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Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Jacket Notes: Consuelo Roland on the unpredictability of novelistic life

Published in the Sunday Times

Wolf Trap
Consuelo Roland,Jacana Media

I am never quite sure, until I’ve written it, how far Paola will go. Nothing is certain.

There’s an image that encapsulates the black heart of the story to be told. With Wolf Trap, I visualised a young woman floating downriver on a pontoon, the transparent white nightgown stained crimson. It was an archetypal glimpse into timeless horror and damage.

I knew nothing about how she got there; only that the pontoon with its passenger was essential and inevitable.

In the scene I eventually write the unconscious girl is wearing boots. A silvery low-lying mist surrounds the boat. There is slipperiness about the visuals; they shift shape as the story elements develop. Yet the feeling in the pit of my stomach is the same and it gets me started.

But a single twisted image and outrage do not a novel make. In Wolf Trap Paola Dante discovers that keeping her adopted daughter Simone safe is not easily reconcilable with the habits of a law-abiding citizen. Real life adds veracity. I do research into the dark web, into missing children, into sex slave abductions, into criminal networks that peddle paedophilia and porn. In Wolf Trap secrets are currency. Simone’s online persona “Butterfly” talks to a stranger, “Diable”, in a hidden chat room.

While out jogging in wineland suburbia I come upon a signboard: “Huis in Bos”. My mind leaps to a derelict dwelling deep in a forest and I recall reading about the remnants of an ancient wolf trap found on a farm. I mull over the relationship between woodsman, hunter and villain.

Other impressions come flying out of the thick darkness. Protecting Simone from a paedophile network makes Paola question everything she knows about herself. Love is action. The moral quandaries she faces are subtler than I’d anticipated.

It’s one thing to walk wide-eyed into a maze of carnal temptation expecting to find your absconded husband. It’s another to fervently hope that the predatory wolf after your daughter has lost interest and moved on to other prey.

I am never quite sure, until I’ve written it, how far Paola will go.

Nothing is certain.

Novelistic life is unpredictable.

Book details


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Die ware Taalstryd speel hom af in die linies van die Afrikaanse underground-beweging: Koos Kombuis oor die wonder van Ons Klyntji

“Is jy ’n Taalstryder?”

Hierdie vraag word met gereelde tussenposes aan my gestel.

’n Ander moeilike vraag is: “Hoekom neem jy nooit deel aan die ‘Afrikaans is Groot’-konserte nie?”

Dis nie vrae waarop ek ’n maklike antwoord het nie.

Afrikaans is een van elf amptelike tale in Suid-Afrika.

Ons is eintlik nie moerse groot nie.

Ons durf nie onsself aanmatig deur die koning van die mishoop te probeer wees nie. So sal ons nie oorleef nie. Dit sal vyandigheid ontlok by mede-Suid-Afrikaners. Dit ontlok reeds vyandigheid.

So maak mens nie vriende nie. En so oorleef mens nie in ’n harde en kompeterende omgewing nie.

Gedurende die tagtigerjare het ek en my vriende – ons was toe nog jonk en voortvarend – tientalle sogenaamde ‘little magazines’ die wêreld ingestuur. Van hierdie tydskriffies, meesal gefotostateer en vasgekram, het name gehad soos Donga, Die Tagtiger, Koerant, Work in Progress, Kabelkarnimfe, Taaldoos en Graffier. Die inhoud van hierdie tydskrifte was meesal baie alternatief en uitdagend. Omdat hulle anti-N.P. was, is party van hierdie publikasies verbied.

Die laaste ‘little magazine’ is in 1996 gestig. Ek het ’n beperkte oplaag laat druk met ’n borgskap van vyftig rand, bygedra deur my pel One-Love.

Die naam van hierdie tydskrif was Ons Klyntji. Dit was veronderstel om ’n voortsetting te wees van die tydskrif met dieselfde naam wat in die laaste jare van die neëntiende eeu ’n subversiewe rol gespeel het in die bewuswording en tot-standkoming van Afrikaans as volwaardige taal.

Ons Klyntji is vandag die enigste sogenaamde ‘little magazine’ wat nog bestaan. As mens in aanmerking neem dat die eerste uitgawe inderdaad honderd-een-en-twintig jaar gelede verskyn het, het Ons Klyntji die rare onderskeiding dat dit nie slegs die langslewende tydskrif uit die ‘little magazine’-era is nie, maar dat dit amptelik die oudste bestaande Afrikaanse publikasie is. Dis ouer as Die Huisgenoot!

