshop and helping found the Michel Kayoza and Andika Prizes. He lives in Kigali, Rwanda.

About the translator

Chris Schaefer is a translator from the Spanish and French living in Paris. He has won the Ezra Pound Award for Best Translation from the University of Pennsylvania for his translations of the Cuban poet Javier Marimón. In 2012 he participated in the English PEN Translation Slam at the Poetry Parnassus in London. He lives in Paris.

Baho! excerpt one, courtesy of Molossus:


Kahise gategura kazoza
The past prepares the future

It is November and the heavens are naked.

Ashamed, they attempt to tug a few clouds over to cover up under the merciless sun, which, with resolve, determination, and clarity, brings to light their nudity.

Naked, blue. Water blue, the color of Lake Tanganyika, that undulating plain to the West. Springs scattered across the valleys surrounding Kanya: not so long ago the water there was clear and crystalline, abundant. Now it is absent. A dry November.

Tucked in among Hariho’s many hills, Kanya has bravely weathered this dry season’s constant onslaught of heat, which has always tormented the region. He has to breathe. She also waits for the rain. Thirst for air and for humidity.

Kanya’s hill is still draped in eucalyptus belonging to the National Forest. Countless, dense, and lofty. The sun causes dry and prickly leaves to spread. No water; the sky has become evil.

Or rather the men have become guilty of too many sins. The punishment of God: too much evil in this country.

The old woman stands at the foot of the hill. Her worn check leans on the shepherd’s crook that she uses to tend the two small kids digging up weeds and stones in an effort to round out their scrawny bellies.

The sun’s harshness meets her eye. She has understood that time is up.

Baho! excerpt two, courtesy of Words Without Borders:

Nkunda kurya yariye igifyera kimumena amatama
The glutton ate the snail; it made his cheeks explode

By the time the sun’s luminous fingers had come to rest on Hariho’s fields, his neck was already sore. Undeniably, nights are cold in these parts. This morning he had come down to this trickle of water to rest, like a mosquito sated after a night pumping blood from the depths of fatigued and world-weary veins. He was calm, brimming with images from last night and the mouthfuls he had swiped here and there during his social calls.

All in all, he was quite pleased with himself, for his hunger was appeased. That is wisdom itself, he mused. In the peacefulness of the morning, he thought back to the evenings of his childhood. They were long gone, ten years at least. The sights and sounds had remained with him—the fresh wood, the banana tree’s moist leaves covering the fields nestled right up next to the hills, bulls bellowing their greatness, and cows reflecting the sunset’s soft orange light. He recalled the arrival of those childhood nights. He could narrate it as if by sight.

When the sun had departed, evening would sweep in. Then, the biting cold breezes that crouched in the valley’s depths would climb the hills and skim the houses preparing for night. They would catch the smoke rising from chimneys, and then, in passing, greet the youths returning home with water jugs on their heads.

Everyone was climbing back up to the hamlets perched on the hills. Slowly, in fits and starts, in the company of good friends.

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Cover art: Jaya Nicely/Author image: Takepart

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Read an interview with Bontle Senne and read an excerpt from her debut book: Powers of the Knife

Bontle Senne


Powers of the KnifeRead an extract from Bontle Senne’s debut novel Powers of the Knife – Book 1 in the “Shadow Chasers” series, an Afrocentric, contemporary children’s read.

Senne is no stranger to the book world – her work “includes writing and reviewing books, consulting, thinking about digital innovation in publishing, being on the board of three education NGOs and being a minority owner of a feminist publishing house”.

Powers of the Knife is published by Cover2Cover Books and will be launched at Love Books in Melville, Johannesburg, on 14 April.

The book is written for older children, and includes illustrations. It’s homegrown fantasy that kicks off in Jozi and takes its readers to the rural areas to search out family history … all via a magical dreamworld that is stranger than imagination.

Author Sarah Lotz calls it “fast, fun, and a blast to read”.

Senne will be appearing at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and at the Kingsmead Book Fair.

We asked her about the shift from advocacy to writing fantasy adventure for children – what she describes as “no rules, fear is normal, risking everything is what it takes” genre.

Read an extract below.

Why have you chosen to write for this age group?

On my first day working in publishing, as an intern at Modjaji Books, my boss Colleen Higgs said to me, “What we really need are local children’s books. If you want to make a different in local publishing, make children’s books”. At the time, I was young(er) and a little self-important so I rejected the idea immediately: I wanted to make “serious” books. I wanted to write “important” literary novels. But over time I realised that, in a Southern African context, children’s books are the most important books we have. There are few books for this age group that are contemporary, Afrocentric, accessible and just fun.

And why these characters?

I love writing girls that kick-ass so that was a given. Nom had to be different from some of the other girls I was writing at the time and – because I had already decided to name her after my mom – I weirdly thought about what my mom would have been like at that age. Their personalities are pretty similar: action-orientated, fiercely loyal and independent. But Nom needed to have some kind of counter-balance so I wrote a bit of myself into Zee: more analytical and skeptical, more grounded but willing to take as many risks for things that are important to him. I find that they are still growing to be more like themselves, and less like who I initially thought they were, every time I write them.

