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The winner of the 2014 @City_Press Tafelburg Nonfiction Award is Vashthi Nepaul! #openbook2014 @OpenBookFest

Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

Sunday Read: Meet Qian Xiaohong, the Heroine in Sheng Keyi’s First Translated Novel, Northern Girls

Northern GirlsSheng Keyi is one of the exciting international authors who attended the 2014 Open Book Festival, coming all the way from China to be part of the festivities. Her novel Northern Girls, the first of her works to be translated to English, represents China in the 1990s – a country very different to South Africa. However, as Keyi pointed out during her time in Cape Town, there are important similarities between the setting of her novel and our country.

CA Davids, who interviewed Keyi during a session at Open Book, said that she felt this book was important and also deeply political, although not in an obvious way. For this reason it was quite difficult for Keyi to find a publisher for Northern Girls. Keyi has never been censored or threatened, however, perhaps because she is (in her words) just “a small potato” in the Chinese publishing industry.

The following excerpt is from the first chapter of Northern Girls, in which the sultry and headstrong heroine, Qian Xiaohong, is introduced:

Her. Right there. That’s Qian Xiaohong, from Hunan province.

A little over a metre and a half tall, sporting short black hair with just a hint of a curl, her round-faced look is pretty much that of a model citizen, good and decent. She’s just the sort of girl a guy wouldn’t mind taking home to meet his parents. However, her breasts – through no fault of her own – are much too large for civilised, polite society. Such breasts could not help but invite the same suspicion and groundless gossip normally saved for young widows.

Xiaohong’s breasts, to put it bluntly, are gorgeous! Even observed through clothing, it’s easy to imagine their consistency. To touch them must be heavenly. To simply gaze upon them is to fall under their seductive power. The problem is that same unavoidable difficulty that always arises in tight-knit communities. When everyone is cast from the same mould, the person who stands out for any reason at all is sure to be seen as something of a maverick. And so, Xiaohong’s full figure has always made her just a little too striking in the eyes of those around her.

Xiaohong’s mother died of cirrhosis of the liver at a young age. Her chest was as flat as could be so it’s clear the child gained nothing by inheritance. From then on, Xiaohong was brought up in the shelter of her paternal grandmother’s bosom.

Her grandmother, a widow for fifty years, passed away at the age of eighty. She was the only one who knew the secret behind Xiaohong’s well-endowed physique, but she went to the grave without ever breathing a word of it.

Ever since Xiaohong was in year five of school, rumours had surrounded her. There was always a stinging word hissed in her direction, ever a pointing finger trailing in her wake. All the other girls in the village duitfully hunched forward, guarding their chests under loose-fitting clothing, doing all they could to prevent their breasts from giving the slighest impression of sluttiness. Only Xiaohong allowed her twin bulging mounds to appear as openly and ominously as storm clouds descending upon an unsuspecting city. It was a rare gift she had, the way she carried that pair, and no one could denythat it required courage for her to do so.

At the ripe old age of thirteen, Xiaohong lost all interest in her studies. As soon as she finished middle school, she dropped out, preferring to take life easy and hang around the village.

Her father’s work regularly took him away from home for weeks at a time. When he was back, Xiaohong would run and sit on his lap like a little girl, cuddling up to him, cheek to cheek. The villagers would look at them askance. Clearly the affection between father and daughter made them uncomfortable. He worked as a contractor and, with his earnings, built a two-storey house with suites on each floor. Both the interior and the exterior of the house had a more cosmopolitan air than anything in the city. Xiaohong chose for herself a room on the upper floor with a private staircase running up the outer wall.

Book details

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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Tiah Beautement’s New Novel, This Day

Open Book 2014: This Day

This DayRead an excerpt from Tiah Beautement‘s newly released second novel, This Day.

This Day was launched at the Open Book Festival, and you can see the author read from it on the Books LIVE YouTube channel, along with readings by Kader Abdolah, Rabih Alameddine, Philip Hensher and Fiona Leonard.

At that event, Beautement said of her protagonist: “I gave her everything I wanted. Perfect health, financial independence, lots of energy, and made her life stink!”