Vir my voel die ontstaan en voortbestaan van ’n tydskrif soos Ons Klyntji werklik soos ’n wonderwerk. Die manier hoe dit gebeur het, en die sinchronisiteit van alles, byna te merkwaardig om waar te wees. Vir ’n volledige geskiedenis van hoe hierdie tydskrif herleef en oorleef het in moderne tye, gaan lees gerus Mila de Villiers se deeglike stuk navorsing getiteld Van ‘Leesstof vir die Afrikaanse Volk’ tot ‘Iets Cools in Afrikaans’.

As ek ’n Taalstryder is, is ek nie een van die groot taalbulle wat raas en blaas vir die toekoms van Afrikaans nie. Ek is die ou wat die klein vlammetjies hier onder aanblaas.

Wie weet; dalk sien die volgende geslag hierdie pogings raak, en bou daarop?

Daar is alreeds vandag twee weergawes van die tydskrif, een wat fisies gedruk is en ’n online-weergawe. Die fisiese tydskrif, met die titel Ons Klyntji, is onder redaksie van Toast Coetzer, Erns Grundling en Alice Inggs, en dit word gedruk met ’n klein borgskap van Oppikoppi. Bydraes – enigiets van gedigte tot kort stories en tekeninge – kan gestuur word aan toast@weg.co.za.

Die aanlyn-weergawe, getiteld Klyntji, is onder die redaksie van Francois Lion-Cachet. (As sy van bekend klink, hy is inderdaad ’n direkte afstammeling van ene J. Lion-Cachet , wie ’n leeue-aandeel gehad het in die Taalbewegings van die laat neëntiende eeu!)

Hierdie tydskrif kan gratis gelees word by http://klyntji.com/ .

Hoewel daar ’n losse samewerking tussen die redaksie van die fisiese en aanlyn-weergawes is, en die inhoud soms oorvleuel, word die aanlyn-weergawe meer gereeld opgedateer.

Ek het die 23-jarige Francois uitgevra oor sy motivering vir die stig van Klyntji, en hy het as volg geantwoord:

Vir my was die hoofrede met die stig van Klyntji om ’n publikasie te skep wat ek wou lees. Internasionaal vind ek aanklank by, onder meer, Dazed, iD en Vice, almal afsonderlik aan die verslaggewende voorpunt van progressiewe wêreld jeugkultuur. Afrikaanse publikasies haak dikwels vas by die “bevordering” of selfs “oorlewing” van die taal, waar dit vir my belangrik was om ’n post-Afrikaanse aanslag na te volg, minder gepla met die “Taal”, en meer gefokus op wat die kultuuragenda is en behoort te wees. Klyntji is nie hoogheilig nie, maar wel edgy en vars.

Dit is my vermoede en hoop dat geskiedskrywers wat eendag terugkyk na die literatuur van die vroeë een-en-twintigste eeu, sal besef dat die ware Taalstryd homself afgespeel het, nie in die rookgevulde sale van die Taalbulle of op die verhoë van ‘Afrikaans is Groot’-konserte nie, maar in die klein en minder opvallende linies van die Afrikaanse underground-beweging. - @KoosKombuis


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“Stories are in our DNA” – local publisher, Charles Siboto, on South Africa’s reading culture

Local publisher, Charles Siboto, on our reading culture, competing with international titles, and reading as tool to raise our standard of education


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The South African publishing scene is a strange one, consisting of many peculiarities and oddities. The first thing that you notice is that it’s not representative of the country and its diverse range of cultures. There are many factors that lend to how lopsided our reading statistics are. The biggest factor is that as a nation we don’t read much and there are no books in most households, so a reading culture is never fostered. I have worked in publishing for four years and can testify that books are luxury items for most households because they are expensive, especially local books. Publishers would love to make books more affordable but the reality is that publishing books is expensive, with the highest cost being printing. In order for publishers to survive, they have to print enough books to cover the cost of producing the books when most of that print run sells. The more books publishers print the cheaper the cost of printing and thus the cheaper the book for buyers, but if those books don’t sell they sit with excessive stock and pay warehouse costs for that stock, which eventually will have to be pulped. The South African publishing scene, thus, is a fine balancing act of publishers trying to make books as accessible as possible while making enough money to continue existing so as to publish more books. Now, as both publisher and reader, I am thinking we can all do more to promote diverse South African literature, especially as readers.