What is next for the characters in the story? Any sneak highlights to look forward to in the next book?

Dragons! Winter is coming! No, I joke … next is finding Zee’s knife. More monsters, more Shadow Chasers, more of Nom running face-first into danger …

Are you as adventurous as the characters in your book?

I’m not fighting a secret army of monsters or anything but kind of, yes. I have a very risk-taking nature and I get more impulsive as I get older. As long as it doesn’t involve heights or extreme sports, I’m in.

* * * * *

Read an extract from Chapter 9 of Powers of the Knife:

What?” Nom asks.

“Nomthandazo, we don’t have time for this now. Think of a house – quickly!” Itumeleng says.

Nom does what Itumeleng says. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

Nom tries to think of the kind of house she’s seen on TV. A house surrounded by trees and a high brick wall to protect it. A house made of wood with a big bedroom for her and one for Zithembe.

nullOne that smells like Gogo’s cooking all the time and where she can have chocolate anytime she wants.

“You did it!” says Itumeleng.

Nom opens her eyes to see that the garden has vanished. In its place the house she was just thinking of has appeared.

“Wow,” Nom says, staring in amazement at the house.

Itumeleng pushes her from behind in the direction of the front door. “We have to hurry.”

“OK, OK,” says Nom. “I’m going!”

Itumeleng opens the front door and steps aside so Nom can enter. The smell of Gogo’s cooking is everywhere. Nom heads straight for the pile of chocolate on the table in the TV room.

While she is unwrapping her first chocolate, they hear the sound of something big landing on the roof. The whole house seems to shake.

“What was that?” Nom asks.

“You have your Shadow Chaser’s knife, don’t you? That’s the only way you can enter the dreamworld. It’s also the only way to make wishes in the dreamworld,” Itumeleng replies. “But the monster that trapped me here took away my knife: my wishes don’t come true any more.

“The thing is, the dreamworld can also make your nightmares come true. That’s what is happening now. The Army knows you are here, they can feel your magic. So they sent some of your nightmares here to find you.”

Nom is on the verge of remembering all the bad dreams she’s ever had, but she immediately stops herself. In this world, whatever she thinks of can actually happen. She has to be careful about where she lets her mind go.

Nom puts down her chocolate and takes a deep breath. “What did you say about a monster trapping you here? And what is this Army you were talking about?”

“You have a lot of questions, bathong,” Itumeleng says, smiling. It’s the first time that Nom has seen her smile. She realises that Zithembe has his mother’s smile.

Nom doesn’t say anything but waits to hear Itumeleng speak. What Zithembe’s mother knows is important, and Nom feels they may not have very much time to talk. She can hear what she thinks are monkeys climbing the trees around the house. Nom hates monkeys.

“I am a Shadow Chaser,” Itumeleng says, “which means that I am part of a special group of people who are meant to protect people in the real world from the monsters in the dreamworld. Your aunt was a Shadow Chaser, you are a Shadow Chaser and so is Zithembe.”

Related stories:

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Author image courtesy of Africa 4 Tech

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The day I was asked to shop my comrades for high treason – Extract from Fordsburg Fighter: the journey of an MK volunteer

Published in the Sunday Times

An edited extract from Fordsburg Fighter: the journey of an MK volunteer by Amin Cajee, as told to Terry Bell (Cover 2 Cover Books)

Fordsburg FighterThe words echoed in my head: “You are guilty of high treason and the penalty is death.” I froze. Terrified. It was September 1966; I was 24 years old. I was in Kongwa, an ANC camp in Tanzania.

And I was going to die.

The man who spoke those words was Joe Modise, a senior representative of the ANC, a movement which, we were often told, should be regarded as our mother and father.

We were all South Africans a long way from home, families and friends, frustrated fighters stranded in a foreign country and totally reliant on the ANC. The movement had control over every aspect of our lives.

I had no idea what would happen when my name was called out in the camp and I was escorted into a room to stand before a tribunal.

Looking severe, Modise informed me I was being charged with high treason: with the help of a foreign power, I and others had plotted to overthrow the leadership of the ANC. The other accused were friends of mine – “Pat” (Patrick Molaoa), who had been an accused in the Treason Trial; “Mntungwa” (Vincent Khumalo); “Ali” (Hussain Jacobs); and “Mogorosi” (Michael Thomolang). They were to be tried separately and the penalty we all faced was death.

I remained mute, staring blankly ahead, my mind racing and unable to make any sense of the charge. The other four panel members – “Paul Peterson” (Basil February), Boycie Bodibe, Chris Hani and Jack Gatiep – looked on impassively as Joe informed me there were witnesses to a meeting at which this plot had been hatched. They had given evidence that we had all been in touch with the Chinese embassy in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.

This was insane. I blurted out: “You are not serious, are you?” But they were. They were charging us with having established links with the embassy, 240km to the southeast, in Dar, when we were restricted to the camp and village, without postal, let alone radio, communications.

Chris emphasised the seriousness of the charge, with Boycie threatening me with very serious consequences, among them execution in various brutal ways. I denied that I had been involved in anything treasonous and asked who the witnesses were and if I could question them. The request was refused.

