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Tension, temptation and secrets in François Bloemhof's English debut, Double Echo (Plus: Read an extract)

Double EchoDoodskootPenguin Books presents seasoned Afrikaans thriller writer François Bloemhof’s English debut, Double Echo, also available in Afrikaans as Doodskoot:

Something’s gone sour in the Winelands …

Ex-cop Paul Mullan has a lot more baggage than the rucksack he’s carrying across the country. He’s trying to get away from that night, that hour when life as he knew it came to an end.

When Paul helps wealthy businessman Bernard Russell to change his car’s burst tyre near Riebeek-Kasteel in the pouring rain, Russell offers him shelter.

But the opulent wine estate Journey’s End is no safe haven, and Paul soon senses that his life is about to resemble one of those old black-and-white movies: he is the fallible hero, a young woman in Russell’s household the scheming femme fatale, and the outcome may be deadly.

Filled with tension, temptation, secrets and sleight of hand, Double Echo is seasoned Afrikaans thriller writer François Bloemhof’s exhilarating English debut.

About the author

François Bloemhof has had a prolific career, having written for adults, teenagers and children for more than 25 years. He has received numerous awards, including De Kat, FNB, ATKV, Kagiso and Sanlam prizes.

His is also a career of firsts: he wrote the first novel to be published with an original CD soundtrack composed by the author, the first book with its own computer game and the first ever e-book in Afrikaans. He has also produced work for film, TV, the stage and radio. He is a full-time writer when not attending to four demanding cats. Double Echo is his 24th novel for adults.
 

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Read an extract from this thrilling novel (find the Afrikaans excerpt here):

Double Echo by François Bloemhof by Books LIVE on Scribd

Book details

The Man Who Draped His Jacket Over the Alexandra Dam Wall

Early One Sunday Morning

 
NB Publishers has shared an excerpt from Early One Sunday Morning: I Decided To Step Out And Find South Africa, the new book by Luke Alfred.

The chapter is titled “The Man Who Draped His Jacket Over the Alexandra Dam Wall”.

Read the extract:

Constantia Nek via the Overseer’s Cottage and the five Table Mountain dams to the remains of the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway and back again – about 15 kilometres

Having climbed about 200 metres above the Constantia Nek parking lot, I stopped to gather my breath.

Summer was creeping from the trees far below, pools of soft yellows and dying greens so various they were difficult to describe. It wasn’t only happening in Tokai and Constantia. Braaing outside one evening before I left Joburg, I was amazed to hear the sound of nearby popping – I couldn’t quite pinpoint from where. The sound was somewhere above me, deep in the trees. It was happening regularly, perhaps in response to the falling temperature, but without rhythm. I listened again. It wasn’t mechanical and it wasn’t that familiar sound of a close-but-faraway woodpecker; neither was it the crazed hammering of a young barbet who often attacked his reflection in a window pane. I sipped my beer, chuckled at my inability to trace the sound, and wondered if I was going slightly mad.

Perhaps invisible children were lobbing acorns onto our tin roof? No, that wasn’t right, but what was it? What on earth could it be? After another puzzled sip, I stalked the sound. The furious pop was coming from splitting wisteria pods, releasing the last of their summer seeds as they fell to the ground. I bent down to examine one: the outer pod was covered in an almost velvet-like skin of olive-green. Inside, the dark wisteria seeds were housed in perfect white hollows like sleepy toddlers eased into a duvet. Back in September I’d started my walk in Pringle country by describing the first heavy fumbling of spring. Now the great river of summer was slowing, dispersing at its end. Up in the darkening sky, the leaves of the stinkwood close to the wisteria were creaking closed like halves of a clam. The walnuts were stretching open their thick green jackets, a sure sign of ripening. Soon our wintertime companions, the rats, would be scrambling for the warmth of the roof.

Autumn was less obvious up on Table Mountain. The fynbos carried on regardless, a kingdom of exquisite miniatures, almost bonsai-like, all delicate pinks and rich reds. I began to notice tiny yellow daisies popping up in the grass that grew between the tracks as I slogged upwards, sometimes on gravel, sometimes on the edge of the concrete slab. In places, dogs had walked in the drying concrete where the jeep track had been repaired. There was something sadly comical about the trail of prints, here one moment, gone the next. I thought about them and why they touched me as they did, as I paused to admire the view. My eye travelled south-east across False Bay to Rooi Els and the faraway pincer of Cape Hangklip. In the middle distance were the cool water ways of Marina da Gama and the bustle of the Muizenberg coast. East of that was the sprawl of the Flats, a milky haze lingering in the air. The morning was still, the few clouds high and silent. It was a wonderful day for a hike.

As I gasped for the summit after about an hour of hard walking, I was passed by about 10 old Mountain Clubbers rolling off the mountain. They were sun-flushed and chirpy, well kitted out in hats and good boots. Two or three pulled themselves along with ski poles. They gave off a good aura, something beyond conviviality or happiness. It had to do with shared experience and made them quietly buoyant, as if they were levitating. As they passed, I heard the bubble of several conversations and then they were gone, spirited away, as if by magic.