South Africa already has a model of what a healthy, local reading culture looks like in the form of Afrikaans books. Afrikaans publishers are the biggest in the country and Afrikaans readers buy books. The Afrikaans community does have more buying power than most other language groups in the country but the other thing they have is pride in their language. Afrikaans speakers can still largely get by in our economy without having to learn English. Parents know that the country is constantly becoming more and more English but they still don’t stop placing an emphasis on children speaking and reading Afrikaans. In many cases, English is more the supplementary reading. With the other language and culture groups in the country the emphasis is more on English than on the mother tongue, and for the most part, we all know why and I will touch on this later.

Having spent some time reading books by local black writers in English, I know this is by no means a bad thing and it allows for more people being able to enjoy those books. There is an increase of the black middle-class and publishers realise that they have to tap into this market. Young, black and especially female writers are also on the rise and this makes for a great recipe to produce local books that are entertaining, informative, address social issues, expands minds and are just straight up ‘woke’. The problem with publishing in English is that people still buy more international titles than local ones in English. I am one of those people and I have made conscious decision to buy more local titles and readers who can afford to should do this. Afrikaans publishers usually do publish in English and to a smaller scale some of the other local languages but they have realised long ago that they cannot compete with the international market and have opted to focus on their strength, publishing Afrikaans books. Competing with international publishers is difficult because as a country we are not yet confident enough in the power of our own stories and this should not be so. South African publishers publish books of a high caliber that can compete with titles from the UK or the US but they get lost in the crowd. Publishers have had to be much more creative in their marketing a can continue to do so, but as readers, we should also come to the party.

We have great stories as a nation, our cultures are rich in stories that deserve to be shared with the world. I am in no way asking people to stop reading international titles but simply saying that you can read both local and international. It is refreshing to read stories where the heroes and villains are people you can relate to and people that you can imagine meeting when you walk down the street, stories where the lovers and their secrets are people like you. Local books are still expensive to produce but if we all do a little to support the local reading scene it goes a long way. We can do a lot simply by each person in a circle of friends buying one book and then swapping the books among themselves until everyone has had a chance to read every book in the circle. These are things that help to nurture our reading culture. The stronger our reading culture becomes the cheaper and more accessible books will be and publishers will be able to work with more new writers adding their voices to the tapestry of our stories.

The last thing I want to mention, especially having spent most of my publishing career working with children’s books, is that we have to promote our children reading in their mother tongues. This is way easier said than done because the resources are scarce. Resources aside, many black households are afraid to focus on children reading in their mother tongue because they might then miss out on learning English. This is not so, children who can read their own language well can better transition into a second language and excel at it. Being a multilingual society is complex but we gain more when we allow people to read in their own language and learn English in addition. This makes for more people who are truly bi- or multilingual, in the sense that they are equally proficient in multiple languages. This will take some time and resources to fully implement, though. Some publishers do prioritise publishing books for younger readers in multiple local languages and that is a great start and a process that we should support where we can. I come from a family that does not read but I was lucky to fall in love with books because we lived near a wonderful public library when I was a child so I understand that many families are too busy with the business of surviving from day to day to worry about books. But if we are to raise the standard of education and want to invest in a society of knowledgeable people we have to nurture our reading culture. Resources like public libraries help with making books accessible but all of us can add something to the culture. We can do things like buying local books if we can afford them, sharing books, giving away old books or just telling people about the magic of stories. Stories are in our DNA as a species and adding to that collective pool of knowledge only helps us to progress as a nation and as human beings.


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Garden tomes: Bridget Hilton-Barber on gardening books and happiness

Think of them as self-help books — they inform and inspire, and set you on the right garden path, writes Bridget Hilton-Barber for the Sunday Times

In the chaotic pile of books that lives next to my bed, at least three will be gardening books. Bedtime gardening is one of my favourite things, and about once a week I fall asleep alongside Bold Romantic Gardens or Jane’s Delicious Garden or How to Propagate, depending on whether I’m concerned about my aubergines, needing an escape or just playing part scientist, part philosopher. I have a thing for gardening books, and am lucky to have inherited a fine collection from my grandmother and mother, to which I keep adding. I’m happy to lend them out as long as they get returned. If not – as we gardeners say, with fronds like you, who needs anemones?