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

The water devours the words.
            A solid half hour of writing in the starlight, the sharp stick gouging the glassy sand, until it resembled a pewter tablet bearing prophecy. Moses would have been impressed. Now my work has nearly vanished, the water sucking the letters until they pop out and drift away.
            The tide has changed, precisely when the tide table said it would. My mind cannot comprehend how they predict the ocean’s behaviour so far in advance. I’ve had it explained to me, this gravitational pull between the sea, the moon and the sun. But life has so many variables – solar flares, falling stars, an unexpected gust of wind – how do the tides keep ticking by on schedule, as if these anomalies have not occurred?
            Low tide: 4:59am.
            This is what the pamphlet said.
            That is what happened.
            Dawn whispers in as the ocean surges forward. My stomach rolls and my flesh prickles as the surf collects around my ankles, combing through my toes. I remain planted, waiting for the sun.
            ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ An often-spoken sentiment at funerals. I should know; I’ve been to enough. But in truth, we are mostly water: around sixty-to seventy-percent, if the experts are to be believed. They say an adult should drink two litres of water a day in order to maintain the approximately forty litres that compose the individual. I, Ella, am water. My words are somewhere in these waves, coating my feet. I should not be afraid. This sea contains droplets that were once in me, in my son, that sustained us both.
            The sky grows brighter. There are no surfers out on dawn patrol. Not the right kind of waves. They are small and crumbly. Perhaps later today this will change. I used to be more aware of the surf report. Bart, my husband, had scheduled his days around it. Now my daily excursions to the beach are made alone, in silent homage to our beloved boy. Perhaps words reach us, even in death.
            A barefoot fisherman in tatty trousers and a rusty red t-shirt approaches. A weathered plastic carrier bag dangles from calloused fingertips. His hooked knife glints in the dim light. He pays me no notice. We’ve seen each other often enough. I don’t know his name, nor he mine. But like the rocks along the shore, we have become part of one another’s scenery.
            With slow deliberate steps, he works his way to the rocks where the mussels cling. The water continues to swirl about my ankles, at times brushing up against my calves. The sun’s rays grow stronger. They reach out and lick my face. Soon the fisherman has wandered out of my line of vision. I do not turn my head. I wait and watch until the sun has finished emerging from the sea.
            The interior of the Prius is cool, promising, as cars often feel in the early hours. By noon the cabin air will be stale, tired with disappointment.
            Every day we begin again.
            This day is no more significant than the one before, or the one before that. Little progress, if any, seems to be made. Yet, I keep trying, pushing, as if working towards something, even if that something cannot be named. What is it that I hope to gain? It would be easier to succumb to the endless cycle. I could crawl into bed and lie next to Bart. With a sigh, whisper his full name, ‘Bartholomew,’ as I welcomed the rot. Gradually, we would waste away. It is, after all, not without precedent. Then death would claim us, as it did his mother. Yet, even now, I can’t help but think of it as the cowardly way out.
            Making my way up Church Road, heading home, the sun rises steadily behind me. We do not live far from the sea. The walk would do me good. But Bart insists that I drive. I have yet to inquire what shadows he envisions stalking me on the Mossel Bay streets. He believes me safe in our home, surrounded by palisade fencing. He believes me safe on the beaches, no matter the hour. How, after all of this, can he continue to have such trust around a large body of water?
            ‘You never go deeper than your ankles,’ he says.
            In the past I would have argued his odd logic, pointing out the holes. Or I might have ignored his protests entirely and simply walked. But the fact that he can muster the energy to insist on anything is … something.
            We all need something.


