Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category
After listening to President Jacob Zuma’s 2014 State of the Nation Address, Andile Mchunu, a 17-year-old from Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, found himself unsatisfied with what he had heard. Consequently he started following politics and eventually sat down to write a novella titled The True State of the Nation.
Set in small town in South Africa, it follows the story of a young boy as he discovers the beauty and evils of his nation. It speaks boldly of the atrocities committed by the government and the governed.
The True State of the Nation is currently published as an ebook on Amazon.
Look inside Mchunu’s book and read the first few pages by clicking on the book cover on Amazon’s website:
On some days going to school is a tough ordeal, but on other days it’s a legendary tough ordeal. I am a normal South African boy in the sense that I go to public school, I have to travel a long distance in order to get to school and I grew up in a supposed “post-apartheid South Africa”.
It sounds better than it actually is because I grew up in rural Ntabamhlophe which roughly translated means “White Mountain”. It got its name from the colour it takes during the winter season as snow falls on its sides. It provides people who are passing by with a breath-taking experience and a picture perfect view, but that is the only place in which it is perfect, in pictures.
The story begins on a normal Monday morning. I get up, get dressed and begin my journey to school. The journey itself takes up three hours of my day because when the closest town in twenty five kilometres away we have to commute, but the nearest bus stop is two and a half kilometres away, which means by six o’clock I begin my journey to catch the seven o’clock taxi, which is rarely on time.
I do not have many complaints about the trip because I get to spend time with friends who sometimes have to travel a further five kilometres a day to a rural school and back. The journey is normally pleasant because after I catch the taxi I get to enjoy the music in the taxi.
Some of my friends usually joke about only being able to listen to music in the taxi because they do not have electricity at home. On rare occasions we would have gospel playing and the normal exchange of stories of sorrow would take place.
Mchunu spoke to Creamer Media’s Polity and Kaya FM‘s 180 with Bob team to discuss his book and what inspired him to write his own version of the State of the Nation Address.
Sane Dhlamini, for Polity, asks the young author how he decided to write about politics, the people and events that inspired his book, his writing process, his future plans and what he would advise the president in preparation for the 2015 State of the Nation Address.
Watch the video:
During his interview with Bob Mabena and Kuli Roberts, Mchunu says that he was moved to writing this book when he realised that the president was not giving South Africans the honest truth in his address. “I decided to write the book and give South Africa the full picture, from a student’s perspective,” Mchunu tells the Khaya FM listeners. He discusses his background and shares more about the characters and basic principles of The True State of the Nation.
Roberts and Mabena both praise Mchunu for his wisdom and way of thinking about South Africa which is remarkable for a man of his age. Listen to the podcast:
» read article
Bestselling author Jodi Picoult has written 23 novels, with her last eight debuting at number one on the respected New York Times bestseller list.
Picoult’s latest novel, Leaving Time, is set partially in Africa, with elephants as the spindle for a story about parenting, love and loss. 13 year old Jenna Metcalf is searching for her mother Alice, an elephant researcher who disappeared years ago after a traumatic event at the elephant sanctuary where Jenna was born. Her father is of no help, he has been in a psychiatric hospital since that fateful day. Jenna convinces a disgraced psychic and the now alcoholic cop who initially investigated the case to help her in search.
Wreathed throughout the story is Alice’s research on the extraordinary behaviour of elephants. Picoult has explained that she started writing this book as a way to cope with her children leaving home after she came across an article about how elephant mothers and daughters stay together their entire lives, until one of them dies. “Given my frame of mind, it seemed so much more pleasant to do things the way elephants do. I began to dig a bit more about elephants, and their reaction to death, and what I uncovered became a metaphor for the novel,” Picoult writes on her website.
Whether or not you are a fan of Picoult, read an excerpt to Leaving Time:
Some people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard—a place that sick and old elephants would travel to die. They’d slip away from their herds and would lumber across the dusty landscape, like the titans we read about in seventh grade in Greek Mythology. Legend said the spot was in Saudi Arabia; that it was the source of a supernatural force; that it contained a book of spells to bring about world peace.
Explorers who went in search of the graveyard would follow dying elephants for weeks, only to realize they’d been led in circles. Some of these voyagers disappeared completely. Some could not remember what they had seen, and not a single explorer who claimed to find the graveyard could ever locate it again.
