Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from the worst/most hilarious sex scene ever published in an African novel

For your reading pleasure (ahem) today’s Fiction Friday piece is an excerpt from Mongo Beti’s 1956 novel, The Poor Christ of Bomba, set in 1930s Cameroon.

Think missionaries. Think syphilis. Think priests losing their virginity. Think ridiculous sex scenes.

Ready?

*Deep breath*

Here goes:

It was last night, and I suspected nothing. I was simply lying on my bed and I was worried about the Reverend Father who was down with fever on account of that accident on the river. I thought with terror of all the water he had vomited on the river bank. I suspected nothing. I couldn’t know. And she knocked at my door. Before I could get up to see who it was, she was inside, because I’d forgotten to push the bolt. Oh, I should have suspect then! She was in my room. Before I could say anything she struck a match and said: “Aren’t you asleep? Ah, I’ve caught you thinking about girls, you little wretch!”

I said nothing. I was too surprised. By the brief flare of the match, I saw her white combination, her naked throat, her breasts which swelled out, her garment just where the shoulder-straps began.

Already she was sitting on my bed. The match had gone out and it was once again quite dark in my room. I was propped up on my left elbow. In the angle of my stomach and my legs I felt the pressure of her almost naked back. Then she slightly rubbed herself against my thighs, moving her bottom to and fro. And I stayed there resting on my elbow, saying nothing because I was too astonished.

I had never been so close to a girl. And I began to be afraid. My heart was beating with a terrible violence and with each beat the blood mounted to my head like a river in spate and made me shake. A devilish tom-tom was pounding in my ears, sirens were screaming in my skull. It sounded as if an aeroplane was loose in there. That girl had unloosed all the cacophony of hell in my head. Why didn’t I take warning in time, my God? Oh, that girl…I should have watched out. It would have been better to run out of the room. I still wonder what kept me there.

All this time the bottom of her naked body was there in the pit of my stomach. The bottom of her back which she kept moving to and fro. Once, I moved towards the wall to get away from her touch, but she moved too and I felt her there again more acutely than before.

She said: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t go to sleep. And neither can you, it seems.

I said nothing and she gave a deep laugh. I heard her laughing in little chuckles.

She said again: “Go on you priest, you! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? A fine little man like you playing at priests. What an idea!”

I said nothing. I stayed resting there on my left elbow. She pushed still harder against me, wriggling her hips.

I was helpless with all that racket in my head: bells clanged away wildly as if it were a day of consecration for a new church; the aeroplane engine which was revving up for take-off; the sirens singing in chorus for some unknown festival, and that accursed tom-tom. Now there were xylophones as well. And that machine which made my whole chest tremble as if I were in a train or riding a lorry on a road torn by the rains.

My throat was dry.

She said again: “Why don’t you say something? What’s wrong with you?”

Three times I wetted my lips, and I managed to say: “this is my room, not Zachariah’s. I came here because it was too stuffy in the other house, but it’s my room…”

I noticed that my voice was doing tremolos like the new Vicar when he’s singing the Mass.

She laughed and said: “Do you think I’m going to eat you?”

I felt sweat pouring all over me, on my brow, my hair, my arms, my stomach, my back. I was shivering with fright…No, I wasn’t afraid; I must have been hot, because I was sweating…Agh! I can’t say now whether I was cold or hot. I was sweating great drops and at the same time I was shivering as if I’d slept out in the rain. My chest was bursting.

My sex was worrying me, because it wanted to stand up, like it does at dawn when the doves are singing. But there wasn’t room for it to stand up; that girl Catherine was pressing against me so hard.

Suddenly I wanted to piss! I felt certain that if my sex, struggling to stand up, went on butting against that girl’s naked back, I would finish up wetting my bed. However, I had taken a piss before going to bed.

She lighted a match and looked at me. Then she asked: “Why are you so scared?”

Continue reading here. You deserve a good laugh.

Book details

Attend a Short Story Day Africa Flow Workshop

Short Story Day Africa in partnership with the Goethe-Institut invite submissions to attend a series of one day workshops in the following cities:

Johannesburg, South Africa | 27 May 2017

Cape Town, South Africa | 27 May 2017

Nairobi, Kenya | 3 June 2017

Windhoek, Namibia | 3 June 2017

Yaoundé, Cameroon | 3 June 2017

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | 3 June 2017

Kigali, Rwanda | 10 June 2017 | By Invitation Only.

Writers working on entries for the prestigious 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize, or wanting to begin drafting an entry for the prize, are invited to submit an application.

Click here for more.

10 books to read this Freedom Day

23 years ago, on the 27th of April 1994, South Africa celebrated its first non-racial democratic election, with Nelson Mandela inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa on Tuesday 10 May at the Union Building in Pretoria.

We recommend the following books, both works of fiction and non-fiction, as an introduction to South Africa’s apartheid history and the country’s transition to democracy:

Freedom in Our LifetimeFreedom in our Lifetime
Anton Lembede, edited by Robert R Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza

When a group of young political activists met in 1944 to launch the African National Congress Youth League, it included the nucleus of a remarkable generation of leaders who forged the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa for the next half century: Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Ellen Kuzwayo and AP Mda. It was Anton Lembede, however, whom they chose as their first president.