In my grandmother’s day, gardening books were illustrated with exquisite line drawings; these days they use full-colour photography and enormous imagery, Lord help us and our credit cards. It was Cicero who said that if you have a garden and a library you have everything you need. I’ll raise the game and say that if you have a garden and a library full of garden books you have more than your heart could desire.

Just what is it about gardening books that makes us happy?

Well they aren’t just about gardening, they’re about life, history, drama, travel, passion, escape and autobiography. One can pick a gardening book according to mood and genre. If I’m inclined towards local travel for example, I may take to bed Remarkable Gardens of South Africa (Nini Bairnsfather Cloete, Quivertree Publications, 2012) – and have an imaginary twirl around some of the most beautiful private gardens in the country, from the amazing food gardens of Babylonstoren in the Western Cape to the moody farm gardens of the misty KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

For the reassurance of the value of beauty, I will go for something like The Classic Italian Garden (Judith Chatfield, Rizzoli Books, 1991); if it’s history I’m after, perhaps I’ll meander through Great Gardens of the World (Ronald King, Peerage Books 1985), taking in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the nymph-haunted gardens of classical Greece and Rome.

In a crime-solving mood? I’ll try What Rose is That? (Mary Moody, Weldon Publishing, 1992). After personal inspiration – hand me Pippa’s Organic Kitchen Garden (Pippa Greenwood, Dorling Kindersley, 2000) in which she transforms a patch of weeds into a glorious kitchen garden. And if I’m into a little eroticism, I’ll dip into Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening (Louise Riotte, Storey Communications, 1975). There’s something deliciously racy in the slow unfurling of fronds, the skyward thrusting of velvety nosed shoots, the tangle of tendrils… As British author Sam Llewelyn wrote, in vegetable gardens beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death.

Garden books fulfil a variety of needs. You can read the real-life stories of those whose gardens were a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. You can lose yourself in the micro world of composting and mulch, or soar heavenward with a book on remarkable trees around the world, from the giant sequoias of Canada to the ancient baobabs of Madagascar.

There is an increasing and healthy trend towards indigenous and water-wise gardening and these books can be invaluable, covering everything from how to grow an urban edible garden to recycling water. Change is part and parcel of gardening history – which is why gardening books are so important. Not only do they offer inspiration, but they provide a record.


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Nal’ibali launched their third annual Story Bosso contest with Gcina Mhlophe and Marc Lottering

In commemoration of National Literacy Month, Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – is encouraging a wave of storytelling nationwide with their third annual multilingual Story Bosso contest. The contest, which places an emphasis on folktales, was launched on August 31st at the Soweto Theatre and featured a programme which skriks for niks:

Storyteller par excellence, Bongani Madondo, entertained the two groups of school children who attended the launch. Fingers were clicked, hands were clapped, and feet were stamped as the children repeated the catchy phrases uttered (with gusto!) by Bongani.

Gcina Mhlophe, one of the country’s most beloved storytellers, kept the audience enthralled with her passionate, dramatic, and humorous performance of her favourite folktales:

Storytelling goddess Gcina Mhlophe doing what she does best
© Daniel Born

 

Did you know? By tapping your fingers on your wrist you can recreate the sound of raindrops falling. Ngiyabonga for the fun audience interaction, Gcina!
© Daniel Born

 

The nation’s future storytellers paying rapt attention to Gogo Gcina…
© Daniel Born

 

:D
© Daniel Born

 

The magnificent Ms Mhlophe
© Daniel Born

 
To help children and adults remember these special stories, Nal’ibali has created a set of storytelling playing cards featuring common folktale characters, settings and objects.

And who better to demonstrate the creative use of one of these cards than one of South Africa’s favourite comedians, Marc Lottering?

And oh-my-’fro, did he have a jol

A storytelling playing card depicting a shaker. (A magic one, at that. It’s magical properties? The ability to transport the lucky person who shakes it to Cape Town. That’s Marc Lottering for you…)
© Daniel Born

Marc’s other card featured two young children; this story ended on a twist! The twist being “…and then he realised it was all a dream.” Hehe ;)
© Daniel Born

Nee, kyk. That’s one riveted audience…
© Daniel Born

Ain’t nothing bothering Mr Lottering!
© Daniel Born

 
Gcina and Marc even teamed up for a lively rendition of a song consisting of only six words (“Praat / praat u taal met liefde!”) but sjoe, they managed to get the audience to join in:

Gcina and Marc demonstrating how you should praat the taal with liefde
© Daniel Born

 
 

Big shout out to photographer Daniel Born who managed to capture this singular day beautifully. From children enjoying the performances, to perusing the books available in their home languages, to admiring the storytelling cards, and – ultimately – having the opportunity to tell their own stories…


 
All South Africans are invited to submit their entries between 1 and 30 September as audio or video clips online on the campaign’s website (www.nalibali.org), mobisite (www.nalibali.mobi), Facebook page (NalibaliSA), to info@nalibali.org or via Nal’ibali’s WhatsApp line: 076 920 6413.