Here’s why: The elephant graveyard is a myth.
True, researchers have found groups of elephants that died in the same vicinity, many over a short period of time. My mother, Alice, would have said there’s a perfectly logical reason for a mass burial site: a group of elephants who died all at once due to lack of food or water; a slaughter by ivory hunters. It’s even possible that the strong winds in Africa could blow a scattering of bones into a concentrated pile. Jenna, she would have told me, there’s an explanation for everything you see.
National Geographic editor Don George recently interviewed Picoult, asking her about the extensive research, something this author is known for, that went into writing about these giants of Africa. During the discussion she shares fascinating facts and anecdotes she learned during the process.
“People don’t necessarily realise the cognitive abilities elephants have. They can feel grief and pain and loss and they have incredible memories,” Picoult explains. She also discusses her other books, her feelings about film adaptations of her novels and her core reason for writing.
Watch the interview:
Picoult visited South Africa last week, making a pitstop in Johannesburg to join Michele Magwood for a Times Talks event at Kingsmead. Keep an eye on Books LIVE for a report from the event and have a look at some of the photographs from the successful evening:
» read article
Sunday Times Books has shared an excerpt from The Great Silence: From Mushroom Valley to Delville Wood, South African Forces in World War One by Tim Couzens.
The Great Silence was launched at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History last year and examines how World War I affected South Africa.
In the following extract Couzens seeks to remember the personal and immediate stories of the soldiers who died during the Great War. The author explores the different layers of “silence” in his book – from the forgotten names and unmarked graves of young men who gave their lives to the war to the uncomfortable silence in South Africa’s reaction to the past.
Couzens writes about the value of telling stories, which creates “an immense store of invaluable knowledge”. He says that successive regimes struggle to work through history and to figure out what to do with it, perhaps out of fear, but it is important to remember that “our history is larger than any narrow nationalisms”.
Read the extract:
* * * * * * * *
Lest we forget. We have, of course, forgotten. Or not remembered. If we ever knew.
About the First World War many South Africans would be able to dig out of the trenches of memory the name Delville Wood. Others, at a push, might mention the Mendi.
But Sandfontein? Mushroom Valley? Riet? Kondoa-Irangi? Agagia? Square Hill? Marrières Wood? Perhaps, Le Havre?
The Great War was a world war and its effects, as will be seen, seeped, like vicious mustard gas, into the remotest corners of the earth, and to the remotest people.
There is, in these battlefields and cemeteries and their meaning, a terrible beauty.
In the Great War the South Africans were confronted by five theatres – South Africa itself, German South West Africa, German East Africa, Egypt and Europe – all very different, requiring adaptive strategies for each suited to the strengths and weaknesses of the forces committed. They fought from Mushroom Valley to Delville Wood: beautiful names, but places turned into frightful death and destruction.
Anyone who has stood overlooking the acres of graves at Tyne Cot, Belgium, some named, some marked Unknown Soldier’, is unlikely to forget what happened. Anyone who has stood beneath the huge monument at Thiepval with, carved into it, the names of 73 000 men ‘who have no known graves’, is unlikely to forget. Those who have stood before the Ossuary, a vast collection of human bones, at Verdun, are unlikely to forget. Those who have visited the cemetery at Arques-le-Bataille, with its special South African connection, are unlikely to forget.
Robert Keable, one of the chaplains to the black South African soldiers in France in 1917, took time off from his military duties to visit two places that impressed him immensely. The first was the magnificent 13th century Gothic cathedral at Amiens, of which John Buchan’s fictional character, Richard Hannay, said it is, ‘The noblest church that the hand of man ever built only for God.’ The cathedral was at the heart of the Somme area. The time-worn carven images of the porch reminded Keable that, ‘It is War, and Time is War, and life is War, and the story of Earth is the tale of Pain.’ He watched a couple close by: the young woman, poor but well dressed, ‘as a Frenchwoman should be’, knelt to pray, while the young man in line uniform sat next to her, his eyes fixed on the High Altar, until she broke into sobs so that he lifted her up, turned her face to his, and kissed her long upon the lips.