It was then that I was thrown a cynical lifeline by “Paul Peterson”. He addressed me in a friendly way, telling me that “all this can be sorted out”. What I had to do was to confirm that “Pat” and “Mntungwa” had initiated the scheme.

I realised then that the whole charade was really about “Pat” and “Mntungwa”, who were apparently seen by Joe as a threat at a time [of] much jockeying for power and position. Both were well known in the movement in South Africa and had considerable support in the camp. Unlike Joe, they had top positions in the ANC before it was banned.

They had initially been sent for training in China. But now China and the ANC’s main backer, the Soviet Union, were at loggerheads.

When I refused to agree, the panel threatened me with serious consequences. My death sentence, I was told, could mean being taken to a game park where I would be left for wild animals I was frightened, but I couldn’t help them, and said so. An order was given and I was marched out and locked in a tiny windowless room.

I realised that I had been dragged into a bitter power struggle that seemed to be based on language lines – between isiXhosa speakers from the Cape and isiZulu speakers from Natal. There had also been an incident weeks earlier involving 29 members of the “Natal group”. Although Modise was from Johannesburg and a Setswana speaker, he had allied himself with what was referred to as the “Cape group”.

The incident that triggered my trial was referred to as Operation 29 because that was the number of Natal comrades who had mutinied by taking the camp’s only truck.

Late one morning at the end of August 1966the Natal group had boarded the truck and left the camp at high speed. There was pandemonium, with the commanders running around. At least an hour passed before the camp was calm again.

Jack Gatiep, one of the commanders, addressed us. He at first told the story in a matter-of-fact way. Dar es Salaam had been informed and the Tanzanian authorities alerted.

But then Jack’s language and mood changed. These men, he said, were traitors and deserters, enemies of “the people of South Africa”. They had been planted by the South African security forces. They would be caught and dealt with without mercy. This rhetoric seemed to inflame the mood of some of the comrades and Chris Hani led the charge, calling for the death penalty.

As we heard later, the truck was intercepted at a Tanzanian army roadblock near Morogoro. It was about 4pm when the truck trundled back into camp, with the 29 mutineers in high spirits, singing freedom songs. They disembarked, formed ranks and stood to attention, waiting for instructions. The rest of us stood watching the spectacle.

Rubin stepped forward from the ranks of the Natal group.The reason for taking the vehicle, he said, was to convey their grievances to the leadership in Lusaka. For years there had been no serious attempt to move the struggle south and into South Africa. What they had done was to highlight their frustration at the inaction of the leadership.

The commanders, having bayed for their blood, were at a loss as to how to handle the situation. Eventually, they simply dismissed them after telling them it was not the end of the matter; they would be tried for mutiny.

As we waited for the next move from the commanders, the atmosphere in the camp was extremely tense. Groups were coalescing and seen to be meeting at different locations late into the night. My friend Omar and I kept a low profile.

As we hoped, it was only a matter of days before some of the top leadership arrived in Kongwa. Acting ANC president Oliver Tambo came along with ANC and SACP leaders Moses Kotane, JB Marks and Moses Mabhida, a major ANC figure in Natal. With them were Mzwai Piliso, Mendi Msimang and Joe Modise.

Meetings were held with the commanders, but JB Marks also made a point of talking with the rank and file. He wanted to know when and where things had started going wrong. We felt comfortable with him: he was easy-going and approachable.

After two days of these talks an assembly was called. Oliver Tambo stood up to address us, and what he said took us completely by surprise. He did not mention any of the issues that had resulted in the so-called mutiny — the poor conditions in the camp, the low morale and the frustration at being kept in limbo. Instead, he launched a scathing attack on the group that had taken the truck. He said a panel of judges would try the group for mutiny.

He added that what had happened was a serious crime against the people of South Africa and could not go unpunished. Tambo concluded that he had other important business to attend to and was leaving with the rest of the leadership for Dar es Salaam.

On the morning of the trial we were marched into the hall. There were more than 400 of us in Kongwa then and we crammed into every available space, leaving room at the front where there was a table and four chairs for the panel of judges.

With the exception of Joe Modise, who took the chair, [all the judges] were isiXhosa speakers from the Cape: Chris Hani, “Paul Peterson”, Jack Gatiep and “Zola Zembe”. Modise, in his opening statement, repeated Tambo’s words, but stressed that the assembled comrades would be given the opportunity to have their say. So began what looked like the beginnings of a tragi-comedy as apparently hand-picked members, particularly from the Cape, were called on to make contributions. In each case these comrades expressed outrage and demanded the death penalty, suggesting the “mutineers” be either shot or hanged.

During the lunch break a group of us decided that we had to make our voices heard. We could not allow what was a show trial choreographed by Joe Modise to go unchallenged.

When we reassembled, one speaker after another stood up to state that what the Natal group had done was to highlight not only the frustration we all felt, but also the many broken promises of the leadership. The deterioration in the health of a number of comrades also featured prominently. Comrades pointed out that they had felt for a long time that it was better to fight and die in South Africa than to rot in a country thousands of miles away.