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“I wrote it for all women of colour who have felt silenced” – a Q&A with author, activist, storyteller and actress Buhle Ngaba

Carla Lever recently interviewed Buhle Ngaba, activist, storyteller, actress and the author of The Girl Without a Sound, for the Nal’ibali reading campaign’s sixth column, as published in the Daily Dispatch and Herald. Buhle discussed the importance of children having access to stories in their own language, empowering young girls in collaboration with KaMatla Productions, and the absence of African literature written by women.

Buhle Ngaba, author of The Girl Without a Sound

 

Your book, The Girl Without a Sound, is about a silent young girl who meets a mysterious red-winged woman and begins to discover her own voice. What was your inspiration for the story?

My aunt handed me my first book when I was six and I don’t believe I would have been the same person without that introduction to stories. So the little girl in my book is me, but I wrote it for all women of colour who have felt silenced.
 

A page from Buhle’s remarkable The Girl Without a Sound

 
Why did you decide to start tackling community storytelling?

It felt like a natural extension of my job as an actress: to share stories as far and wide as I can and to teach others to do the same. Stories can and do change how we see the world, so we have to learn how to tell our own.

Can you tell us a little about the work you do with KaMatla Productions?

A group of us started KaMatla to aid the development of the arts and storytelling amongst young people. At the moment, we are collaborating with Nal’ibali in honour of Women’s Month, meaning Girl Without A Sound will now be freely available for download in English, Setswana, isiXhosa and isiZulu. Because internet access is not evenly distributed, we will also be taking printed copies of the book to schools across the country. Starting in September, KaMatla will be running free workshops at high schools across the country, bringing the empowering teachings of Girl Without A Sound to life. We’re aiming to provide young girls with a lifelong tool kit that can be used to own their unique voices.

Is there any particular moment or piece of feedback that made all your work worthwhile?

The reading club visit with Nal’ibali to Sea View Primary in Mitchells Plain last week was spectacular – to see the book in the hands that it was written for was so special.

Why is diverse representation – in featured characters, in written languages – so important, particularly in South Africa today?

It’s important so that children can see themselves and hear the potential for magic in their own languages. That way, they discover how they can be anything they want to be. The industry doesn’t publish enough women writers and even our sections on African literature no longer reprint books by women that are vital reading. I think that the only way forward is by women writers to actively saturate the industry with our stories. If you are a writer, write! The internet gives people a platform to be what they always wanted and, though it may be imperfect, it should be something we use. I use it to share as much of my work as I can, across borders, waters and skies.

Where to for you from here?

We will keep trying to get the book into as many hands as possible. As for me, I am going to perform a short season of my one-woman show “The Swan Song” in Joburg and Cape Town early next year then I am looking towards film!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign or to enter its national multilingual storytelling competition, ‘Story Bosso’, running this September, visit www.nalibali.org.


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Austen Power

An earlier version of this column was published in the Sunday Times in 2013.

Jane Austen died 200 years ago, but she wrote some groovy letters, baby. By Sue de Groot

JANE Austen lived from 1775 to 1817 and was a writer of prolific output. Apart from her six published novels and a trunk full of unpublished work, she sent friends, family and assorted others an astonishing number of letters, all written in the same spirit of playful irony that infuses her novels.

What joy these missives must have given their recipients. They probably read them over and over and entertained their visitors by quoting bits from them.

Austen had the ability to make the most mundane subject sound riveting, a rare skill. She never took anything too seriously, another rare skill, yet her gentle sending-up of human silliness never descended to outright bitchiness, nor was she flippant.

We know her correspondence was prized because many of her letters were kept and preserved. One of the sad things about e-mail communication is that most of it – unless your surname is Gupta – disappears into the cloud once read, denying future generations the opportunity to enjoy intimate letters from long ago.