Returning, I make my way down the hall, studiously ignoring the door to the main bathroom. We have yet to arrange for repairs. As far as I am aware, the antique bathtub remains in ruins – cast iron marred by the sledgehammer, shattered porcelain pooling at the base of clawed feet.
            Stepping into the master bedroom I locate Bart, wrapped in a quilt, exactly as I left him. A line of drool channels along a heavily shadowed cheek. His ashy blond curls are overgrown and greasy. His once bronzed skin resembles spoilt yoghurt, the white separating into transparent layers that are tinged with blue. But it is the rhythmic rise and fall of his thin chest that holds my attention. Alive. This is never guaranteed. Each time I venture out of the house provides an opportunity to bring himself to conclusion. Despite everything, I do not wish for his death. I fear it. Anticipate it. Because I no longer understand what motivates him to exist. Gradually he has released us all from his care. Even his art.
            His art was the last to go. In the past sixteen months, only two pieces have been created. The first was a glass box in blues, greens, and purples so dark they almost looked black. The colours drift together, echoing the sea’s calm before the storm. The silver lines where the sections were soldered together give the box a distinctly religious overtone. We are not religious. But there is comfort in the aura of solemnity, given its contents.
            The other piece is a glass blown sculpture, unlike any of the vases, bowls, platters, Christmas ornaments and cut glass jewellery that he, or his three partners, typically craft. The popularity of Bart’s creations has gradually grown. People from as far as Norway, Sweden, Japan and New York are in possession of a Bartholomew Original.
            This sculpture was a disaster. His trembling caused the rod to rotate poorly. The glass folded in on itself, stopping short of total collapse. Yet, it was auctioned for a mind-boggling amount, as if the time lapse between pieces added to its worth. One art critique wrote: ‘Bartholomew’s latest work is the embodiment of grief.’
            I am no longer certain if grief plays any part in Bart’s moods, which sway between vicious anger and total apathy. It appears to be more of a habit. A habit he has no reason to break. We own the house outright. We inherited money from both sets of parents. His languid depression is a luxury most humans cannot afford. I’ve
often wondered if I would better serve him by draining the bank accounts, giving the whole lot to charity. Perhaps then he would see reason to emerge.
            The therapist tells me I misunderstand his disease. That it is a disease. A part of him is broken and should be respected as much as if he’d shattered his tibia, ruptured a spinal disc. Care should be administered, as surely as if he were bound to a hospital bed. Thus, each morning I am to approach my husband’s side with profound gentleness. I am not to say, ‘Just get up. There are things to do and people to see.’ No, I am to say, ‘You appear to be having a spot of trouble rising this morning. Is there anything I can do to assist?’
            This requires a plenitude of patience. And kindness. And fortitude. All of which I lack. Because what I would dearly love to do is to toss a bucket of cold water across this slumbering heap. Such an action, I suppose, would soak the mattress and could lead to mould. A great pity, indeed.
            I suppress a sigh and leave. Stepping over a trail of ants, which are doubtlessly doing untold damage to our hardwood floors, I enter the en suite. The original home had no such frills. It is a renovation orchestrated by my mother-in-law after the death of her husband. Upon its completion, she phoned Bart, ‘That Ms Spinner of yours will not be able to object to moving in now, the house boasts the latest amenities.’
            She never did forgive me for keeping my own name.
            ‘I am the last one,’ I once said to her, ‘and you must admit, there are still a plethora of Simonds about.’
            She’d been aghast. ‘Simonds, perhaps, but not the Simonds of the third cousin of the original Huguenots that …’
            I have never been able to precisely trace her version of the Simond family tree, of which Bart is apparently the last. Nonetheless, I bore her a small olive branch in the form of Kai Simond, only to have her tear it loose.

Book details

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Sunday Read: An Excerpt from Raymond E Feist’s Magician’s End in Anticipation of Open Book


Magician's EndAmerican fantasy author Raymond E Feist will be at this year’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town where he will speak to Sarah Lotz on Wednesday, 17 September 2014 about Magician’s End and all that came before.

Magician’s End is the final book in the Riftwar Cycle. Feist’s epic saga has now come full circle, with the black magician Pug/Milamber facing a final and brutal test.

We first met Pug in 1977 as the orphan keep-boy in Magician who became an apprentice to the magician Kulgan. When his home was invaded by the Tsurani warriors of a different dimension, Pug was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Thus began an adventure that would span over 30 years and be captured in 30 books.

Feist is a New York Times and Times of London bestselling author.

The following excerpt is from the first chapter of Magician’s End, where Pug and his son, Magnus, witness the destruction of an ancient race:

* * * * * * * * * * *



Chaos erupted.

A light so brilliant it was painful bathed Pug as he instinctively threw all his magic into the protective shell Magnus had erected around them just a moment before. Only Magnus’s anticipation of the trap had prevented them all from being instantly vaporized. Energy so intense it could hardly be comprehended now destroyed everything at hand, reducing even the most iron-hard granite to its fundamental particles, dispersing them into the fiery vortex forming around them.

The light pierced Pug’s tightly shut eyelids, rendering his vision an angry red-orange, with afterimages of green-blue. His instinct was to shield his face, but he knew the gesture would be useless. He willed himself to keep his hands moving in the pattern necessary to support Magnus’s efforts. Only magic protected them from conditions no mortal could withstand for even the barest tick of time. The very stuff of the universe was being distorted on all sides.

They were in what appeared to be the heart of a sun. In his studies, Pug knew this to be the fifth state of matter, beyond earth, air, water, and fire, called different names by various magicians: among them, flux, plasma, and excited fire. Energy so powerful that it tore the very essentials of all matter down to their very atoms and recombined them, repeating the process until at some point the plasma fell below a threshold of destruction and creation and was able finally to cease its fury.