Before long I saw the first of the five dams – De Villiers – off to my left. The water level was low, and directly above the high-water mark you could see the almost-white rock of the original dam wall, preserved by the tannin-coloured properties of what was usually a higher water level. The final stripe was almost black, a combination of lichen, pollution and everyday corrosion, but my eye kept on returning to examine the whiteness of the band beneath. This was how it would have pretty much looked when it was built over 100 years ago, the final stone being laid by Sir John Henry de Villiers and various Wynberg councillors in February 1910. It was a glimpse into another time, rare and thrilling. The dog prints were of the same register – traces of what once was, a world gone forever. I am sometimes chilled to wordlessness by such things, yet cannot grope towards understanding with anything but words. The idea that this is all lost, that there were once lives here, and dreams and beating hearts, is sometimes too much for my soul to bear. I think, as I write this, that we might all be born with something like millennial grief. I suspect that I could be more predisposed than others to experiencing it, but certain landscapes surely lend themselves to such feelings more than others. The top-of-themountain tableland, a sort of beautiful outdoor reliquary, full of industrial abandonment and forgotten voices, brought my grief full to the surface. I walked with it as a companion throughout the day.

* * * * *

 

When seen from above, the five dams of what is called the Back Table are not dissimilar in shape to a gigantic question mark, with De Villiers Dam forming the mark’s full stop, angled slightly off to one side. Above that, in the main body of the mark, are Alexandra and Victoria dams and, higher still, Hely-Hutchinson and Woodhead. Named after queens, worthies and mayors, the dams were all built between 1890 and 1910, a response to the growing realisation on the part of City of Cape Town officials that demand for water would soon outstrip supply, a conclusion sharpened by the fact that the middle years of the 1890s were unusually dry ones. Table Mountain and its slopes are, in fact, a network of pipes, tunnels, pump stations and reservoirs. The Woodhead Tunnel, for example, takes water flowing in the Disa River and shoots it off the Back Table above the kramats south of Bakoven.

The water is then channelled back towards Camps Bay along a contour path. If you walk the pipe track (in the opposite direction) from Kloof Nek, you often walk beside these pipes as they transport water via a filtration plant, around the Nek and into the Molteno Reservoir in Oranjezicht. After the tunnel was built, it was embarrassingly realised that the Disa often dried up in summer. The Woodhead Dam was therefore built to supply regular water for the tunnel, which, in turn, fed the Molteno Reservoir, and not the other way round.

Some of the toil and ingenuity that these engineering feats demanded is captured in an album of old black-and-white photographs in the South African Museum, in the Company Gardens. One photograph stands out. It is taken from close to where the Kloof Nek wash houses are today, and shows Lion’s Head in the background. In the foreground is a staging post or temporary camp. We see several two-wheeled trolleys or carts upon which rest a solid wooden base or platform. On this platform lies a massive steel pipe, several metres long. The trolleys have been hauled by faceless teams of African labourers. They all wear gigantic hats and the ropes they’ve been pulling lie curled at their feet. A growing stack of pipes stands next to them in open veld like so many cannon barrels, and everywhere is the spool of dust, f lattened grass and industry, the sharp bite of the African sun on what I would guess is a hot January or February day. A couple of grim Victorian gentlemen with impressive moustaches are standing around, supervising matters. They are wearing pith helmets and breeches, and are dressed as if for hunting or exploration. In some photos they have brought their dogs.

The labour segment between the unsmiling British engineers and the slaves was occupied by professional working men. These were often Welsh or Cornish miners induced to the Cape in search of opportunities just like this. They dug the Woodhead Tunnel and ferried out the rock in cocopans. They also built the brick aqueducts that supported the pipe, clean and neat and expressive of an age when masons and dressers of stone were not far removed from artists.

Each dam has its own shape, design and engineering challenges, although all are broadly similar. Looking down off the De Villiers Dam wall, for example, there appear to be what look like four stone hinges at the base of the wall. They almost look like the flying buttresses one sees in medieval cathedrals, except they’re far smaller, acting as covers, perhaps, for run-off to a small pump house nearby and ultimately down into an indigenous forest on the Hout Bay side of the mountain below. For some unknown reason – perhaps it was the microclimate or the rays of the sun – the dam wall on this side is generally cleaner and appears to have weathered better than the other walls that I looked at deeper into my walk. On closer inspection, I also noticed that the cleanest part of the dam wall on the water side wasn’t entirely white. It was mostly white, sometimes darkening to a gentle cinnamon or biscuit colour. Still, all these dams were handsome structures, built with what I can only describe as love by the masons and engineered with grave, clean dignity by a Scottish civil engineer called Thomas Stewart.

It is not only the gentle curve of the dam walls that captures the imagination. Further along, past the Overseer’s Cottage (and its wild sprawl of button-sized stone roses growing outside) and up a gentle incline lies Alexandra Dam and, head to tail, as it were, Victoria Dam beyond that. You are not meant to swim in these dams or drink their water, the colour of Fanta Orange, but at the thinnest point of Victoria – its ankle, you might say – I stopped to drink and unwrap a sweet.

I found a comfortable rock, enjoyed the shade it provided, and looked east towards the dam wall. Beyond the wall, my eye fell onto the top peaks of the Hottentots Holland range on the other side of False Bay, some 50 kilometres away. I sensed that all the dams were built like this. They were built according to the sturdy principles of functionality but there was always something aesthetically satisfying about them, some soft nod or acknowledgement to the beauty of form.

Beyond that they often snagged in the land in such a way so as not to dwarf the broader environment – and what rose and fell all around. Like an excessively polite visitor loath to intrude, they were not meant to draw attention to themselves. In their restraint and proportion, however, they did the very opposite of what perhaps was intended. You wanted to look again, or look more carefully. It was not only an exercise in watching time up here but it was a long seminar in aesthetics. These dams demanded that you look with hunger, almost acquisitively, and when you had looked for a long while you looked some more.