Even those speakers who conceded that the manner in which the protest had been carried out was not right noted that they saw no other option because there was no access to leaders, who rarely appeared.

Two and a half hours later the panel retired to offices to consider the evidence. We were surprised at the leniency when the sentence was announced: the accused were effectively confined to barracks – confined within the perimeter of the camp – for two weeks. Morale seemed to soar and I think we all thought things were about to change gear and we would be heading south to start the liberation war.

It was not to be.

A week after the trial, at around ten in the morning, I was sitting in my tent when I heard shouts. As I stepped out of the tent flap I saw about five groups, each comprising about three or four men, brandishing sticks and knives, running from tent to tent and attacking other comrades. I was joined by Omar and “Mntungwa” and we were moving away from the area when we were accosted by comrades with knives and sticks.

The attack was merciless and all I remember was blocking everything they threw at us with my arms.

I was bleeding from my head and nose where the sticks had landed and there was a stab wound in my hand, the result of a blocked knife attack. Victor helped me to the clinic. “Mntungwa” was being carried, bleeding heavily as he had been stabbed in a number of places. He was clearly the main target of the attack and was hospitalised. I had 10 stitches to my head and several to my palm.

The next morning Joe Modise returned to a camp riddled with paranoia and fear and heavily armed factions. With his return came the announcement that another tribunal had been set up. And this was the occasion on which I was sentenced to death – and offered a reprieve, but only if I would effectively confirm a similar sentence on good friends and comrades.

Cajee will be at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

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Read an excerpt from The Domestication Of Munachi by Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu (part 2)


Nigerian author Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu’s new novel is titled The Domestication Of Munachi, and Parrésia Publishers has shared an excerpt from the novel, as well as an audio clip of the author reading the excerpt.

This is part two of the excerpt. You can see part one here.

Find out more about the book and virtual book tour (happening now) here!

Listen to the excerpt:



Read the excerpt:

Hi, this is Ifesinachi. Thank you for the opportunity to read from my book, The Domestication of Munachi. Today, I would be reading from page 117. Here it goes:

NJIDEKA GOT ME thinking about my new lover. After sharing my body in the most intimate way, I was curious to know more about him. I was not sure I was ready yet to know about his family because I was desperate to keep that part of him away from our visits. I had asked about his full name the last time we met.

“Kolade Johnson,” he had replied with amusement dancing in his eyes. “Did you not look at the card I gave you the first day we met?”
Shamed stained my cheeks. I had looked at the card just once—the day I returned his call—and I had not even taken time to memorise his full name.

This weekend, as I watched him stroll naked to the bathroom, I resisted the urge to lean over and rummage through his things for any other information that I could tie to him. His perfume, rich like the smell in the air after rain kissed hot earth, teased my nostrils.

We were in the same hotel we had been the last time and it occurred to me that this may be his lovers’ nest where he took all the women he claimed as mistresses. The thought angered me but humbled me as I thought of what this life could mean for me.

Few minutes later, he returned and slipped into bed beside me. He nuzzled an ear and I giggled as his goatee brushed my cheek.

“What are you thinking, sweetheart?”


“That was too quick a reply. You know what I am thinking?”


“I am thinking we should spend the whole day together since I don’t really have anywhere to go.” He gently pushed me up. “I got you something.”

A ripple of excitement churned through my belly as he bent over and retrieved something from the drawer beside him. He held open a little box. It held the most beautiful ear rings I had ever seen or owned in my life. Tiny gold lights twinkled in the seductive balls dangling from slender stems attached to hooks.

“Thank you sir,” I gushed and threw myself at him.

I felt – rather than hear – him chuckle before he gently pushed me away. “I gave Dotun some money to pay into your account. It should reflect by Monday.”

I was so excited that I blurted without thinking, “Your wife must be the luckiest woman in the world. You are so generous.”

A tense minute followed my response after which he stood up and started putting on his clothes in that slow, calculated manner of his. My last sentence hung heavy in the air. Forbidden.

“Where are you going?” Panic coated my voice.

“I have decided that I need to go home after all,” he simply said. “The driver will return to pick you up. It’s best you get ready.”

“KJ … I’m sorry.” Tears burned hot behind my eyes.

He gave me a wry smile. “You are young and there are lots of things you have to learn which I am ready to be patient for. But one thing you need to learn quickly is separating realities, my dear, because I find it difficult handling two realities at the same time. That’s why I am with you now. For this moment. Now. Here.”

He leaned over and planted a quick kiss on my cheek. His lips were cold. “For now, this reality is over,” he said quietly and left without looking back. His words felt like the caress of a feather across my cheeks.

It was what I hated most about him. He never looked back.

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really hope that you go out there and get the book, ‘The domestication of Munachi’. I hope that I get the opportunity to speak with you again.

Once again this is the author, Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu. Thank you.

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Read an excerpt from The Domestication Of Munachi by Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu (part 1)


Nigerian author Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu’s new novel is titled The Domestication Of Munachi, and Parrésia Publishers has shared an excerpt from the novel, as well as an audio clip of the author reading the excerpt.

This is part one of the excerpt. You can see part two here.

Find out more about the book and virtual book tour (happening now) here!