The second place was the luxurious Palace of Versailles where he found that ‘the ghost of Versailles is the ghost of kingship’. He pondered on the ambiguous relationship between democracy and the system of kingship it replaced, and especially the artefacts that symbolised the old regime. ‘Democracy can no more use Versailles,’ he wrote, ‘than Protestantism can use a Gothic cathedral.’ By ‘use’ he probably meant ‘accommodate to’.
So it is with history in South Africa. For successive regimes history is consigned to the past. They are awkward about what to do with it, uncomfortable, perhaps they fear it, but our history is larger than any narrow nationalisms. After all, ambassadors from all countries have visited its halls and pilgrims from all over the world have come to approach its altar.
Just like the Irish, because of societal fissures, there has always been an ambiguity in South Africa’s reaction to the Great War – at times an uncomfortable silence. This is an unhappy mistake because the war had significant consequences even for the remotest parts of the land.
Mull over this: had the Germans won the war what kind of rule, especially for its colonial subjects, could be expected from an empire that set out, for instance, to exterminate the Herero?
Nor was this ‘a white man’s war’ as some so casually assert. Aside from the multitude of troops drawn from the various empires, who actually participated, such results as the break-up of the Ottoman Empire have had effects on Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and therefore on the rest of the world even to this day. Such an assertion, therefore, is narrow and short-sighted in the extreme.
The demand to tell stories has become a fashionable thing these days. Everybody seems to have a story to tell. This can be a good thing: it can be therapeutic. ‘Stories’, both individual and in oral tradition, can be an immense store of invaluable knowledge.
But they must always be tested by evidence. They can just as easily be self-serving, selective and invented. The ‘good story’ often turns out to be confined to just ‘victims’ and ‘heroes’ with little else in between. There is no space for alternatives, or the rich pattern of diversity and complexity.
We must constantly guard against forgetting, constantly be vigilant against the silence.
Several people I have known have laid down their lives to political murder. I shall not forget them.
But I’d also like to pay tribute to those who have not allowed us to forget. This means those people who write the histories they have laboured on for many years to get as right as they can. This book, imperfect as it is, has as one of its main aims to point readers in the direction of those authors and their works in order to get a greater understanding of South Africa’s part in the Great War. I refer, in particular, to Gerald L’Ange, James Ambrose Brown, Peter Digby, Bill Nasson, Ian Uys, Edward Paice, Norman Clothier, and Albert Grundlingh. This book could hardly have been written without them and details of their works can be found in the Sources.
Let me repeat this point and be as clear as I can. The historians of this country are truly amongst its ‘unsung heroes’, even if that is an over-used and vapid phrase. They provide a sober corrective to the simplifications and distortions of politicians, spindoctors and other ideologues. They have provided extensive examinations over most areas of the country, in English, Afrikaans and African languages and there is no excuse for ignorance, either willful or not. As in law, ignorance of history is no excuse. The onus is with the reader. The best way to reward these writers for what they have done is by reading them, and I refer not only to the old readership but, perhaps mainly, to the new. To neglect this is to leave the country, in the presentation of history, open to be collectively conned.
The impact of the cemeteries at Tyne Cot (near Passchendaele) and Verdun is on a macro-level: the sheer size and numbers involved is staggering. But there is also another way to be affected.
Once, on my way to the Somme, I was driving on the road between Doullens and Albert (the D938) when I passed a small military cemetery of which there are so many. It is called Louvencourt. It seemed familiar. Where had I heard that name? Then I remembered. Some time before I had read Vera Brittain’s classic of the war, Testament of Youth. Her beloved fiancé Roland Leighton was in the front line on the Somme on 22 December, 1915, when his regiment, the 7th Worcesters, had taken over some trenches. He was due to come home in two days’ time, just in time for Christmas. His platoon was ordered to spend the night repairing wire in no-man’s-land which the previous lethargic occupiers of the trench had neglected. Lieutenant Leighton went down a concealed path to inspect it but the Germans knew about the path and, under a full moon, with a machine gun volley, shot him in the stomach. Risking their lives, his company commander and a sergeant rushed to him and carried him to safety. Within twenty minutes the doctor at the dressing station ended his agony with a heavy dose of morphine. He was taken fifteen kilometres back to the clearing station of Louvencourt where a ‘complicated abdominal operation’ was performed but the internal mutilation was so bad ‘the doctors knew he was not likely to live more than a few hours’. He didn’t. Had he, by some miracle, done so, he would have been paralysed from the waist down.