Once I was up on the Back Table proper, the walking was level and easy. There were no trees up here except for the odd spreadeagled old pine. The fynbos was fragrant and delicate. There were bulrushes and small shrubs, all tiny-leaved and looking vaguely medicinal. This for lumbago, I could imagine some wise Noordhoek hippy telling me, an infusion of this for heart-sickness. Drink tea of such-and-such for ailments of the liver and spleen. A poultice of this for flowery language, perhaps, and this for the writer who suffers from the curse of taking himself too seriously. I busied along, eager for the next dams, the star attractions – Woodhead and Hely-Hutchinson.

I wasn’t disappointed, although best of all were not the dams themselves but the walk between them. You can thread a path at the foot of the Hely-Hutchinson, looking to your left at the wind-ruffled surface of the Woodhead, her dark waters somehow grave and weighty. Up to your right, rising up like the cliff of a canyon is the Hely-Hutchinson wall, bowed and, at eye level, busy with moss, lichen, calcium stains and leaks. As I turned around to draw a brick weir in my notebook, I noticed a black grass snake seeping ghost-like into its hole. A chill brushed over me.

The weir and outlet canal were magnificent, made of the same dressed stone as the dams and quarried nearby. There were weeds and grasses growing in its cracks now but there was something monumental here, and so pleasing. A vision perhaps or at least a philosophy. It made me want to know more about Stewart and the men who laid every lump of stone, each one painstakingly dressed, each one subtly different. As I walked through the non-existent shadow of the dam wall (I somehow imagine, now, in recollection, that there was shadow), I noticed that each block of stone had a depression in it, like a belly-button. Each small hollow was equidistant from the long sides, and no matter what the dimensions or shape of the block it was almost always in the same place. As I examined a block of stone, my eye passed upwards to something snagging on the edge of my peripheral vision. Two large crows were standing imperiously on the dam wall railings. Seen from below, they looked large and unusually menacing. Later in the afternoon, as I climbed off the mountain, I noticed them again, tumbling carelessly above the slopes. There were now three and they played in the wind without care or sorrow. ‘Listening to the crows and wind,’ I remember texting my wife, now that the cellphone signal was restored as I edged off the Back Table after nearly six hours’ walking to the Constantia Nek parking lot.

Beyond the far edge of the Hely-Hutchinson reservoir wall (to judge from the inlaid plaques on the walls they are properly called reservoirs) is a small waterworks museum, now closed. The museum is surrounded by steam cranes with massive blackened boilers and large pieces of heavy machinery, wheels and bogies. I struggled to read the maker’s name on the crane, but could just make out the words ‘JM Wilson and Company, Liverpool’. I walked around, peering through the windows and reading the artefacts’ captions upside down.

There was a carbide miner’s lamp, some old-fashioned scales and a ship’s bell: ‘This was mounted outside the resident engineer’s office above the Woodhead Reservoir. (This later became the Waterworks Overseer’s home.) The bell was used to ring out the daily working hours during the construction of the two dams.’

Pride of place in the museum goes to a small narrow-gauge steam engine imported from Kilmarnock in Scotland. Material, including cement in casks, also imported from Scotland, was initially transported from the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway in miniature trucks pulled by mules. Later, the engine was imported, dismantled at the foot of the cableway and then reassembled once the parts had reached the top. The route it followed from the edge of the mountain can be walked from the waterworks museum, past the stone quarry and behind the Mountain Club hut, which occupies a bluff overlooking the Woodhead Dam. Continue further past the three old pines, and the jeep track seems to follow almost perfectly the curve of what was once the railway line.

You can see the rubble-raised corners and the straights. Alongside the track are slightly raised concrete platforms, now weathered and overgrown with bushes and fynbos. Worker compounds were apparently erected on these platforms. There was even a kraal for animals. Workers, including the Cornish masons, Welsh miners and Pondo labourers, lived here for about three years, as did Stewart, living on this subtle tableland as he supervised the completion of the Woodhead. Today there is evidence everywhere of human habitation – some of it fairly recent. There are three or four old boarded-up houses and a cloying air of gentle melancholy.

At the end of a slight curve, with the Atlantic glistening at your feet, are the remnants of the Kasteelpoort Aerial Cableway. Not much remains. There is a rectangular stone blockhouse, which was probably used to house the winching equipment, and you can see holes in the walls through which the cable wire passed. Peer over the edge and you can see old timber slats bolted into the rock face. These were probably used to anchor or direct the cables – possibly to protect them. Looking about, hearing the surge of the wind in your ears, it is impossible not to marvel at the mad audacity of what you have just seen. It all has a slight sandcastles-in-the-sand type feel. Soon enough, a final high tide is going to wash away the last remains for ever.

There is a photograph loitering on the internet of Stewart and a colleague being pulled up from Camps Bay in the Kasteelpoort lift. The men are close to the top and both look upwards, directly at the camera, neither looking happy. It’s not entirely surprising: the lift or basket amounts to nothing more than a rudimentary cage with wooden planks for a floor. One can imagine the horror of a wind-buffeted descent or the awkwardness of having to share the limited space with some small but vital piece of equipment. Still, such journeys might have been relatively infrequent, because Stewart spent all of the three years required to build the Woodhead with his engineers and labourers up on the mountain. By the time the Hely-Hutchinson was needed, however, he’d had enough and decided to get married, spending most of his time in the suburbs below. Trips onto the Back Table became rare. Having recommended several good sites for natural catchment closer to the Constantia Nek side of the mountain, he might even have decided to have walked the route that I just had – climbing onto the Back Table via the zigzag path and the jeep track from the Constantia Nek saddle.