There are unquestionable advantages to electronic communication. I’m not going to climb on that dreary Luddite bandwagon and start bemoaning the loss of quills, ink and postmen, or get all choked up about the sentimental smell of parchment. One thing we have lost that pains me, however, is the art of letter writing.

You can’t blame it all on the keyboard. It’s the message that counts, not the medium. If we wanted to, we could type thoughtful, grammatical letters and e-mail them, yet hardly anyone does. Perhaps a resurgence of interest in Austen will inspire us.

If she had owned a smartphone, perhaps Jane would have written a thousand more letters, but I suspect that such a device would have dulled her sparkle and stunted her compositions. Nor would they have been saved. And how much poorer our lives would be without observations like these:

On weather

“We have been exceedingly busy ever since you went away. In the first place we have had to rejoice two or three times every day at your having such very delightful weather for the whole of your journey…” (October 25 1800)

“How do you like this cold weather? I hope you have all been earnestly praying for it as a salutary relief from the dreadful mild and unhealthy season preceding it, fancying yourself half putrefied from the want of it, and that now you all draw into the fire, complain that you never felt such bitterness of cold before, that you are half starved, quite frozen, and wish the mild weather back again with all your hearts.” (January 25 1801)

On fashion

“I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit.” (June 11 1799)

On children

“Poor woman! How can she honestly be breeding again?” (October 1 1808)

“I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged it will not be till we are too old to care about it.” (April 25 1811)

“I would recommend to her and Mr D the simple regimen of separate rooms.” (February 20 1817)

On having a good time

“I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand today.” (November 20 1800)

“Mrs B thought herself obliged to leave them to run round the room after her drunken husband. His avoidance, and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.” (May 12 1801)

“As I must leave off being young, I find many douceurs [today this means a bribe, in the 1800s it was a more innocent “sweetener”] in being a sort of chaperon, for I am put on the sofa near the fire and can drink as much wine as I like.” (November 6 1813)


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Lees ons redakteur se Taalgenoot-artikel oor die toekoms van wetenskapsfiksie in die Afrikaanse skryfkuns

Die Herfs-uitgawe van die kwartaallikse tydskrif Taalgenoot is onlangs met die vergunning van PEN Afrikaans op LitNet se webblad gedeel.

Die oorhoofse tema vir dié uitgawe was futurisme/ ‘n toekomsblik en bevat artikels wat wissel van onderwerpe oor post-waarheid en vals nuus tot tegnologie in klaskamers tot die daling in e-boek aankope.

BooksLive se redakteur, Mila de Villiers, se bydra oor die toekoms van wetenskapsfiksie in die Afrikaanse skryfkuns en die gewildheid van hierdie genre, met ‘n klem op speculative fiction kan hier gelees word:

Om die toekoms oop te skryf

Wetenskapsfiksie. Die woord roep beelde op van ruimteskepe, lasers, seinborde en vuurpyle. En name soos Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein en Frank Herbert. Stories van bo-aardse antagoniste; ‘n onvoorspelbare toekomsblik – óf distopies óf utopies, afhangende van die mens se vermoë om dit wat die toekoms bied, te omarm.

Tog is wetenskapsfiksie nie tot een veld beperk nie, sê Tertius Kapp, dramaturg en uitgewer by Tafelberg. Wetenkapsfiksie word al hoe meer gesog onder Afrikaanse uitgewers en Tertius skryf dit aan groeiende belangstellings onder jonger lesers toe.

Volgens Simone Hough, ‘n redakteur by Human & Rousseau, is ‘n groter belangstelling in fantasie- en wetenskapsfiksietitels vir jong volwassenes die laaste paar jaar “beslis ‘n merkbare tendens internasionaal en ook in die plaaslike mark”.

Skrywers soos Beth Revis, Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth, Lois Lowry, Suzanne Collins en Rick Yancey maak die genre baie gewild, en aangesien van hierdie boeke ook in flieks verwerk word, het dit ‘n groot aanhang.

“Hoewel daar min Afrikaanse skrywers was wat fantasie- en wetenskapsfiksie vir jonger lesers in die verlede geskryf het, is daar wel meer voorleggings vir hierdie soort verhale,” sê Simone.

“Dit is vir ons wonderlik om plaaslik ook wêreldklas-jeugfiksie in hierdie genre te kan publiseer, in Afrikaans én Engels, met skrywers soos Nelia Engelbrecht (Die poort-reeks, Tafelberg), Elizabeth Wasserman (Anna Atoom-reeks), Edyth Bulbring (The Mark), Helen Brain (Elevation-reeks) en dies meer.”