I stepped into the cemetery and found Roland Leighton’s grave. He was 19. His story became personal and immediate to me.
This experience of the relics of war is, then, as affecting on the micro-level as it is on the macro. A visit to the entire sector of the Western Front, from Belfort in the south, through Verdun, the Somme, Vimy Ridge to Ypres is necessary to get a feeling for the extent of the events. To pursue the fate of an individual, as I have done on three occasions, is also intensely moving. If that person was a relative then it must be addedly so. Some idea of his last days can be gleaned from his personal files and from the regimental diaries, and can only add to the experience.
There is something more, difficult to express. Over the last twenty years since I first visited Tyne Cot and looked upon the massed graves I have tried to grasp the meaning of it all. I am haunted by the silent dead.
There are other kinds of silence, too: there was that silence, for the men who died, when sensation became oblivion, the last moment of life, the split second before death; and then there was that silence that comes as news of a soldier’s death (often in a telegram) reaches a loved one, that instant where word becomes meaning, when information is absorbed and the world bursts.
These are moments of exquisite poignancy, frozen in time, like the lovers in Amiens cathedral, passion within piety. Each were small silences in the grand scheme of things but repeated ad infinitum and shattering for those involved.
There is yet another silence, which I have tried to come to grips with. It does come at last, perhaps with increased knowledge, perhaps unexpectedly like a vision. It is that instant, beyond words, when the mind catches its breath at the sheer scale, the enormity of it all. It is similar to the moment of complete understanding that William Hazlitt experienced on a walking tour of Scotland when he stood on a high rock and looked over ‘the precipice of years that separates us from what we once were’; or that astonishment, when at the top of the escarpment in the Drakensberg overlooking the whole of KwaZulu-Natal on a clear day, expressed in one real double-clicked name for the place, ‘Foqoqo’, loosely translated as ‘My God!’ It is the shock of comprehension. This is a greater silence.
In all these instances, individual and collective, the silence stops one dead.
Vera Brittain, who not only lost her fiancé but a beloved brother, wrote soon after the war was over: ‘When the text of the treaty of Versailles was published in May, after I had returned to Oxford, I deliberately refrained from reading it; I was beginning to suspect that my generation had been deceived, its young courage cynically exploited, its idealism betrayed, and I did not want to know the details of that betrayal.’ It is a timely warning, forgotten over and over, to those who flirt with aggression or risk with careless talk the frightful danger of civil war, as if it were ‘casual comedy’.
» read article
- The Great Silence: From Mushroom Valley to Delville Wood, South African Forces in World War One by Tim Couzens
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
This week’s Sunday Read is an article by Gaby Wood for The Telegraph about Neil Gaiman’s latest children’s book The Sleeper and the Spindle, as well as an excerpt from the book.
The book, which is beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell, is a mash-up of two fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
Gaiman says that writing this book made him feel “like some kind of alchemist” because of how he combined different elements of two different fairy tales to create a story that resembles the old ones, but is really an entirely new thing.
Wood says that “fairy tales shape our worldview and stalk our literature” and teach us the old values of our culture. But, she shows, fairy tales are also vehicles for carrying new values, as this book does. Gaiman says he is fed up with stories in which women are rescued by men. This is a story in which women demonstrate agency rather than apathy.
Read the article:
“You don’t need princes to save you,” says Neil Gaiman, speaking about his new fairy tale, The Sleeper and the Spindle. “I don’t have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men.” And so, in his slim, gilded, wicked book, a beautiful young queen calls off her own wedding and sets out to save a neighbouring kingdom from its plague of sleep.
The brilliance of Gaiman’s story – which is spellbindingly illustrated by Chris Riddell – lies in the elements he has chosen for his mash–up.
Now read an excerpt from the book from Issuu:
» read article
David Philip Publishers has shared an excerpt from Books That Matter: David Philip Publishers During the Apartheid Years, a memoir by Marie Philip.
David Philip Publishers was established in 1971, with the aim of publishing “books that matter for Southern Africa” and challenging mainstream apartheid thinking.