Years of perfecting his art had gifted him with myriad skills, some talents deployed reflexively without conscious effort. The magic tools he used to assess and evaluate were overloaded with sensations he had never experienced in his very long lifetime. Obviously, whoever had constructed this trap had hoped it would be beyond his ability to withstand. He suspected it was the work of several artisans of magic.

In his mind, Pug heard Miranda asking, Is everyone safe?

Nakor’s voice spoke aloud. “There’s air. We can talk. Magnus, Pug, don’t look. It will blind you. Miranda, we can look.”

“Describe what you see,” Magnus said to the two demons in human form.

Miranda said, “It’s an inferno hotter than anything witnessed in the demon realm. It has destroyed a hundred feet of rock and soil below us and we are afloat in a bubble of energy. Farther out from where we stand, it’s turning sand to glass. A wall of superheated air is expanding outward at incredible speed, and whatever it touches is incinerated in moments. As far as my eye can discern, all is flame, smoke, and ash.”

Less than a minute before, the four of them had been examining a matrix of magic, which was obviously a lock, but had turned out to be a trap.

Ancient beings of energy, the Sven-ga’ri, had been protected in a quiet glade atop a massive building built by a peaceful tribe of the Pantathians, a race of serpent men created by the ancient Dragon Lord, Alma-Lodaka. Unlike their more violent brethren, these beings had been gentle, scholarly, and very much like humans.

Now that peaceful race had been obliterated. It didn’t matter to Pug that they had been created by the mad vanity of a long-dead Dragon Lord as pets and servants: they had evolved into something much finer and he knew he would mourn their loss.

Book details

Image courtesy of Jamie’s Pages

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Fiction Friday: ‘”He Would Tweet His Death” – On the Road to Fame’, a Short Story by Williams Magunga

Ainehi Edoro has shared ‘”He Would Tweet His Death” – On the Road to Fame’, a short story by Williams Magunga, on Brittle Paper.

Edoro says Magunga “writes about Nairobi like no one I know”.

In the story, a young hip-hop artist makes his way to his first radio interview – although his girlfriend is not convinced it’s a worthwhile trip. While traveling to the studio, however, disaster strikes.

Read on:

“He Would Tweet His Death” — On the Road to Fame by Williams Magunga | A Nairobi Story

Sunday is the day God takes the roll call.

On this day of the week, when all creations show off themselves to the Almighty, the sun becomes a sadist. It smiles its blistering heat upon the world as if looking to pick a fight with earthlings.

Man brings out his best garments, bulls dust their hides with their tails, hyenas polish their table manners- they say please and thank you when asking slugs to pass the table salt. Pigs brush their teeth, and flowers open up their petals like a drunk virgin opens her legs on her eighteenth birthday.

This Sunday, Philip walks across Nairobi CBD in a black velvet jacket. This is the jacket he wears once in a while when he wants to make a statement. It has a double slit at the back, two silver buttons, and patches at the elbow. It exudes class and accomplishment.

His girlfriend, Wangeci had told him to take it off. That it is foolish to put on a jacket when the sun baked the universe like that. If she squinted her eyes just right, she could see heat waves floating around the air. She said he was trying too hard to impress.

“But that is the point, Tanya,” he had said. He always called her by her first name every time they were in an argument. In most cases, when they disagreed about anything, they would compromise. This always translated to following Wangeci’s lead. But this time it was different. He wanted to look pristine.

Image courtesy of Matatu Travels

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Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Phaswane Mpe’s Twenty in 20 Short Story “Brooding Clouds”

Twenty in 20nullnull

This week’s Fiction Friday comes from Phaswane Mpe’s short story “Brooding Clouds”, which has been included in Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 Years of Democracy, launched at the start of National Book Week.

Mpe’s debut novel, Welcome to Our Hillbrow, was published in 2001, to great critical and commercial success. His life was cut short when he passed away suddenly in 2004, at the age of 34. “Brooding Clouds” is the titular story from his posthumous collection of short stories and poems.

Both books were recently published in the Picador Africa Classics collection.

Brooding Clouds by Phaswane Mpe

It is the beginning of autumn, the season in which the people of Tiragalong, a tiny village not far from Pietersburg, tend to look younger because of the nourishment they get from their abundant harvest. It is autumn, but this year the fields show no signs of life. Mealie plants are grey – grey like ash. Trees have lost their leaves, which turned sickly yellow before their time. Grass is dry already, and there have been several veld fires. The nearest river is so dry, livestock go there only to look at the cracked clay where water used to be. Even the word ‘livestock’ is misleading, for here are merely collections of bones in the shapes of cattle, sheep and goats.