Although it is a beautiful structure, the Woodhead Dam’s contribution to solving Cape Town’s water problems was negligible. At the end of the 1890s, the demand for water from the city and its adjoining municipalities (like Wynberg) had spiked. There were various reasons for this state of affairs. The upgrade and extension of the local sewerage scheme demanded far more water than had hitherto been the case.

Winter rains were also poor during the immediately preceding period, and there was an influx of visitors, soldiers and refugees because of the upcountry Boer War. Folk were clearly drinking themselves silly. This being the case, the authorities impressed upon Stewart the need for another dam, and this became the Hely-Hutchinson, built with largely the same crew, living in the original compound. ‘As a matter of practical importance the construction [of Hely-Hutchinson] could be carried out from the existing camp,’ he wrote in a report to the council, noting that after surveying the area once again, he had identified locations for further dams. In time, these became the Victoria, Alexandra and De Villiers dams, all three serving the flush and bumptious Wynberg Municipality, which had yet to be incorporated into the greater Cape Town metropole.

After inspecting the Kasteelpoort structure, I walked back towards the Mountain Club hut, tugging down on my cap every so often to prevent it from being blown off my head. I’d frozen water overnight and now downed what remained, nestling into a perfect hollow between two craggy pine roots as I sat down to munch nuts and dried pears. Up above, the pine branches creaked and drifted in the wind, and I sunk into bliss. As I sat in this perfect chair and ate in this perfect outdoor restaurant, I cast an eye over my immediate surroundings. Off to my right, a couple of metres away, there was a patch of grass that looked almost level enough to accommodate my tent. I fantasised about whether I would get away with it. My morning had been dogged by a white Cape Nature bakkie nosing along the jeep track to open sluices and transport hikers’ equipment to and from the Overseer’s Cottage, rented out to groups for the night. They had passed me four or five times and might head this way again, although I somehow doubted it. At nightfall, having made sure the mountain was empty, I’d pitch my tent, haul out some boerewors or steak, build the small fire that, if found, would see me fined or imprisoned.

Of course, I did nothing of the sort. I finished my supplies, becoming just slightly morose as I realised what I could have been eating. In my mind’s eye I conjured up a fresh white roll, fat with cheese and mayonnaise. I was happy and relaxed and content yet I was also none of these things because, as I heaved a final handful of raw nuts into my mouth, I was dissatisfied. No, I was more than that: I was discontented.

Indeed, I was sinking – quite rapidly – into a little strop of discontent. I was spoiled, I knew it. I was also, more importantly, underprepared. Our sons were always laughing at what they saw as my hopeless propensity for thrift, which manifested itself most obviously in undercatering. Now I was undercatering for myself. This was emotional terrorism of the worst kind. There are those who cater well and are therefore happy, which was my homespun version of René Descartes’s famous dictum. Yet here I was, undercatered for and therefore unhappy. It was the perfect booby trap because I could do nothing about it either, which made me realise that I must – at some level – like being unhappy.

Perhaps even being unhappy, perversely, made me happy, although, of course, we could spin this out in a different way, which was that being unhappy, given that I had undercatered, simply deepened my unhappiness. This was a sobering thought, a more sobering thought than the relatively straightforward recognition that I had undercatered. Was this the perfect definition of the postmodern condition – the idea that even in our quiet reveries, the rare periods in which we are at our most content and happy, we are, in fact, unhappy, and unhappy for no more compelling reason than we are forever wanting what we can’t and don’t have. So that’s it, is it? Our post-industrial, privileged lives are no more than high-wire balancing acts, with the possibility of happiness stretched thinly before us and the great chasm of unhappiness beckoning everywhere else. Maybe such feelings aren’t confined to our current epoch. Perhaps all people, across time, have lusted after what they can’t have, for this is what differentiates the human from the animal. It seems that animals are at one with their appetites, whereas we humans are never spiritually reconciled. We are forever snagged on the horns of better alternatives, always having to deal with the worm of dissatisfaction.

Yet was this quite right? I was behaving pretty much like an animal now, wasn’t I, worrying about base instincts, like hunger? I might have been trapped in the Escher-like stairway of my own thoughts but, at the instinctual level, I was still an animal. Perhaps this was it – we were all unhappy animals, were we not? Despite my feelings of being hard done by food-wise, I realised that as I packed up and resumed my way, I was boundlessly and stupidly happy. As I started my gentle downward climb, I noticed that the lunchtime heat was softened by a growing wind. I walked back towards the gorgeous bow of a footpath at the base of the Hely-Hutchinson Dam wall and looked around with renewed vigour. I passed wild geranium. The flowers were mauve and everywhere the geranium’s leaves were dusted with a furzy down. I marvelled at their hardy longevity and skipped on, noticing that clouds were now scudding in from the south-west. More and more of them poured in as the afternoon shadows grew longer, and eventually they covered the Silvermine mountains with a shifting blanket of cloud. As I walked past the Hely-Hutchinson wall, I noticed that water was being released into the Woodhead through a masonry culvert. It was folding at my feet, frothing in great creamy bubbles like freshly poured Guinness, as it made its way through marshy ground and eventually into the shallow reaches of its partner dam alongside. I barrelled on, walking briskly. There was no one on the mountain any more, and I had it all to myself. I walked brazenly into the cloud-littered afternoon.