Listen to the excerpt:



Read the excerpt:

Hello, my name is Ifesinachi. Thank you so much for this opportunity of reading from my book, The Domestication of Munachi. I will go straight into the book and read from page 15. Here it goes:

The first sign of uneasiness Mama Adanna felt on the day her second child was to be given away in marriage was when she heard the loud bickering of young women inside the house. It was normal, she told herself. People always quarrelled on big occasions. When her first daughter Adanna got married, there had even been a fight between the Umuada, who were highly respected as the daughters of every Igbo family, and her own family members. The Umuada had rejected the brand of soft drinks presented to them, insisting that they wanted Malts or they would tear the ceremony apart.

This was different. Young women did not lose themselves and shout at the top of their voices like animals. They knew suitors lounged around, watching, assessing, deciding if one of them would be suitable as a wife, and these men were connected to the influential Odiegwu family, sons who had relocated abroad and had made lots of money to throw around, seeking wives they would fly overseas with.

Abandoning the pot of thick egusi soup on the fire, she marched into the house. Behind her, one of the women called out that they had to finish on time before the in-laws arrived.

She met one of the aso ebi young girls who were supposed to escort Munachi to her husband’s house. Mama Adanna recognised her as one of the choir members in church.

“Nne m, what is the matter?” she asked the upset girl who deftly avoided her gaze.

“I … I … don’t where Munachi is. She is no … nowhere. We can’t find her anywhere,” she replied in Igbo.

Nowhere? Impossible.

“Have you checked the toilets?” Mama Adanna asked weaving her way through the throng of young ladies, to the nearest bathroom.

She threw it open, almost ripping the door off its hinges.

Nothing stared back at her.

“Adanna! Adanna!”


Adanna appeared, hanging onto her son, who was asleep on her shoulder.

“Where did you say Munachi went? I thought I told you to look after her.”

Adanna hesitated.

“She left, mummy.” Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper. Left? What did the child mean by ‘she left’?

“What do you mean she left?”


“Is it not you I am asking before I break your head?” She advanced towards Adanna who drew back.

“I tried to stop her but she left. She said she was going away but she did not tell me where.” Her voice hung in the air like sodden paper about to disintegrate.

Loud groans and exclamations filled the air. Mama Adanna suddenly felt something she had never felt before. The ground below her shifted and she reached for the wall to steady herself.

Her own child was about to disgrace her in the presence of all these people. The Odiegwus would soon be here.

“You idiot. And it did not occur to you to come and get me, ehn?”

Retracing her steps back to the backyard, she called out, “Ifeanyi! Ejike!”

Two young men hurried to her side. They had been pounding fufu and their naked chests dripped and glistened with sweat.

“Biko, you two should get dressed and go round town. See if you will find Munachi anywhere. Check everywhere, even the parks.”

The two exchanged confused glances and looked back at her. “What are you standing there for?” she barked. “Go and find Munachi. She has disappeared.”

Thank you very much for this opportunity once again. I do hope that you go out there and get the book, The Domestication of Munachi. This is Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu. Thank you.

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New Ngugi wa Thiong’o story translated into over 30 African languages in record-breaking issue of Jalada Africa

Ngugi wa Thiong'o
In the House of the InterpreterA Grain of WheatThe River BetweenWeep Not, ChildPetals of BloodDreams in a Time of WarWizard of the Crow

The latest edition of Jalada Africa contains a new short story by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o translated into over 30 African languages, making it the “single most translated short story in the history of African writing”.

The short story was originally written in Kikuyu as “Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ”, and was translated by Ngũgĩ himself into English as “The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright”.

This is an impressive first foray into translation for Jalada Africa, a Pan-African writers’ collective based in Nairobi, Kenya. Translation Issue: Volume 1 is the culmination of a four-month project, and features collaborative work by professional and amateur translators as well as language enthusiasts from 14 African countries.

In his introduction to the issue, Jalada Africa managing editor Moses Kilolo says: “Professor Wa Thiong’o is uniquely placed to be the first distinguished author and intellectual featured in our periodical translations issue. He has, for many years, been the most vocal proponent in publishing in African languages.”

nullThe story is available in Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiZulu and Xitsonga, as well as the original Kikuyu, Ahmharic, Dholuo, Kikamba, Lwisukha-Lwidakho, Ikinyarwada, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, Igbo, Ibibio, Somali, Nandi, Rukiga, Bamanankan, Lugbarati, Shona, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, Naija Languej, Marakwet and French.

Audio recordings of the story are also available in Kikuyu, English and Sheng. The anthology will soon be available in PDF and ebook formats.

  • Jalada Africa encourages writers and translators who do not find their African languages featured in this issue and who would like to volunteer to contribute a translation of this story and to future Translation Issues to get in touch with at


The aim of the project was to renew interest in publishing in local languages and increase access to such stories.

Ngũgĩ says: “The cruel genius of colonialism was to turn normality into abnormality and then make the colonised accept the abnormality as the real norm … mother tongue first; then add to it, as necessary, that’s the way of progress and empowerment.

“So [Jalada's] actions will empower Africa by making Africans own their resources from languages – making dreams with our languages – to other natural resources – making things with them, consuming some, exchanging some.