Everything is dry. One does not need the help of a sangoma to predict that, towards the end of the season, when harvest time knocks on the doors of the villagers, there shall be nothing to reap. The rains take some pleasure in not relieving this tiny village. The old men, sitting under the trees whose shades are no match for the scorching sun, complain that the Gods have turned their backs on them.

Makgolo is one of the oldest women in the village. Tonight she is alone in her hut. She sits with her legs stretched out before her. Her eyes stare vacantly at the fireplace. The fire has been out for quite a long time but Makgolo does not notice. She rubs her hands together like a person who is just warming them up a bit.

Tonight she has no children to tell stories to. A dreadful thing happened yesterday. Although children love her stories – she tells the most beautiful stories in the village and its neighbourhood – they shall not come to listen to her any more.

Her stories begin, almost always, like this: ‘Long, long ago, when stones were still soft and edible and trees could walk . . . ’ Who does not want to know what happened in those good old days? Children are fascinated by her stories, stories of witchcraft and ordinary lives, of poverty and abundance, of wars and peace. The children give very little heed to the moral side of her tales.

But Makgolo has no audience tonight. She whiles the time away by drawing patterns in the air with her failing eyes. The thickening darkness in the hut sharpens the bright edges of her mental pictures. She is the solitary watcher of her own art. She has to be alone. Has not the boy Thušo come running in the heat of the afternoon sun to warn her to fly away on her broom? He overheard a group of youngsters who called themselves Comrades talk about Makgolo.

‘She is a witch,’ they said, ‘and can fly on a broom. What is more, she has sent lightning to strike Tshepo.’

Tshepo was a young man of promise, coming from a poor family. His father was killed in Alexandra for reasons unknown to his family and the village. His mother did not even own a fowl. The mother and son lived on lice, as the villagers would say. But her brother who, although not really wealthy, was far better off than herself, assisted in the education of her only son.

Book details

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Sunday Read: Excerpt from Another Great Day at Sea by Geoff Dyer in Anticipation of 2014 Open Book Festival

Another Great Day at SeaGeoff Dyer is one of the exciting international authors coming to the 2014 Open Book Festival happening in Cape Town next month.

His latest book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, is “the definitive work of an author whose books defy definition”. It chronicles Dyer’s experiences on the USS George H.W. Bush as he navigates the routines and protocols of “carrier-world,” from the elaborate choreography of the flight deck through miles of walkways and hatches to kitchens serving meals for a crew of five thousand to the deafening complexity of catapult and arresting gear. Meeting the Captain, the F-18 pilots and the dentists, experiencing everything from a man-overboard alert to the Steel Beach Party, Dyer guides us through the most AIE (acronym intensive environment) imaginable.

Read an excerpt from Another Great Day at Sea:

We were going to be flying to the U.S.S. George H. W. Bush from the Navy base in Bahrain on a Grumman C-2A Greyhound, an ungainly propeller plane. There was nothing sleek or speedy about it. The sky was doing what it always did at this time: waiting for the sun to show up. The temperature was pleasant; a few hours from now it would be infernal. Sixteen passengers, all but two Navy, gathered around the back of the plane to listen to the safety briefing. Our luggage had been weighed and taken away for loading. I had had to hand over my computer bag, because when we landed on the carrier—when the plane touched down and hooked the arresting wire, the “trap”—we would go from a hundred and forty miles per hour to zero in a couple of seconds. The “trap”—the first of many words that I would hear for the first time.

Get to know Dyer with this interview by Matthew Specktor for the Paris Review:


The first thing I’d like—


Excuse me for interrupting, but—at the risk of sounding like some war criminal in the Hague who refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court in which he’s being tried—I have to object to the parameters of this interview.


On what grounds?


It’s titled “The Art of Nonfiction.” Now I could whine, “What about the fiction?” but that would be to accept a distinction that’s not sustainable. Fiction, nonfiction—the two are bleeding into each other all the time.


You don’t distinguish between them at all?


I don’t think a reasonable assessment of what I’ve been up to in the last however many years is possible if one accepts segregation.

Book details

Image courtesy of Dyer’s website

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Non-Fiction Friday: The Boer Whore by Nico Moolman

The Boer WhoreRead an excerpt from The Boer Whore, by Nico Moolman.

The Boer Whore tells the story of Susan Nell, a teenage rape victim in a British concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the twentieth century.

Nell became one of the world’s first woman psychiatrists, and then champion of women victims of the so-called Japanese “comfort stations” during World War II.