Before long, I came alongside the two middle dams. I wasn’t entirely sure, but one of the old black-and-white photographs I’d seen on an earlier trip to the National Library showed the workings on either the Alexandra or Victoria Dam wall. Above the dam wall, supported by a lattice of pine slats, was a substantial wooden bridge. The tracks held a steam crane, which ran to and fro on rails approximately the length of the wall itself. Below the dam wall was another set of rails, supporting a rudimentary platform upon which rested a second, less powerful crane or winch. The dam wall, growing upwards and surprisingly thick, stretched between the upper and lower railway lines. According to some of the research I had done, the dam walls were often filled with rubble masonry, then ‘faced with dressed stone’. This one must have been 10 metres thick, so comfortable that it supported loads of recently quarried rock, as well as two large groups of workers. I noticed that a couple of labourers had removed their dark jackets and had hung them casually over the top of the dam wall. Looking more carefully still, I noticed that one mason was in the midst of draping his jacket over the dam wall as the photograph was being taken. He was wearing a hat and his face was shrouded in shadow, but the act was unmistakable. These were days before the advent of institutional uniforms and overalls, when men wore waistcoats, hats and jackets to work. Who was this refugee from the gloom of the past? How exactly did his labours have an impact on the project and its completion? I couldn’t help myself, and ached to know more. Where was he from? What were his loves and private reveries? Placing a jacket on a dam wall was an act so careful, so intimately human, that I found it touching. The dams were all named and celebrated, Stewart and his fellow engineers feted and recognised, but who speaks for the massed dignity of the casually forgotten? Who lights a candle for the nameless man in the black hat placing his jacket on a dam wall in an act so everyday that he did it both carefully and without thought. Where did he go to when he got off the mountain? I imagine he had his boots shined, afterwards sauntering into an Adderley Street bar, where the barman pulled him a pint. With a steady hand he took his drink to a quiet table, the quietest corner of the bar.

He sipped from the beer’s head, took out paper and a fountain pen from his jacket pocket and closed his eyes, better to imagine his wife’s fragrance. Sun was wafting through a far-off window, he could almost feel it on his skin. He thought of her laughter and the way she lowered her eyes when he teased her. He remembered the mole on the nape of her neck and began to write her his weekly letter.

Book details

Revealed! The Joey Hi-Fi cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg: A City Novel by Harry Kalmer (Plus: Excerpt)

Revealed! The Joey Hi-Fi cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg by Harry Kalmer

 
Penguin Books South Africa has revealed the cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg – Harry Kalmer’s new novel – designed by the legendary Joey Hi-Fi.

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is the English translation of the critically acclaimed ‘n Duisend stories oor Johannesburg, which was shortlisted for seven Afrikaans literary awards.

A Thousand Tales of JohannesburgThe book tells the story of a city, its architecture, its history and its diverse communities, from the pre-Johannesburg Highveld of the 1880s to the xenophobia of 2008.

Scroll down for an excerpt!

Kalmer has written 23 plays and six works of fiction, but A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is his first book in English.
 
 
The author says:

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg: A City Novel is my first book in English. I wanted it to look special so I asked publisher Fourie Botha to approach Joey Hi-Fi.

The book is set against the backdrop of the xenophobic violence of 2008. However architecture and specifically modernist architecture is central to the book. The postcard-like photo of Commissioner Street in the 1970s features two modernist buildings on the left and on the right, the deco New Library hotel against a Kodachrome blue Highveld sky.

There are so many things I love about this cover. The letters of the title mixing the old and the new. The torn photograph that allows old street maps, pictures and post cards to peak through as if to tell, like the book, the layered, tattered story of a constantly morphing city. Its history from mining camp to European Modernist skyline to the African megapolis it is today.

I chose Joey hoping he would do something as stark, modern and bold as some of his other work. Instead he created a cover that tells its own story before the reading even starts. An additional tale added to the many stories already inside the book.

Joey Hi-Fi describes the design process:

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is a moving and intricately interwoven tale about the inhabitants of Johannesburg. It spans more than a hundred years. From the late 1800s all the way through to 2008. The challenge here was to visually capture those stories and the passing of time in an authentic fashion. Something that was true to the characters therein as well as the tone and mood of the novel.

My concept for the cover was sparked by the many references to photographs in the novel. And since photographs are a record of the passing of time, I wondered: What if all the decades spanned in A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg collided in one photograph? And what if that photograph had been torn and worn away to reveal past events? Much like an archaeological excavation, where the deeper you dig the further into the past you go. In a way it is a metaphor for the city itself. The new built upon the old. Scratch beneath the surface and you will unearth some clue to the past.

So I decided to combine typography, illustration and photography in an intricately assembled collage. One photo that incorporated all the decades covered in the novel. I wanted the cover to have a measure of authenticity. To look as much as possible like a photograph of a Johannesburg street scene that has been crumpled, torn and weathered by the passing of time. To do this I redrew old maps of Johannesburg, illustrated and collaged together Johannesburg street scenes (from various decades) and recreated Boer prisoner of war letters. The cover typography is inspired by the lettering found on old maps from the early 1900s. Each element on the cover reflects some event or character in the novel.

Designing this cover was a fascinating deep dive into the rich history of Johannesburg and its people. A history which Harry Kalmer has beautifully captured in A Thousand Tales Of Johannesburg.

About the book

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is Harry Kalmer’s spellbinding ode to Johannesburg and its people.