Veral Engelbrecht se Die poort-vierluik, waarvan die eerste twee aflewerings, Bewakers en Reisigers, net ‘n paar maande uit mekaar gepubliseer is (onderskeidelik in Julie en Oktober 2016), dui op die gewildheid van wetenskapsfiksie onder ‘n jonger Afrikaanse gehoor.

Michelle Cooper, ‘n uitgewer en redakteur by Tafelberg, meen Afrikaanse lesers wil uit dieselfde verskeidenheid genres as Engelse lesers kan kies. Brain se Elevation-trilogie, wat in ‘n futuristiese, distopiese Kaapstad afspeel, word deur Engelse tieners opgeraap.

“Goeie wetenskapsfiksiemanuskripte wat oor my lessenaar kom, sal beslis my aandag trek, aangesien daar nie baie daarvan in Afrikaans is nie,” sê Michelle.

Volgens Tertius bied wetenskapsfiksie moontlikhede om van ‘n leefwêreld sin te maak wat al hoe meer deur tegnologie gevorm en bepaal word. Jonger lesers kan aanklank vind daarby, aangesien sci-fi “die verbeelding baie vrye teuels gee; dit is minder ingebed in die idee van ‘n nasionale letterkunde, met die negatiewe assosiasies wat daarmee saamkom, en nog baie ander”.

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“Johannesburg is Africa without some of the prejudice of other parts of the continent” – Binyavanga Wainaina on Johannesburg, clumsiness, and dancing

The acclaimed Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, whose memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place was published in 2011, recently moved to Johannesburg. Hugo kaCanham, a lecturer at Wits University’s Psychology department, sat down with Waianaina at Melville’s Lucky Bean Cafe during which the two discussed Wainaiana’s clumsiness, his love for dancing, thoughts on Johannesburg’s gay scene, and traditional healers:

I am afraid of Binyavanga. When the invitation to meet him arrives, I accept without thinking. It is Binyavanga Wainaina after all. And then the anxiety comes. The dinner is tomorrow. When I get home I reach out for his book — One day I will write about this place. The cover has a curry stain. After reading it, I had passed it on to my brother. He had passed it along to my sister. It came back to me with other stains. I decide that I will ask for his autograph. I want to read the book again so I can ask Binyavanga important questions. But I don’t. I am from Lusikisiki and I know the Mthatha of which he writes about his student days. The texture of the book is as familiar as the caress of my favourite jacket. He weaves yarns to describe worlds that I know. I come to see them in new ways. I want to visit the worlds that I do not know.

I didn’t know that Binyavanga is in South Africa. My friend Grieve invited me to join them for dinner. I would also get to meet Grieve’s wife Mnwasa. Grieve calls him Binya. I follow his cue. Binya does not fill my mouth the way that Binyavanga does. When Binya arrives, he is tall. He has a striking face that I recognise from online images. A strong and steady stare. His mouth is not prone to smiling. There is a fine green line dyed into his hair and running across to the back of his head. His colourful jacket does not hide a gentle protrusion of his stomach. I immediately think of his father’s stomach in the essay - I am homosexual, mom. He greets Mnwasa by taking her hands in his. “You are beautiful,” he says. Mnwasa glows. I hear the slur in his voice and recall that he was very ill a while back. His voice is a bit too loud and the people at neighbouring tables hear him. I see their looks. But they stop hearing him after a while. Later, he explains that he had a stroke and that it will take a few more months to recover his speech. I had read his essay about how a major stroke killed his father. I hope he recovers soon. He looks vulnerable but he is upbeat.

I am ashamed of South Africa, but Binya believes it is the place to be. He has elected to stay in Johannesburg for about five years. It is a feeling he has about the city. He places high value in his sense of place. He is spiritual and talks a lot about the traditional healers that he knows. Johannesburg has many. He laments how traditional healers have been wiped out of Kenya’s public life. He could be a sangoma. Illness forces many to confront the realm of the ancestors. Johannesburg feels right to him. “I danced all night when I got here a few months ago. I love my large apartment in Yeoville. I wish it had wifi though. Johannesburg is Africa without some of the prejudice of other parts of the continent. Nigerian men date other men here.” He gestures to a black male couple at the neighbouring table. One of the men meets his eyes. “I don’t hang out with middle class homosexual men. I love hustling gay people. They don’t have all of these pretences of trying to be something. They just are.” He likes the word homosexual. He chose it above the more familiar gay in the title of the ‘lost’ chapter of his memoir — I am homosexual, mom. He is working on three projects. The two book projects already have publishers but he loves one project more than the other. He is writing furiously. He has been doing so since he arrived in South Africa.