Lembede, who had just begun practicing law in Johannesburg, was known for his sharp intellect, fiery personality, and unwavering commitment to the struggle at hand.

His untimely death in 1947 at the age of 33 sent a wave of grief through the Congress Youth, who had looked to him for moral as well as political leadership. With the publication of Freedom in our Lifetime, we acknowledge Lembede’s early contribution to the freedom movement, in particular his passionate and eloquent articulation of the African-centered philosophy he called “Africanism”.
 
 

Long Walk to FreedomLong Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

Long Walk to Freedom is his moving and exhilarating autobiography. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.
 
 
Country of My Skull
Antjie Krog

Ever since Nelson Mandela dramatically walked out of prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years behind bars, South Africa has been undergoing a radical transformation. In one of the most miraculous events of the century, the oppressive system of apartheid was dismantled. Repressive laws mandating separation of the races were thrown out. The country, which had been carved into a crazy quilt that reserved the most prosperous areas for whites and the most desolate and backward for blacks, was reunited. The dreaded and dangerous security force, which for years had systematically tortured, spied upon, and harassed people of color and their white supporters, was dismantled. But how could this country–one of spectacular beauty and promise–come to terms with its ugly past? How could its people, whom the oppressive white government had pitted against one another, live side by side as friends and neighbors?

To begin the healing process, Nelson Mandela created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by the renowned cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Established in 1995, the commission faced the awesome task of hearing the testimony of the victims of apartheid as well as the oppressors. Amnesty was granted to those who offered a full confession of any crimes associated with apartheid. Since the commission began its work, it has been the central player in a drama that has riveted the country. In this book, Antjie Krog, a South African journalist and poet who has covered the work of the commission, recounts the drama, the horrors, the wrenching personal stories of the victims and their families. Through the testimonies of victims of abuse and violence, from the appearance of Winnie Mandela to former South African president P. W. Botha’s extraordinary courthouse press conference, this award-winning poet leads us on an amazing journey. Country of My Skull captures the complexity of the Truth Commission’s work. The narrative is often traumatic, vivid, and provocative. Krog’s powerful prose lures the reader actively and inventively through a mosaic of insights, impressions, and secret themes. This compelling tale is Antjie Krog’s profound literary account of the mending of a country that was in colossal need of change.
 
 
I Write What I Like
Steve Biko

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Like all of Steve Biko’s writings, those words testify to the passion, courage, and keen insight that made him one of the most powerful figures in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. They also reflect his conviction that black people in South Africa could not be liberated until they united to break their chains of servitude, a key tenet of the Black Consciousness movement that he helped found.

I Write What I Like contains a selection of Biko’s writings from 1969, when he became the president of the South African Students’ Organization, to 1972, when he was prohibited from publishing. The collection also includes a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an introduction by Malusi and Thoko Mpumlwana, who were both involved with Biko in the Black Consciousness movement; a memoir of Biko by Father Aelred Stubbs, his longtime pastor and friend; and a new foreword by Professor Lewis Gordon.

Biko’s writings will inspire and educate anyone concerned with issues of racism, postcolonialism, and black nationalism.
 
 
A Passion for Freedom
Mamphela Ramphele

The richly anecdotal story of an extraordinary life – when baby Mamphela was born to teacher parents in the rural village of Kranspoort few would have predicted that she would become not only a medical doctor, but an international leader and the founder of not one but two new political movements. As a young woman, Mamphela was instrumental in creating the ideology of Black Consciousness with her partner, Steve Biko. As an accomplished and well-off businesswoman who had reached the pinnacle of success, this year she felt compelled to start Agang SA, to provide South African voters with an alternative to the inept and increasingly corrupt ANC.

In this very readable autobiography, Mamphela Ramphele vividly describes her rural childhood, her extended family, her first loves and losses – after the death of her firstborn, she nearly lost her and Steve’s baby after his death by torture – and her subsequent successes in both politics and business.

 
 
Cry, the Beloved CountryCry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved Country is one of the most famous and important novels in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty.

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.”

The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”

Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
 
 
July's PeopleJuly’s People
Nadine Gordimer

For years, it has been what is called a ‘deteriorating situation’. Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family – liberal whites – are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his native village.

What happens to the Smaleses and to July – the shifts in character and relationships – gives us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.
 
 
 
 
 

Tomorrow is Another Country
Tomorrow is Another Country
Allister Sparks

The companion to Allister Sparks’s award-winning The Mind of South Africa, this book is an extraordinary account from South Africa’s premier journalist of the negotiating process that led to majority rule.

Tomorrow is Another Country retells the story of the behind-the-scenes collaborations that started with a meeting between Kobie Coetsee, then minister of justice, and Nelson Mandela in 1985. By 1986, negotiations involved senior government officials, intelligence agents, and the African National Congress. For the next four years, they assembled in places such as a gamepark lodge, the Palace Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, a fishing hideaway, and even in a hospital room.

All the while, De Klerk’s campaign assured white constituents nothing would change. Sparks shows how the key players, who began with little reason to trust one another, developed friendships which would later play a crucial role in South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid.
 