“The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources.”

Read a short excerpt from the English version:

A long time ago humans used to walk on legs and arms, just like all the other four limbed creatures. Humans were faster than hare, leopard or rhino. Legs and arms were closer than any other organs: they had similar corresponding joints: shoulders and hips; elbows and knees; ankles and wrists; feet and hands, each ending with five toes and fingers, with nails on each toe and finger. Hands and feet had similar arrangements of their five toes and finger from the big toe and thumb to the smallest toes and pinkies. In those days the thumb was close to the other fingers, the same as the big toe. Legs and arms called each other first cousins.

Jalada Africa is planning more editions of translation, featuring a previously unpublished story of no more than 3,000 words. Writers and translators across the continent will be invited to submit and edit translations in their African language of knowledge and/or study. The ultimate goal is to have each story translated into 2,000 African languages.

Jalada’s September 2015 anthology, The Language Issue, also celebrates Africa’s diversity in language, with fiction, poetry, spoken word, visual art and essays in 23 African languages as well as English, French, Polish and Mandarin.

“Despite long-running conversations on the need for publishing in indigenous languages on the African continent over the past five decades, writing and translations remain minimal and the little that exists continues to rapidly decline,” the publication says. “Since our Languages Issue, we’ve deliberated on the best ways of making writing in our languages a continuous activity.

“We were convinced the previous anthology did not capture all the facets of languages we were interested in. There are millions of speakers in African languages and not many writers in African languages. Why? Can this be changed?”

Related stories:

Image courtesy of What’s Good Africa

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Read an excerpt from the novel everybody is talking about: Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83This Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, which is shortlisted for the soon-to-be-announced Etisalat Prize for Literature and was recently longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.

Mujila, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be in Durban next week for the Time of the Writer Festival, along with his fellow Etisalat shortlistees Penny Busetto and Rehana Rossouw. The trio will then head off to Lagos, Nigeria for the prize announcement on Saturday, 19 March.

Tram 83 was originally published in French, and was translated by Roland Glasser, winning a 2015 PEN Translates Award. The French original was a French Voices 2014 grant recipient and won the Grand Prix du Premier Roman des SGDL, and was shortlisted for numerous other awards, including the Prix du Monde.


About the book

Two friends, one a budding writer home from Europe, the other an ambitious racketeer, meet in the only nightclub, the Tram 83, in a wartorn city-state in secession, surrounded by profit-seekers of all languages and nationalities. Tram 83 plunges the reader into the modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic and colorfully exotic, using jazz rhythms to weave a tale of human relationships in a world that has become a global village.

About the author

Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in 1981 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he went to a Catholic school before studying Literature and Human Sciences at Lubumbashi University. He now lives in Graz, Austria, and is pursuing a PhD in Romance Languages. His writing has been awarded with numerous prizes, including the Gold Medal at the 6th Jeux de la Francophonie in Beirut as well as the Best Text for Theater (“Preis für das beste Stück,” State Theater, Mainz) in 2010. His poems, prose works, and plays are reactions to the political turbulence that has come in the wake of the independence of the Congo and its effect on day-to-day life. As he describes in one of his poems, his texts describe a “geography of hunger”: hunger for peace, freedom, and bread. Tram 83, written in French and published in August 2014 as a lead title of the rentrée littéraire by Éditions Métailié, is his first novel. It has been shortlisted and won numerous literary prizes in France, Austria, England, and the United States.

About the translater

Roland Glasser translates literary and genre fiction from French, as well as art, travel, and assorted non-fiction. He studied theatre, cinema, and art history in the UK and France, and has worked extensively in the performing arts, chiefly as a lighting designer. He is a French Voices and PEN Translates award winner and serves on the Committee of the UK Translators Association. Having lived in Paris for many years, he is currently based in London.

* * * * *

Read an excerpt from Tram 83, courtesy of Etisalat:

In the beginning was the stone, and the stone prompted ownership, and ownership a rush, and the rush brought an influx of men of diverse appearance who built railroads through the rock, forged a life of palm wine, and devised a system, a mixture of mining and trading.

Northern Station. Friday. Around seven or nine in the evening. “Patience, friend, you know full well our trains have lost all sense of time.”

The Northern Station was going to the dogs. It was essentially an unfinished metal structure, gutted by artillery, train tracks, and locomotives that called to mind the railroad built by Stanley, cassava fields, cut-rate hotels, greasy spoons, bordellos, Pentecostal churches, bakeries, and noise engineered by men of all generations and nationalities combined.

It was the only place on earth you could hang yourself, defecate, blaspheme, fall into infatuation, and thieve without regard to prying eyes. Indeed, an air of connivance hung ever about the place. Jackals don’t eat jackals. They pounce on the turkeys and partridges, and devour them. According to the fickle but ever-recurring legend, the seeds of all resistance movements, all wars of liberation, sprouted at the station, between two locomotives. And as if that weren’t enough, the same legend claims that the building of the railroad resulted in numerous deaths attributed to tropical diseases, technical blunders, the poor working conditions imposed by the colonial authorities – in short, all the usual clichés.