This is the story of Sara, who poses stiffly for a photo with her four children at Turffontein concentration camp in 1901, and of Abraham, who paints the street names on Johannesburg’s kerbs. It is the tale of their grandson Zweig, a young architect who has to leave Johannesburg when he falls in love with the wrong person, and of Marceline, a Congolese mother who flees to the city only to be caught up in a wave of xenophobic violence.

Spanning more than a hundred years, A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is a novel that documents and probes the lives of the inhabitants of this incomparable African city – the exiled, those returning from exile, and those who never left.

About the author

Harry Kalmer is an award-winning playwright and novelist who has authored six works of fiction and 32 plays. His novel En die lekkerste deel van dood wees was the runner-up in the 2007 Sanlam/Insig Groot Roman competition. Briewe aan ‘n rooi dak, based on the letters of Magdalena Otto, received the Anglo-Gold Aardklop award for best new drama in 2001, and was adapted for television and broadcast. In 2014, his drama The Bram Fischer Waltz won the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in the Arts. He lives in Johannesburg.

Excerpt from A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg

‘What is it like to be back in Johannesburg?’ Meredith’s voice sounded thin over the phone from Seattle.

‘Odd. It’s very different from when I left.’

‘It’s more than forty years, Dad. Places change, time moves on.’

‘I know but it is totally different. It is like an African city.’

‘It is an African city.’

Zweig did not respond. To speak about the emotions he had felt since his arrival in Johannesburg three
hours earlier would have been too difficult. Instead he asked her about work.

He remained seated on the bed with the phone in his hand after the conversation ended and realised how little he and Serenita had told their daughters about Johannesburg. To them it was merely the place where their parents lived before they moved to London.

Zweig felt like some Bach, but his iPod wasn’t charged. He craved a cigarette for the first time in fifteen years. The white telephone on the white bedside table rang. Cherie asked if he wanted white or red wine with his dinner.

Zweig put on clean clothes. A few minutes later Cherie was at the door with a plate of food, a glass and a carafe of white wine. She placed it on a coffee table. Arabic music was playing somewhere in the hotel. Zweig sat down in one of the chairs and poured a glass of wine. The chicken was tasty. It was the first meat he had eaten in a long time.

When he had finished his meal, he once again picked up the copy of Moby Dick but still found it difficult to read.

He undressed and took a photo of Serenita in a standing frame from his shoulder bag.

‘You won’t believe it, Serenita.’ He smiled at the photo. ‘I’m back in Johannesburg. An old man in his vest and his underpants sitting at the edge of a bed.’

He unfolded the back support strut of the frame and placed it on the table.
Then he climbed in under the duvet and turned off the bedside light.

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How pornography brought down the last pillar of apartheid - Read an excerpt from Into The Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman

A first-hand account of life in Orania: Into The Laager by Kajsa Norman

 
Into The LaagerJonathan Ball Publishers has shared an excerpt from Into The Laager: Afrikaners Living on the Edge by Kajsa Norman.

In the excerpt, Norman visits Joe Theron, the former music producer who introduced Hustler to South Africa and later founded its Afrikaans sister publication, Loslyf.

Norman is a London-based investigative journalist focused on dictatorships and conflict zones. Into The Laager is her examination of Afrikaner culture, from the Battle of Blood River to Orania.

She faces a different set of challenges at the Loslyf mansion …

Read the excerpt:

Chapter 17
Dina at the monument

 

During the second half of the 1980s, an increasing number of South African newspapers began to criticise apartheid. Many were censored or shut down, and in the end it was a pornographic magazine that took on the government censorship board and brought down the last pillar of the regime.

In the early 1990s, music producer Joe Theron decided to enter the sex entertainment industry. He wanted to start publishing Hustler in South Africa, so he flew to Los Angeles in an effort to obtain the rights. After trying unsuccessfully for three weeks to get an audience with American porn king Larry Flynt he decided to get more creative. He went to the offices of Hustler and rode the elevator up and down until Flynt finally entered the elevator in his wheelchair. After Theron delivered was quite literally an elevator pitch, Flynt invited him into his office. After the meeting, Flynt called his driver and asked him to take Theron back to his hotel to pick up his things, and then drive him to the Flynt mansion. He spent a week there, at the end of which Flynt gave him the rights to publish Hustler in South Africa, as well as in all other English-speaking countries outside the US.

In 1993, Theron launched Hustler in South Africa. It quickly grew to have the second-largest circulation in the country, despite being four times the price of any other magazine. With sales averaging 200 000 copies a month, Theron became a rich man.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Pornography was banned during the apartheid era under the same strict censorship laws that targeted communist and anti-apartheid writings. After the fall of apartheid the standards were applied less restrictively, but Hustler magazine was still repeatedly banned.

‘The old censorship laws of South Africa were very old fashioned,’ says Theron. ‘When we launched Hustler in South Africa, we immediately started getting lawsuits against us. The main concern of the judges was the impact on children. We told them that we don’t make the magazine for kids; it’s for adults.’

Although most bans were lifted on appeal, the constant court hearings were time consuming and frustrating.

‘If you came to South Africa from overseas with a Hustler magazine in your bag you could go to jail. Yet I had travelled all over the West and seen porn available in First World countries everywhere.’

After having been dragged to court ten times, and having won all ten times, Theron decided it was time to take on the censorship board. He was eventually granted a session with the head of the board, Braam Coetzee, who would in turn decide whether or not Theron should have the opportunity to appear in front of the entire board.