The Boer Whore has been adapted into an Afrikaans novel by Francois Smith, Kamphoer (Tafelberg), and according to Moolman the film rights have been sold to a very exciting producer.

From the back of the book:

Throughout history men got medals, while women got allocated buckets of tears and bales of wreaths after each war. (Sometimes … only a poppy.)

The old adage, “All is fair in love and war,” could only have been coined by a man that won a battle by waging it outside the rules of the day.

The The Boer Whore, Nico Moolman takes you beyond the obvious and the sublime.

From the terrifying concentration camps on Winburg during the Anglo Boer War – called by the Sotho nation “Balla Bosiu”, where they cry at night – to the killing fields of the Somme and the Verdun during WWI and Death Railway in Thailand during WWII, we follow the trails of a woman scorned. Hence another adage, “Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned”.

Likewise a man that forfeited fair play must have written it.

Susan Nell, an inmate of Winburg’s concentration camp, has a bone to pick with those that violated and disgraced her on Hogmanay, that is New Year’s Eve, 1901/1902.

“None so brave as the dead,” has for millenia echoed from within the wild pheasant’s cry, according to Khoisan legend.

Susan Nell proved it to be true …

Read the excerpt:

The Boer Whore Book Excerpt (1/2) by Books LIVE

The Boer Whore Book Excerpt (2/2) by Books LIVE

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Link Love: Jalada, a Pan-African Writers’ Collective (Plus: Excerpt from “The Bobbitt Wars” by Nkatha Obungu)

Jalada Africa, which describes itself as a “pan-African writers’ collective”, has published its second anthology of short fiction, entitled Sext Me: poems and stories.

Jalada Sext Me

The aim of the Jalada collective is to publish literature by African authors on a regular basis, and make it as easy as possible for member to publish their work.

The first Jalada anthology, “Sketch of a Bald Woman in the Semi-Nude and Other Stories” was loosely based around the theme of insanity, and published online in January this year.

Stories in Sext Me include “Coming down” by Akati Khasiani, “Sex Ed for village boys” by Alexander , “The sportsman” by M Neelika Jayawardane, “Prey” by Zak Waweru, “Bound” by Anne Moraa, “Mourning lover” by Dele Meiji, “Rose water” by Kate Hampton, “The first time” by Aisha Ali, “Diaphoresis” by Victoria and “Miss fucking you” by Orem Ochiel.

Read an excerpt from Nkatha Obungu’s contribution to the latest anthology: “The Bobbitt Wars”:

I am wearing a red skirt which he calls “the destroyer.” When I walk into the office, he is sitting on his recliner, staring at the wall with a blank bovine expression on his face. I don’t look at him as I stride past.

He writes me emails which he thinks are anonymous, calls me a whore. My boss has failed to grasp the concept of named e-mail accounts. I think he was one of those boys in primary school whose idea of graffiti was spelling their names with smeared shit on latrine walls. He has a yellow-toothed leer.

My desk is to his left. When my skirt rides up my thighs as I sit, he wolfs down the view in fascinated disgust. I don’t say a thing, and this morning he does not berate me for disrespectfully failing to acknowledge him. I imagine he has extracted his mental prayer beads and is calculating how best to fuck me without losing the dignified carriage of his high-horse. I cross my legs and hear a belatedly suppressed gasp. He swallows and pretends not to look at me.

The first time my boss fondled my breasts, he circled my desk like a crazed vulture, his red-rimmed eyes like laser points aimed at my cleavage. I had been softer then, giggled at his non-jokes, eager to please, eager not to be trouble. Then he had dipped his great big paws into my chest and time had stood still. His fingers—rough cigarette stubs—scraped my nipples, made that sound that waves make when they slap across jagged reefs, and I had the overwhelming sensation that time existed only to drag me across this barren desert of middle-aged men bending over my desk, panting, and groping at me.

The hours drag along. Hope is a winged bird in my breast. He has not said a word to me. He grunts when I hand him typed correspondence. His fingers are poised over his keyboard and with his other hand he is rubbing his temple as though in a trance. I suspect he is in the middle of composing one of his sanctimonious, curse-filled emails to me.

“Get me a cup of tea,” he orders. I stand up slowly. I walk to the tea trolley at the corner of the room. There is a loud echo as my flats hit the linoleum floor. The room is a prison. Breathe in, breathe out. I pour milk over tea bags, scoop sugar into cup. All I can hear are the little noises his throat makes when words are choking him. I hand him the obnoxious tiny teacup which his wife brought to the office to mark her territory. He grins.