In 1992, Nadine Gordimer of the founders: “David and Marie Philip started an independent publishing firm in South Africa during some of the darkest days of censorship. Their unintimidated aim was to publish good books. In spite of all odds, they have come of age as among not only the bravest but also the most highly regarded of our publishers. I am happy to be on their list.”
In the excerpt, Philip explains the problems of censorship that David Philip Publishers met with during the 1970s and 80s. With some work, they were able to get “previously banned writing unbanned on the grounds of ‘literary merit’”, and then re-issue the books. Additionally, the South African rights to international banned – and recently unbanned – books were relatively easy to acquire, as overseas publishers “were seldom eager to get involved in any way with the South African authorities”.
Philip also recalls how they lured Wole Soyinka to their stable, during the 1980 Frankfurt Book Fair, and made the transition to the computer age in 1982.
Read the excerpt:
* * * * *
Censorship had led over the sixties and seventies to what David called the ‘unbridgeable gap’ in the South African literature that would have been identifying the black experience at first hand. There’s a telling quotation from Solzhenitsyn (quoted in Justin Cartwright: This Secret Garden: Oxford Revisited p. 36) – ‘Literature transmits incontrovertible condensed experience … from generation to generation. In this way literature becomes the living memory of a nation.’ This is what the censors were contriving to eradicate in the South African experience, citing it always as a threat to security. Books could be submitted to Publications Committees – mainly by customs or by the police – and, since 1974, if banned could be taken on appeal not to the courts but to the arch-conservative Publications Appeal Board. Once the grip of the Board loosened under Professor JCW van Rooyen in 1980, we could try in some small measure to fill that gap again, by getting previously banned writing unbanned on the grounds of ‘literary merit’ and republishing it in the Africasouth Paperbacks series. Jonathan, in order to select, obtained permission to read a long list of such books in the South African Library, where they were allowed to be kept under restriction. The Publications Appeal Board sat in Pretoria, and we were able to apply to the brilliant and always supportive help of Professor John Dugard, at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits, to take our selected books on appeal and get them unbanned. Then we could reissue.
An irony was that most of the banned books had first been published outside the country and submitted to the censors by customs or the police. To publish in Africasouth we had then to get South African rights from the original overseas publishers. As they were seldom eager to get involved in any way with the South African authorities, that was not difficult. In this way the list built, and although the books couldn’t hope now to retrieve the freshness of their first conception, nevertheless they helped to fill in the experiences of those times. 1982 saw the resurrection of The Will to Die by Can Themba; Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Transvaal Episode by Harry Bloom; Chocolates for My Wife by Todd Matshikiza, etc (see Appendix).
It was not intended that the series would remain limited to the unbanned books. To quote from a later catalogue description, it ‘includes important works of southern African literature that are at present available only in hardback or are out of print or not readily accessible or “banned”; there is also provision for new writing. The books are not only those whose worth has become acknowledged but also interesting and significant works that need rescue from neglect. Among the titles are a number of books recently “unbanned”, after having been sent by the publisher for review.‘
A title we were particularly pleased to add to the Africasouth list did not come from a South African writer but from the Nigerian (later Nobel Laureate) Wole Soyinka. In 1980 it was Africa Year at the Frankfurt Book Fair and he’d come to visit his original publisher Rex Collings at the stand we shared, to tell him that he and other African publishers were going to demonstrate against South African publishers displaying books there. Rex said, ‘You wouldn’t demonstrate against David and Marie, would you? Come and look at their books.’ So he looked, and then said firmly, ‘We’ll demonstrate against all of them except Ravan and David Philip.’ And then he told us we could have the South African rights for his next book, which was Ake: The Years of Childhood. We first imported hardback stock from Rex the following year, and then did our own Africasouth edition.
Frankfurt was indeed important to us, more so year by year. From the beginning it had seemed to us important for our authors and also for us to sell international rights for our books, whether of territory in English or of translation. It would not only possibly extend our print runs but would give the book a wider resonance than if it were published in South Africa only. The Frankfurt Book Fair was the key to the introductions we needed to do this. It was demanding and exhausting, but the demands were different from our day-to-day pressures of publishing at home, where the shadow of a divided society hung over everything. It provided a breath of different air, quite apart from the stimulus of meeting publishers and ideas from around the world, and a sense of support in what we were doing.