Theron arrived early for his meeting with Coetzee. He wandered the 22-storey building and learned that there were 186 people working for the censorship board. When he walked into the meeting, he had only two questions:

‘Why don’t you want grown-ups to read these magazines?’
Coetzee: ‘Because it makes them depraved and corrupt.’
‘Then aren’t you scared to come to work every morning?’
Coetzee: ‘Why should I be?’
‘Well, you sit here on the 22nd floor of a building that is filled with 186 people who spend their days reading this stuff.’

Theron was eventually granted his meeting with the censorship board and its nine judges. He turned to one of the judges, an old lady, and asked what training she had received to avoid becoming depraved and corrupt through the material she spent her days reading.

‘Well, I’m an old retired school teacher,’ she replied.

He went on to pose this question to the other judges and, as expected, none of them had received any special training. They were just ordinary South Africans, and it soon became hard for them to argue that they would be less susceptible to depravity and corruption than any of their fellow countrymen.

A couple of months later Theron received a phone call from Coetzee thanking him for granting him early retirement.

‘We closed down the censorship board,’ says Theron. ‘We changed the whole law here. We set a precedent with regard to the sex industry. Censorship was the last pillar of apartheid.’

Theron then helped craft the new censorship laws for South Africa. By then he was publishing Hustler in England, Australia and New Zealand. His lawyers submitted proposals for new censorship laws modelled on the English and Australian versions that were by and large accepted.

But laws and value systems are two very different things. While the law henceforth allowed for previously prohibited material, such as pornography, the Afrikaner culture remained unconvinced.

In 1995, Joe launched an Afrikaans version of Hustler called Loslyf, slang for a promiscuous woman. It was the first ever Afrikaans-language pornographic publication. The first issue featured Dina at the Monument: a topless Afrikaans woman posing in front of the Voortrekker Monument. The issue caused an outcry among the Afrikaner community – and sold an astounding 80 000 copies.

Some 17 years later, when I enter the Loslyf office in downtown Johannesburg, business is significantly slower. As is the case for many printed publications these days, Loslyf is finding it hard to compete against web-based alternatives.

Like a wall of fame, old covers from the magazine’s heyday adorn the long hallway leading to the office of editor Donovan van Wyngaard. The covers boast poor-quality photographs of woman wearing the high-cut underwear typical of the 90s. They would not be considered especially attractive by today’s standards.

Although pornography still manages to outrage the conservative Afrikaner community, the novelty of Afrikaner porn has subsided. Van Wyngaard is also convinced that the Afrikaner aversion for pornography is completely feigned.

‘The Afrikaner community loves me behind closed doors but hates me in public. They’ll hide their Loslyf inside their Bible,’ he says.

Despite this, Van Wyngaard believes the Afrikaner man has become more sophisticated: ‘He is no longer a khaki-clad man in short pants with a firearm by his side. I want the magazine to reflect that change. I want to communicate that I know you’re not as idiotic as we thought before,’ he says.

In practice that means buying higher-end photographs from America and presenting them as local talent. In reality, only about 30 per cent of the women who appear in the magazine are Afrikaans-speaking.

Van Wyngaard used to work in television but lost his job owing to cutbacks. Now, both he and his wife work at Loslyf. Although Van Wyngaard is less than six months on the job, he tells me that he has already received death threats.

‘My family has completely disowned me and my brother won’t speak to me. We didn’t end up in this industry by choice, but because of financial strain,’ he says.

But somehow I’m finding it hard to believe that it was Joe Theron who corrupted Van Wyngaard and his wife. They are by no means new to the business. In 2009 they produced and marketed the very first pornographic movie in Afrikaans, Kwaai Naai or ‘The Incredible Screw’, which Van Wyngaard claims sold extremely well, somewhere between 10 000 and 15 000 copies. Then came the sequel, ’n Pomp in Elke Dorp, ‘A Shag in Each Town’, where a lookalike of well-known Afrikaans singer and womaniser Steve Hofmeyr plays the lead. This was followed by Amor – ’n Bok vir Sports, a story about a rugby player who cheats on his wife and gets caught on tape. More recently Van Wyngaard and his wife have embarked on a daring, mixed-race production called Forbidden Times, supposedly South Africa’s first mixed-race porn movie. But the success of the first film has been hard to replicate, he confesses; it is difficult to produce quality on a limited budget.

As I’m preparing to leave, Van Wyngaard pulls me aside. ‘Here, take this,’ he says, handing me a copy of The Girls of the Loslyf Mansion.

I look at him a little bewildered, and he quickly adds: ‘It also contains an interview sequence with Joe discussing censorship in South Africa.’

Just then, Joe Theron, founder of Loslyf and champion of South African pornography, walks into the room. When he notices the movie in my hand he frowns, visibly displeased.

‘I thought it might interest her to see your interview,’ Van Wyngaard comments.

But Theron ignores him and turns to me with stern instructions: ‘Make sure you put it away so that people don’t see it and get the wrong idea.’

‘And that’s coming from the owner?’ I retort.

He pretends he hasn’t heard me, but his voice softens a little.

‘Here, let me show you what you must do.’ He takes the DVD, strips its cover and puts it back in reverse, blank side facing out. ‘There you go. You wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea,’ he says.