Continue reading Hugo’s piece here.

One Day I Will Write about This Place

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Harold the ceramicist and the Melon’s gallstone – Sue de Groot on the (many) comical translations of Harry Potter

Everyone loves JK Rowling, except perhaps those who cursed her when translating Harry Potter

By Sue de Groot

SPARE a thought for those who translate English texts. Mastering English is a Sisyphean task for those who speak it from birth; learning it as a second language is, to put it mildly, a bastard. Now imagine what it must be like to transform the infinitely complex twists and turns of an idiomatic, idiosyncratic English sentence into something that makes sense in another language.

As if that weren’t difficult enough, imagine trying to translate words that do not exist in any dictionary, English or otherwise. You might think everyone in the world worships and adores JK Rowling, but I suspect those who had to translate the Harry Potter books occasionally cursed her.

How do you translate quidditch, horcruxes, wrackspurt and crumple-horned snorkacks into other-language words of similar bounce and gravitas? And what about those quibbilicious character names? These are the things that kept translators awake at night.

One solution would have been to leave Rowling’s words alone, but translators are a brave bunch and besides, English wordplay only works if you understand English. To be effective in other languages, names and places would have to be rewritten, and some of the interpretations of Potterverse are almost as entertaining as the books themselves.

Take the “pensieve”, a bowl containing someone’s memories. Rowling’s word combines the properties of a colander and deep thought. The Germans turned it into the lovely Denkarium, a made-up word that married thinking with an aquarium. The Norwegians, if you ask me, fell a little short of the mark. They call it a tanketank, literally a “thought-tank”, which sounds more like a gathering of business executives than a magical device.

Chinese translations are inscrutable unless one can read Chinese characters, but if you ever get a chance to watch the dubbed Harry Potter films with English subtitles, do treat yourself. For some reason the Chinese word for “Muggle” (a non-magical person) translates back into English as “melon”.

As any Pottermaniac knows, Muggles are spread thickly throughout the seven books. Turning them into Melons results in a giant fruit basket. To pick just a few random sentences: “Melons have garden gnomes too, you know”; “You should take Melon studies next year”; “I was merely reading the Melon magazines”; “Melon women wear them, Archie; not the men”; “Even Melons like yourself should be celebrating”; “My parents are Melons, mate”; “How come the Melons don’t hear the bus?” And so on.

As for the character names, Harry, Ron and Hermione have escaped intact, as has Voldemort, but the key plot point involving an anagram presented a huge translation challenge. He-who-should-not-really-be-named made up his own creepy label by jumbling up the letters of his given Melon name, Tom Marvolo Riddle — the anagram is “I am Lord Voldemort”. The French got around this by changing Voldemort’s original name to Tom Elvis Jedusor, which yielded the anagram “Je suis Voldemort”. But how can one take a supervillain called Elvis seriously?

The French have also had fun with the names of animals. Hermione’s cat Crookshanks is known as Pattenrond in France. Ron’s rat Scabbers is Croûtard, and Dumbledore’s phoenix Fawkes has become Fumseck — which sounds like a thumbsuck to me.

The Mentalfloss website has investigated foreign names for the Hogwarts houses. In Spanish, Swedish, German, Polish, and Hebrew they remain Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, but in other countries they have been reinterpreted in some mystifying ways. The French, for instance, changed Hufflepuff to Poufsouffle, which sounds like a cross between something you eat for breakfast and something you rest your feet on. They changed Slytherin to Serpentard — Harry’s Gryffindor mates would no doubt have howled with joy at the implied insult.

Hufflepuff seems to have given translators the most trouble. In Brazilian Portuguese it is Lufa-lufa, like something one might use in the shower. In Italian it is Tassorosso (“red badger” for the house’s mascot) and in Welsh it is Wfftiwff, which apparently is not an acronym. In Czechoslovakia they settled for Mrzimor.
There’s much more to this than Mrzimor and Melons. I recommend this rabbit hole whenever you need a mood lift.

*This is an extended version of the Pedant Class column published in Sunday Times Lifestyle Magazine on March 26 2017

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


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