Northern Station. Friday. Around seven or nine.

He’d been there nearly three hours, jostling with the passers-by as he waited for the train to arrive. Lucien had been at pains to insist on the sense of time, and on these trains that broke all records of derailment, delay, and overcrowding. Requiem had better things to do than wait for this individual who, with the passing of the years, had lost all importance in his eyes. Ever since he’d turned his back on Marxism, Requiem called everyone who deprived him of his freedom of thought and action armchair communists and slum ideologues. He had merchandise to deliver, his life depended on it. But the train carrying that son of a bitch Lucien was dragging its wheels.

Northern Station. Friday. Around…

“Would you care for some company, sir?”

A girl, dressed for a Friday night in a station whose metal structure is unfinished, had come up to him. A moment to size up the merchandise, a dull thud, a racket that marked the entrance of the beast.

“Do you have the time, citizen?”

He had adequately assayed the chick and even imagined her lying on her mean little bed, despite the half-light. He pulled her body against his, asked her name, “Call me Requiem,” stroked his fingers across the young creature’s breasts, then another line: “Your thighs have the allure of a vodka bottle…” before disappearing into the murky gloom of the slimy, sticky crowd.

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Image courtesy of Editions Metailie

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Read an excerpt from The Rise of the Dagger – a ‘rugby thriller’ by former Springbok Gcobani Bobo

Rise of the DaggerThis Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from former South African rugby player Gcobani Bobo’s new thriller: The Rise of the Dagger.

The book, co-written with Elvis Jack, tells the story of Xolile Dalindyebo, a sharp-witted rugby player from the Eastern Cape who comes out of nowhere – with the mysterious ability to speak Japanese.

Dalindyebo bursts onto the scene in the Super 15 tournament for the Lions, but it isn’t long before his past starts to catch up with him …

Read an excerpt from The Rise of the Dagger:


Allison sat in the box above the halfway line. She had had two brandy and Cokes forced on her by a large man called Rudi whose son played scrumhalf for the Lions and her head was spinning both from the alcohol and the occasion. Several things had surprised her: it was late evening on an autumn Highveld day and the dark had fallen quickly. The flood lights were on they were simply spectacular: the field and the stadium were light as a summer’s day. She could see the players clearly, even their facial expressions. The crowd was loud but not raucous and only slightly drunk as a group. There was an air of excitement that she found infectious, attractive even.

She had been shocked at the sheer violence of the tackles. Nothing she’d seen on TV had prepared her for grunts of effort and pain, the impact of body on body – was this really a sport, she pondered to herself or men using sport as an excuse to fight each other?

Rudi had been helpful once she told him truthfully how little she knew about the game and her interest in Xolile Dalindyebo for her newspaper. He had pointed out each time Dalindyebo had touched the ball and assured her at half time that he was doing well – put in three solid tackles and claimed a high ball twice with great confidence. She hadn’t seen him run yet but Rudi told her that people said he had “some gas” on him.

The game continued. Allison could imagine how people could be absorbed, fascinated, obsessed even, with rugby – but it wasn’t for her, she was fairly sure. Watching her first game, though, she had to admit she was surprised about certain things. Having watched excerpts only previously she had always thought it was like that village in Wales that as a tourist attraction had a once a year game where the locals wrestled through the mud for a day in search of a pigs bladder or something. In fact, rugby union was nothing like that – much of the game was static with players lined up against each other in set formations. It was a stylised brutality, she said to herself, interrupted occasionally by some spectacular individual or collective bits of style and grace …

Five minutes to go and the Lions were trailing by 24 points to 18. On the halfway line the Lions moved the ball down the backline (“Bout time,” grunted Rudi) and suddenly between two players (the centres Rudi told her later) Xolile popped up, was passed the ball and took off.

Once again Allison was surprised: Xolile had told her he was fast, was very good at certain aspects of the game, and who was she to doubt the truth of his boasts? But nothing had prepared her for the grace and power of him on the run.

Everyone in the box was on their feet, many shouting. She rose too, the better to watch Xolile take off like a, like a bullet, like an arrow from a bow, in her own mind she shuffled through clichés to describe him. Forty metres from the tryline he headed for the corner, his peculiar high kicking stride eating up the distance. The last player, the opposing fullback, came running across to cut him off – surely he would bring him down or was Xolile strong enough to knock him over?

In the event neither happened as the two players converged Xolile kicked somehow so that without breaking stride where he was running to the left he was now running towards the right hand corner. The opposing fullback carried on heading to Xolile’s left and it was all over. Without a hand being laid on him Xolile dotted the ball down under the posts. He did it with the same lack of flamboyance that was to mark all his tries. He simply dotted the ball down and carried it back with him towards the half way line without celebration.

Rudi slapped her on the shoulder none too gently. “Beautiful, classical,” he told her. He then explained to her about the split between the centres. “If he goes fast enough there is no one marking him, just the cover defence coming across and the fullback defending at the back … and then that sidestep – fantastic, straight out of the manuals …”

But wait something seemed to be going on, there were replays, boos rang out from the fans, Rudi was muttering “No, no man”.

“What’s going on?” she asked him.