It begins. He places a claw on my thigh and I cannot walk away, trapped in an impossible zugzwang. The sun dips into angry clouds.

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Sunday Read: An Extract from David Mitchell’s New Novel The Bone Clocks

The Bone ClocksToday’s Sunday Read is a must-read: Waterstones have shared an excerpt from David Mitchell’s new novel The Bone Clocks, which will be published on 2 September and has been longlisted for this years’s Man Booker Prize.

The Guardian calls The Bone Clocks a “globe-trotting, mind-bending, hair-raising triumph”, and it has already been named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Works of Literary Fiction this season.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Mitchell said of Twitter: “I don’t want to add to this ocean of trivia and irrelevance, it’s already vast and deep enough.” Despite this, in mid-July he tweeted a short story called “The Right Sort”, about a boy tripping on his mother’s Valium pills, as a sort of warm-up-exercise-cum-publicity-stunt ahead of the publication of his new novel. Read the Twitter story here, and the extract from The Bone Clocks after the jump:

Excerpt from The Bone Clocks:

I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolatey eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going mental and, God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom. Last night, the words just said themselves, ‘Christ, I really love you, Vin,’ and Vinny puffed out a cloud of smoke and did this Prince Charles voice, ‘One must say, one’s frightfully partial to spending time with you too, Holly Sykes,’ and I nearly weed myself laughing, though I was a bit narked he didn’t say, ‘I love you too,’ back. If I’m honest. Still, boyfriends act goofy to hide stuff, any magazine’ll tell you. Wish I could phone him right now. Wish they’d invent phones you can speak to anyone anywhere anytime on. He’ll be riding his Norton to work in Rochester right now, in his leather jacket with LED ZEP spelt out in silver studs. Come September, when I turn sixteen, he’ll take me out on his Norton.

Someone slams a cupboard door, below.

Mam. No one else’d dare slam a door like that.

Suppose she’s found out? says a twisted voice.

No. We’ve been too careful, me and Vinny.

She’s menopausal, is Mam. That’ll be it.

Down in the kitchen, the atmosphere’s like Antarctica. ‘Morning,’ I say, but only Jacko looks up from the window-seat where he’s drawing.
Talking Heads’ Fear of Music is on my record player, so I lower the stylus. Vinny bought me this LP, the second Saturday we met at Magic Bus Records. It’s an amazing record. I like ‘Heaven’ and ‘Memories Can’t Wait’ but there’s not a weak track on it. Vinny’s been to New York and actually saw Talking Heads, live. His mate Dan was on security and got Vinny backstage after the gig, and he hung out with David Byrne and the band. If he goes back next year, he’s taking me. I get dressed, finding each love bite and wishing I could go to Vinny’s tonight, but he’s meeting a bunch of mates in Dover. Men hate it when women act jealous, so I pretend not to be. My best friend Stella’s gone to London to hunt for second-hand clothes at Camden Market. Mam says I’m still too young to go to London without an adult so Stella took Ali Jessop instead. My biggest thrill today’ll be hoovering the bar to earn my three pounds pocket money. Whoopy-doo. Then I’ve got next week’s exams to revise for. But for two pins I’d hand in blank papers and tell school where to shove Pythagoras triangles and Lord of the Flies and their life cycles of worms. I might, too.

Yeah. I might just do that.

Down in the kitchen, the atmosphere’s like Antarctica. ‘Morning,’ I say, but only Jacko looks up from the window-seat where he’s drawing. Sharon’s through in the lounge part, watching a cartoon. Dad’s downstairs in the hallway, talking with the delivery guy – the truck from the brewery’s grumbling away in front of the pub. Mam’s chopping cooking apples into cubes, giving me the silent treatment. I’m supposed to say, ‘What’s wrong, Mam, what have I done?’ but sod that for a game of soldiers. Obviously she noticed I was back late last night, but I’ll let her raise the topic. I pour some milk over my Weetabix and take it to the table. Mam clangs the lid onto the pan and comes over. ‘Right. What have you got to say for yourself?’

Book details

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Link Love: The Deadly Seducer, Cindy Pivacic’s Devastating Story of How She Was Infected with HIV

Cindy Pivacic’s book The Deadly Seducer, describes her journey of being infected with HIV, contracting it from her live-in boyfriend, and living with HIV/Aids.