The dates of the Buchmesse, held in the vast trade fair grounds in eight separate display halls, varied within October each year but the pattern was always the same: Tuesday was set-up day, where publishers found their allotted stands (open-fronted cubicles) amidst a chaos of packing materials, dust and unrolling carpets, and hoped to find there the furniture they’d ordered and the boxes of their books and advertising material for display. Rex and we had a longstanding agreement (approved later by James Currey when he joined us in 1985) that we in Cape Town would do the ordering of the furniture and that we need not have spotlights inside the stand (too hot and bright) but certainly we needed a fridge. DPP books had of course to come from Cape Town and had to be despatched quite some time before, through the services of a shipping agent specialising in consolidating the needs of whichever South African publishers were taking part. The German organisation of the Buchmesse was impeccable – the efficiency, the smooth running of it all, never ceased to amaze us. Apparent chaos on Tuesday, everything elegantly in place and spotless on Wednesday. The corollary was, needless to say, the bureaucracy: you had to get those forms in and payments made by due date in March or you had no stand, no entry in catalogue or Who’s Who of publishers. In fact, you’d lost your place!
There might be some general meetings arranged for Tuesday, like Rights Managers, or North/South debates, or much later, Electronic Rights, but the main business of the Fair would begin on the Wednesday. We’d learnt by now to make appointments well before with other publishers – those to whom we hoped to sell rights of future or current books, or those who wanted to sell to us. Appointments were made half-hourly from Wednesday to Sunday. Usually one of us would go and the other would mind our half of the stand. David said wryly, after our last visit in 1999, that we’d been to Frankfurt for 23 years running – and that that’s what it felt like.
Financially it was affordable (in fact we couldn’t afford not to go) because we’d tumbled to the advantages of being registered exporters – not only tax advantages but cash grants too. Even to us, so desperate were the authorities to earn foreign currency. They were truly ambivalent – our books might be threatened with censorship and banning within South Africa, but the same authorities were quite happy to subsidise us with such tax advantages to sell the books outside the country. The official South African stand would even have welcomed them for display amongst the proteas, but we were not prepared to offer the books for that purpose.
With the excellent 5-stops airfares that were at that time available (no extra charge for any three stopovers on the way), we were usually able to take a short break somewhere to or from the Book Fair. It was vital to write up our notes before we got back to the office and on one occasion, 1982, we were planning to do that in Rome, having booked at a Roman Catholic convent recommended by a friend, the Foyer Unitas, which was very inexpensive, welcomed visitors to Rome, Catholic or not, and informed them and showed them around Rome. We knew it was near the Piazza Navona, hardly a difficult address, but the taxi drove us round and round in the dark, eventually depositing us in front of a decrepit-looking building. Full of doubts and very tired, we took a shaky, mediaeval lift which opened at last on a bright reception room with a smiling nun waiting to welcome us. With enormous relief I put my handluggage heavily down on the marble floor – and heard an ominous scrunch that I ignored. Only too soon, however, as we were being shown down the corridor to our room, fluid began to drip out of the case, and a cheerful elderly nun bustling past said, ‘That’s a very nice smell – gin, isn’t it?’ Indeed it was, a litre bottle bought at the dutyfree at the airport in Johannesburg and not favoured or used at all in Frankfurt. Embarrassingly the drips became a flood, but the nuns rallied round with bathmats and towels.
An event that seemed of momentous importance was DPP’s launch into the computer age, and so it was, considering all the changes that were consequently to come to publishing in the future. Right now, however, what drove us to the leap in 1982 was that the time had come for computerised invoicing and statements. How to afford a computer when funds were so very tight? It was somehow decided that I should be the one to go into the City to negotiate a loan of R14 000, and although I was successful I had the strong feeling that the suited businessmen I persuaded were waiting only for my nervous dignity to go out of the door before they collapsed with laughter. Nevertheless, we bought our Commodore Business Machine, very much guided by Stephen Tooke, who had come with us from Scott Road to the new offices. Computers were right up his street, and indeed he later made them his career. He knew whom to ask and who should design the invoicing and statement modules, and he then ran the system for us.
* * * * *
About the book
South Africa in the 1970s was a divided and increasingly traumatised country, seemingly permanently in the toils of apartheid, and with little space available for open discussion of apartheid policies or awareness of just what those policies were meaning in the lives of people.