“I dunno” he said, “I think the fucking ref is screwing us again … look there it is on the big screen.”

Sure enough in a replay on the giant screen she could see a fist come out of nowhere and hit the player in blue in the face. The crowd was booing loudly and a few naartjies were being hurled on to the field.

“But surely that happened before, it had nothing to do with the try?” she said to Rudi.

He looked at her with a new respect: “Exactly!”

This was Allison’s first exposure to a phenomenon she would see again and again in the coming years: for South African fans, often the most generous in acknowledging the achievements of their opponents, the referees were always against them. Whether this was part of an anti-Afrikaans bias or whether they resented us because we had better weather than them, this remained the most ubiquitous of myths among local fans.

The try was disallowed, a Lions player sent off for punching, the Blues kicked a penalty and the game was lost. Allison looked at Xolile’s face through binoculars during the whole episode. He appeared unfazed largely, certainly much less perturbed than Rudi, with an almost smile playing about his lips.

More alcohol was dispensed from somewhere in the box. Word had spread that she was interested in the star of the moment. A large man handed her a rum and coke and lectured her on the sidestep versus the swerve (or what he called a “jink”).

As she was leaving Xolile sent her an SMS suggesting they meet at his apartment. Allison had only a moment’s pause about meeting a relatively unknown black man at his inner city flat.

After all, she told herself, newly divorced, no sex for six months, what was the worst that could possibly happen by being alone with a handsome young man in his twenties?


Xolile’s apartment was rather lovely she thought. Perched on top of a renovated building in Noord Street in the city he had joined two little flats to make a loft style 150 square metre living area with a sumptuous view of the lights of Berea in the distance. A circular metal staircase lead to a roof garden, done Japnanese style with raked stones in an obsessively neat pattern and little plants growing in aisles alongside.

“Nice place” she said as he poured a little saki. “You own it?”

“Yes, I came back from Japan with a bit of money. In Japan you would have to be extremely rich to afford a place of this size for one person. Make yourself at home, I’m just popping into the shower then we’ll write your piece for The Star, right?”

She wandered around his apartment picking up little Japanese gewgaws, tea sets, miniature stone gardens with little rakes and plants … his book shelf was almost empty except for two books in Japanese – it took her a long while to realise one was a version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Xolile came back in a towel and simply took her breath away. He had the most perfect body she had ever seen on a man – chiselled, toned, it seemed to her that every muscle in his body stood ready for action.

“Let’s see that tattoo,” she said to cover her discomfort. He turned around and she saw the tattoo starting just above his buttocks as a dragon, then swirling across his back before emerging as two roses over his shoulders and ending in a wisp around his neck.

“Beautiful,” she said, “where did you get it?”

“I had a friend who was a real artist with a needle; took about two months to finish.”

“And the bruises?” Across his caramel coloured torso a chain of bruises could be seen on his back with one huge one on his upper chest.

“What bruises?” He looked in the hall mirror “Oh these, no these are standard rugby stuff. It happens pretty much after every big game …”

He came out of his bedroom wearing an old track suit and made tea for both of them – Japanese style of course, heavy on style and low on taste, Allison thought to herself.

“So are you pleased with the way things worked out in the game?” she asked him.

“Overall, very pleased. You know I believed I could play, succeed even at this level, but I still worried that I might be deceiving myself – that when I played against really good players I might be a nothing, a tote along that contributes nothing to the team. Now I know. I can play much better than I did today, I was just trying to be an old style fullback to impress the coach.”

Allison sipped her tea. “You know when you left the field after the match some of the kids were chanting your name …”

“Ja, that was sort of cool, I suppose.”

“I think you need a Twitter account – and a Facebook page.”

He thought for a moment. “I’m a bit out of touch with these things … tell me what the advantage would be for me?”

“Well it would be a way of being in touch with your fan base, of increasing the size of it, expressing opinions that you wouldn’t want to make in an interview – things like that.”

“You know about things like this?”

Allison was suddenly struck by diffidence: “I did my Masters on it – the confluence of social media and journalism.”

“Yeah? What else could we do with it?” He seemed to have switched a mental gear.

Allison spoke for some time on the potential for a new celebrity to interact with fans. He seemed to drink this all in. She noticed he was fiddling with a little toy or ornament, another Japanese thing.

“What is that thing?”

“Oh it’s a Netsuku, a Japanese cultural whatsit, part good luck charm, part miniature art. Look, it has a rugby motif. It was another gift from Yukio, my tattoo artist.”

He passed it on to Allison who was surprised by the weight. It was cool to the touch, made of jade perhaps, and was a tiny sculpture of a fat man with a rugby ball clasped to his stomach.

The hour was late and Allison made ready to leave. Suddenly there was a silence between them, almost awkward. A dozen thoughts swirled in Allison’s head. When she spoke it was almost as if the previous thoughts had been said aloud.

“This is business. It’s important to both of us …”

And amazingly, she thought later, Xolile seemed to have followed her thoughts quite closely. “Absolutely,” he said, “business comes first. We’ll meet very soon.”

And she left. Something had been agreed to, she thought, but she wasn’t sure if she were pleased or regretful about it …

* * * * *

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