Charlotte Kemp says of the book:

A bold and honest account, Cindy Pivacic shares her story about how she came to contract HIV & Aids and how she responded to it. Not only is she living healthy years later, but her vibrant and energetic character has been poured into helping others who are experiencing the same situation.

Cindy presents talks and workshops on living positively with HIV & Aids and those, with this book and her online presence, gives her the opportunity to create awareness, give testimony concerning the HIV & Aids issue, and to assist in de-stigmatising this secret killer.

Times LIVE recently shared three short excerpts from Pivacic’s book. Read about the encounter that changed it all – when a condom broke – and her diagnosis. She writes, “Many people do not show any symptoms of HIV infection for years, but will more than likely have the initial rash that indicates the body has been infected with the virus. In my case the onset of the acquired diseases was practically immediate.”

Excerpt: Life’s a beach

Brad (not his real name) and I were in a relationship for a total of three years and I had insisted on using protection during intercourse. During an evening of (how can I put this delicately without offending the faint-hearted?) exuberant sex – the condom broke!

Had I known better, I would have continued using a condom further into the relationship, but I thought, “Oh well the damage is done”, not realising that there was a chance that that one encounter may not have infected me. During the initial part of our relationship, I used protection thinking I would be safe. But when the unfortunate incident occurred, lack of knowledge prevailed and I discontinued using protection.

To order The Deadly Seducer contact the author by sending her an email at

About the book

It is all about you if you can live with yourself, stuff everyone else! I understand fully that it is a serious, terminal disease but it is manageable, so try to keep your sense of humour and “Deal With It”, sounds simple, but for some it will not be, that is why I would like to share the more positive side of my experience. It is not some, feel-sorry-for-me memoir or a sad biography – I usually pick up a biography, read the back, say “oh hell no” and put it right back on the shelf.

This is just telling it how it is and how I had to deal with “IT”. I have had the most excitinglife possible, no regrets. No one is untouchable, although some people I have met have the strangest ideas about “IT”. This can affect anyone, directly or indirectly, and eventually someone else’s situation will affect you.

Forty six year old, Caucasian woman, so much for Gay and Black stereotype, HIV and Aids is my disease!

A brief look at a ‘normal’ youth spent in Namibia then going to a boarding school as there were no high schools in Oranjemund to my fathers transfer to Kimberley and the teen years of growing up and testing the waters of what teenagers get up to along with their peers. I come from a very healthy well balanced background which goes to show everyone is vulnerable no matter your standard of living.

My first and second marriages were disasters for very different reasons; the first fortunately brought me two wonderful hard earned children but due to the lack of affection from my husband they had to be meticulously planned. The second husband was a violent individual and totally opposite of my first husband the physical side was passionate entwined with both violent abuse and sexual ardour.

Deciding to move from the Free State to KwaZulu Natal seemed like the best thing at the time in order to remove myself from my second husbands family and then in time from him, unknowingly setting myself up for an even worse situation. Being the trusting person I am totally misled into a relationship with someone fourteen years my junior resulting in a lifelong deadly disease.

Living with the HI virus and acquired diseases related to HIV & Aids since 2004, the lengthy detailed treatments are shared in the hope that it will create awareness to the public at large and show that acquiring the virus does not have to mean a death sentence. We are all going to die, eventually; it is just up to each one of us how you are going to live in-between, disease or no disease!

With support, yes, from family and friends believe it or not it has helped somewhat in removing the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease and with proper assistance and support the stigma can be overcome. By pointing people in the right direction and advising what to do, where to go, when and how to do it will hopefully prolong their life by managing their disease.

The treatment takes the reader through the various stages of acquired diseases that affected me and by doing this give people hope that acquiring diseases such as Strokes, Pneumonia, Shingles, TB Meningitis and Cancer (Angioimmunoblasticlymphadenopathy) will show them that living a healthy lifestyle can and does work. Going onto ARVs need not be a nightmare if taken correctly; they will enhance your life.

The lack of support within the suburbs is frightening and is addressed with contact details to counselling, testing and support group facilities. Add to this some tried and tested, easy, healthy recipes, the first thing that always gets asked is ‘So, what do you eat?’ necessitated this inclusion.

The thirty-six FAQ are easy to understand and an integral part of creating awareness and giving information to the still unacquainted people of South Africa in a manner that encourages them to want to read and find out more about this disease.

It boils down to ADAPT or DIE, I chose to adapt!

About the author

Cindy Pivacic is a speaker, living positively with HIV and Aids since November 2004, having lived through numerous challenges, would like to share her journey. She is living proof that a healthy lifestyle can prolong your life.

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