It was in this context that David Philip, a South African already involved for several years in publishing, became convinced there must be more opportunity for books with informed discussion and debate to be written and published within the country. He persuaded his wife Marie, also with publishing experience, that they could together set up their own independent publishing company, to publish ‘Books that matter for Southern Africa’ – in social history, politics, literature, or whatever, good of their kind and ready to challenge mainstream apartheid thinking.
This is an anecdotal account – a memoir – of the lows and highs of a small, cheerful, underfunded but vibrant ‘oppositional’ publishing company, David Philip Publishers, from the year 1971 through to the birth of the new South Africa.
About the author and subject
David and Marie Philip, South Africans of many generations, were both born and schooled in Cape Town. David, after a short spell in the army at the end of WWII, went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, in those heady post-war years of material shortages but amongst students of many different ages and backgrounds. He loved all of it – CS Lewis as his tutor in English, cricket on soft green fields, long summer evenings – but his plan and desire was always to get into publishing back in South Africa.
Marie (then Marie van Ryneveld) met him briefly during those years but her plan was different: she graduated from the University of Cape Town in an eclectic mixture of languages and Constitutional History and Law, maybe to do something vaguely diplomatic but above all to write and to travel, first to Paris. In the meantime she agreed to a temporary job as an assistant to David over Christmas in the small bookshop he was setting up in Cape Town for the Stationers, Galvin and Sales. From there each in turn found employment with the local branches of international publishers – Marie with Longmans Green, and David with the Oxford University Press.
They were married in 1953. By the time they retired in 1999 from David Philip Publishers, the company they had set up together in 1971, they had not only been living, working, and playing with words together for more than 40 years, but had jointly been in the book trade for nearly 100 years.
» read article
The end of the year brought with it the usual overwhelming wave of lists announcing the best books of the 2014, chosen by a variety of critics using different methods to determine the past year’s top books. The Good Reads Choice Awards is one of a few, if not the only, major book awards where the readers have all the say.
Our very own Sarah Lotz and Lauren Beukes made it to the semifinals of the 2014 awards in the Best Horror category, but it was Anne Rice who walked away with the title of reader’s favourite for Prince Lestat, the latest in her series The Vampire Chronicles.
The winner in the fiction category received an impressive total of 46 154 votes, a whopping 13 301 more than the runner up. For today’s Sunday Read we present an excerpt from the Good Reads Choice winner, Landline by Raibow Rowell, which is described as “a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones”:
Georgie pulled into the driveway, swerving to miss a bike.
Neal never made Alice put it away.
Apparently bicycles never got stolen back in Nebraska—and people never tried to break in to your house. Neal didn’t even lock the front door most nights until after Georgie came home, though she’d told him that was like putting a sign in the yard that said PLEASE ROB US AT GUNPOINT. “No,” he’d said. “That would be different, I think.”
She hauled the bike up onto the porch and opened the (unlocked) door.
The lights were off in the living room, but the TV was still on. Alice had fallen asleep on the couch watching Pink Panther cartoons. Georgie went to turn it off and stumbled over a bowl of milk sitting on the floor. There was a stack of laundry folded on the coffee table—she grabbed whatever was on the top to wipe it up.
When Neal stepped into the archway between the living room and the dining room, Georgie was crouched on the floor, sopping up milk with a pair of her own underwear.
“Sorry,” he said. “Alice wanted to put milk out for Noomi.”
The winner in the Historical Fiction category also received a remarkable number of votes (41 512). All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is en epic novel set during Second World War and follows a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy as they try their best to survive as Europe is engulfed by war.
Listen to an excerpt from Doerr’s book:
Image courtesy of Rowell’s Twitter feed
» read article
Just in time for Christmas lunch, the Sunday Times presents another free ebook, containing 66 of the best recipes from Sunday Times Food Weekly readers.
Keen-eyed gourmands will remember the free Sunday Times ebook Food Weekly 50 Best Chocolate Cakes – Readers’ Recipes from mid-December. Now, the Sunday Times is giving away a full recipe collection.
The Sunday Times Food Weekly Readers’ Recipe Collection contains everything from soups and salads to curries, pies, pastas, and of course desserts.
View your free ebook here (or download it directly here):
» read article
What happens to magic in a world ruled by logic?