The Smell of Apples
The Smell of Apples
Mark Behr

Set in the bitter twilight of apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, The Smell of Apples is a haunting story narrated by eleven-year-old Marnus Erasmus, who records the social turmoil and racial oppression that are destroying his own land.

Using his family as a microcosm of the corroding society at large, Marnus tells a troubling tale of a childhood corrupted, of unexpected sexual defilements, and of an innocence gone astray.
 
 
 
 
 

Kaffir Boy
Kaffir Boy
Mark Mathabane

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do — he escaped to tell about it.

Book details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Crossroads with Imraan Coovadia (SA) & Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Literary Crossroads is a series of talks where South African writers meet colleagues from all over the continent and from the African diaspora to discuss trends, topics and themes prevalent in their literatures today. The series is curated by Indra Wussow and Sine Buthelezi.

The guest speakers for the upcoming talk (to take place on May 16) will be Imraan Coovadia and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. The discussion will be moderated by Danyela Dimakatso Demir.

About the guests:

Imraan Coovadia is a writer and director of the creative writing programme at UCT. His most recent novel is Tales of the Metric System (2014), which appeared in the US, South Africa, India, and Germany.

He is the author of The Institute for Taxi Poetry (2012), winner of the M-Net Prize, and a collection of essays, “Transformations” (2012), which won the South African Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. In 2010 his novel High Low In-between won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg prize. He has published a scholarly monograph with Palgrave, “Authority and Authorship in V.S. Naipaul” (2009), two earlier novels, and a number of journal articles. His fiction has been published in a number of countries, and he has written for many newspapers, journals, and magazines here and overseas, including the New York Times, N+1, Agni, the Times of India, and Threepenny Review.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a Nigerian writer and journalist. His debut collection of short stories The Whispering Trees was long-listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014, with the title story shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. His debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms was published in the UK in May 2016 by Cassava Republic Press. Abubakar is a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013) and a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015). In 2014, Abubakar was named in the Hay Festival Africa39 list of the most promising writers under the age of 40 who will define future trends in African writing. Abubakar is the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

Event Details

The Institute for Taxi Poetry

Book details

 
 
Tales of the Metric System

 
 
 

The Whispering Trees

 
 
 

Season of Crimson Blossoms

John Conyngham's Hazara "a story about longing and allegiance," writes Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson recently reviewed renown author and former journalist John Conyngham’s Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm for Business Day.

Read an extract from Robinson’s review here:

The word Hazara in the title of this fascinating portrait of settler life in Natal is not an exhortation that is yelled as the panga whacks the sugar cane. Rather, it is the name of a British army regiment in which one of the author’s ancestors served.

One of the imperatives of an Anglo-South African family was to maintain “standards” and keep Africa at bay. So as John Conyngham notes drily, the whites who settled in Natal in the 19th and 20th centuries tended to name their properties after places or things that reminded them of their earlier lives in far off places.

Through successive generations, European settler men fought in the Crimean, Anglo-Zulu, Anglo-Boer, first and second world wars — and if they survived, they farmed.

The author has ingeniously reconstructed his family history to show how Hazara came into their hands and then became a lucrative operation employing a hundred farm hands, bankrolling an enviable way of life of parties, private schools and trips overseas.

But there was also a lot of damage to be observed on the neighbouring farms — drunken quarrels, bolting wives, faithless husbands, still births and sudden deaths as the bush revealed its dangers. The most tragicomic example of a sudden death was the five-year-old boy who expired from a puffadder bite while the mother and the family servant quarrelled over who should suck the venom from his wound.

This settler society, of course, floated on a giant lake of alcohol knocked back on the veranda at sundown and quite often at breakfast too.

Most Europeans who move to Africa go slightly mad one way or another, for they lack the essential cultural inoculation of having been born there. Natal was not the Congo, but neither was it “home” for the incomers. As Joseph Conrad wrote of Kurtz, “the wilderness had found him out early and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion”.

Hazara, near Stanger (KwaDukuza), originally came into the family as a dowry for the author’s maternal grandmother upon her marriage in 1924. The marriage was not happy, partly because the couple lost all three of their children as infants to a suspected genetic abnormality. In those days, it was considered perfectly normal for a childless colonial couple to adopt an abandoned English child and ship them out to Africa.

Continue reading Robinson’s review here.

Hazara

Book details

Call for submissions for 2018 Golden Baobab Prize now open


Golden Baobab is pleased to announce the call for submissions for the 2018 Golden Baobab Prize. The Prize discovers and celebrates African writers and illustrators of children’s stories and confers awards for their work…

The 2018 Golden Baobab Prize offers three awards:

– The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books, for the best story targeting a reader audience of ages 4-8.

– The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books for the best story targeting a reader audience of ages 9-11.

– The Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators for the best artwork that matches illustration briefs provided, intended for children ages 4-11.

Winners of the 2018 Golden Baobab Prize will receive a cash prize of 5,000 USD. In addition to press publicity, winning stories are guaranteed a publishing deal, finalist writers are connected with publishers across Africa and finalist illustrators participate in exhibitions and workshops.

Click here for the submissions guideline