The second novel in Terry Pratchett’s The Science of Discworld-series is set to appear in the US on 20 January 2015. Co-written with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Globe shows you what happens when wizards mess with magic, especially when they create alternate universes!
The wizards of Unseen University didn’t quite know what they were getting themselves into when they first created Roundworld. In a world filled with humans, elves and other ghastly creatures, it’s once again up to our unsung heroes Rincewind and the Librarian to save the day. Together with Ridcully and Ponder Stibbons they travel to the Dark Ages to set humanity straight, or to try in any case.
Tor shared an extract from the first chapter of The Globe. Rincewind receives a message of elves entering Roundworld and certain doom that is sure to follow. Read the extract:
Message in a Bottle
In the airy, crowded silence of the forest, magic was hunting magic on silent feet.
A wizard may be safely defined as a large ego which comes to a point at the top. That is why wizards do not blend well. That would mean looking like other people, and wizards do not wish to look like other people. Wizards aren’t other people.
And therefore, in these thick woods, full of dappled shade, new growth and birdsong, the wizards who were in theory blending in, in fact blended out. They’d understood the theory of camouflage – at least they’d nodded when it was being explained – but had then got it wrong.
For example, take this tree. It was short, and it had big gnarly roots. There were interesting holes in it. The leaves were a brilliant green. Moss hung from its branches. One hairy loop of grey-green moss, in particular, looked rather like a beard. Which was odd, because a lump in the wood above it looked rather like a nose. And then there was a blemish in the wood that could have been eyes …
But overall this was definitely a tree. In fact, it was a lot more like a tree than a tree normally is. Practically no other tree in the forest looked so tree-like as this tree. It projected a sensation of extreme barkness, it exuded leafidity. Pigeons and squirrels were queuing up to settle in the branches. There was even an owl. Other trees were just sticks with greenery on compared to the sylvanic verdanity of this tree…
Image courtesy of The Guardian
» read article
The latest issue of The New Yorker features new fiction by Nuruddin Farah, and an interview with the author about his life and work.
The story, entitled “The Start of the Affair”, is about a retired professor of politics at Wits who owns a North African restaurant in Pretoria. Farah says the idea for the story came to him soon after he had finished his most recent novel, Hiding in Plain Sight, “More or less out of the blue, you might say.”
Farah, along with Njabulo Ndebele, was recently presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the South African Literary Awards. He was born in Somalia, but now divides his time between South Africa and New York, where he teaches at Bard College. He still travels frequently to Somalia, but tells The New Yorker it has been a “deliberate decision” to set his novels outside of his home country, both for political and stylistic reasons. However, although he agrees that he now feels at home in New York, he says he is unlikely to set his work there.
Read the interview:
It is one thing to feel at home in a place; it is altogether another matter to set one’s fiction there. After all, there are stages of feeling at home in a place. Anyhow, I doubt I will set my fiction in upstate New York in the near future. My attitude towards setting my fiction anywhere in Africa is entirely different, because it is as if the continent is mine to write about.
Listen to Farah reading the story:
Read the story on The New Yorker website:
“The Start of the Affair”
At a fire sale a few years ago, James MacPherson, a retired professor of politics at Wits, Johannesburg, known for his seminal work on the Frontline States’ war of attrition against the apartheid regime, bought a restaurant in Pretoria specializing in North African cuisine. His knowledge of Africa was extensive, a result of having lived in various places around the continent for a number of years, most notably Zambia and Tanzania, and of having travelled frequently to the neighboring states.
Now he spends much of his time at a corner table in the restaurant, surrounded by the papers on which he has scribbled notes for a book he intends to lick into shape. He seldom interferes with the business side of the restaurant, allowing the manager, Yacine, a Moroccan, full authority to deal with most problems. And, on the rare occasion that Yacine seeks his input, James defers to him, saying, “It is your call.”
» read article
Warning: High Deliciousness Factor. The Sunday Times presents the following free ebook, containing the 50 best chocolate cake recipes from Sunday Times Food Weekly readers.
The recipes include old favourites like Chocolate Ganache Cake, and more adventurish recipes like Chocolate Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard and Salted Caramel Popcorn.
View the book here (or download it directly here) – but beware, do not attempt to read on an empty stomach:
» read article