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Rooi Rose Kuierkos deur Vickie de Beer - want kuier is immers lekker (Plus: Twee heerlike resepte)

Rooi Rose KuierkosRooi Rose Kuierkos, saamgestel deur Vickie de Beer, is nou beskikbaar by Human & Rousseau:

In Kuierkos kuier ons saam met ons hartsmense – familie en vriende. Ons hou familiefeeste en vier Moedersdag en hou ‘n fyn tee vir ouma, want so word ons herinner aan waar ons vandaan kom. Kuier saam met vriende is ook hoog op die prioriteitslys te wees, want wat is nou lekkerder as om ‘n sop-opskop te hou, te braai of sommer net te gaan piekniek hou? Sluit ook die jaar op ‘n gepaste noot of: Hou Kersfees saam met oud en jonk. Want kuier is immers lekker.

Oor die samesteller

Vickie de Beer is die afgelope 13 jaar die kosredakteur van Rooi Rose, maar haar liefde vir kook kom van haar ma af.

 

* * * * * * * *

 
Probeer gerus die volgende twee resepte uit Kuierkos:

Pizza

Die lekkerste manier van kuier: Sit die pizza in die middel van die tafel en laat elkeen stukke afbreek en smul.

Genoeg vir 6

gekaramelliseerde uitjies
20 piekeluitjies geskil
10 salotte, geskil (of nog uitjies as jy nie kan kry nie)
2 knoffelbolle, punte afgesny sodat die huisies oop is
8 tiemietakkies
150 g botter, in blokkies gesny
45 ml olyfolie

basis
500 g meel
10 g kitsgis
5 ml sout
375 ml water
15 ml vinkelsaad
15 ml winterspeserymengsel, opsioneel (resep heel regs)
45 ml olyfolie
15 ml knoffel, fyngekap
60 ml dennepitte of sonneblomsaad, gerooster, vir opdiening
125 ml crème fraîche, vir opdiening
oreganumtakkies, vir opdiening tiemietakkies, vir opdiening

gekaramelliseerde uitjies
1. Voorverhit die oond tot 160 °C.
2. Sit die uie, knoffel, tiemie en botter in ’n oondpan. Besprinkel
met olyfolie en rooster vir 45 min. of
tot sag en gekaramelliseer.

basis
3. Meng die meel, gis en sout met die hand of met ’n spaan in die bak van ’n staanmenger. Voeg die water stadig by en meng vir 3-5 min. teen ’n stadige spoed tot die deeg bymekaarkom. Meng vir nog sowat 4 min.
4. Bedek met ’n vadoek en laat rus vir 30 min. of tot dit tot dubbel die grootte gerys het.
5. Verhoog die oond se temperatuur tot 210 °C en sit ’n bakplaat daarin om warm te word. Verdeel die deeg in 2, rol liggies uit en strooi vinkelsaad en die speserymengsel oor. Rol sodat die speserye in die deeg vassit en rol dan dun uit.
6. Meng die olyfolie en knoffel en verf aan die deeg.
7. Sit die deeg op die warm bakplaat en bak vir 15-20 minute tot goudbruin.
8. Druk die sagte knoffel uit die huisies en meng met die crème fraîche.
9. Rangskik die uitjies op die basis, gevolg deur die dennepitte, en skep groot eetlepels van die knoffel-crème fraîche daarop. Rangskik heel laaste oreganum- en tiemietakkies bo-op.

winterspesery- mengsel

Maak hierdie geurige speserymengsel en bêre dit in die yskas. Ek gebruik dit ook om bredies te geur.

Maak 250 ml

45 ml koljander
30 ml vinkel
15 ml komyn
15 ml mosterdsaad
6 kardemompeule
2 heel naeltjies
10 ml swartpeper
15 ml knoffel, fyngekap
1 brandrissie, vliesies en pitjies verwyder (opsioneel)
4 lourierblare, gekrummel
15 ml bruinsuiker

1. Rooster die koljander, vinkel, komyn, mosterdsaad, kardemompeule en naeltjies vir 3-4 min. oor hoë hitte in
’n braaipan.
2. Stamp fyn met ’n stamper en vysel.
3. Meng die swartpeper, knoffel, rissie, lourierblare en suiker in.
4. Bêre in ’n lugdigte houer in die yskas.

’n Lekker laaang bruschetta

Sit dié lang bruschettas voor met ’n verskeidenheid bolae, Parmaham en ander kouevleise sodat almal hulself kan help.

Genoeg vir 6

2 baguettes
2 knoffelhuisies, gekneus
80 ml olyfolie

1. Voorverhit die oond tot 220 °C.
2. Sny die baguettes in die lengte middeldeur, smeer met knoffel en verf olyfolie aan die binnekante.
3. Rooster vir 5-8 min. of tot goudbruin en bros.

gemarineerde dun groenboontjies

Genoeg vir 6

200 g dun groenboontjies
250 ml olyf- of avokado-olie
60 ml witwynasyn
15 ml Dijonmosterd
1 knoffelhuisie, fyngekap
5 ml heuning
2 hande vol pietersielie, fyngekap
60 ml dennepitte of sonneblomsaad, gerooster

1. Kook die groenbone vir 2-3 min. in soutwater.
2. Dreineer, dompel in yswater en dreineer weer. Skep in ’n skoon glasbak.
3. Meng die olie, witwynasyn, mosterd, knoffel, heuning, pietersielie en dennepitte en sprinkel oor die groenbone.

Boekbesonderhede

Read an excerpt from Lake of Memories - the new book in Bontle Senne's Afrocentric fantasy adventure series

Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories Cover2Cover Books has shared an excerpt from Bontle Senne’s new book, Shadow Chasers Book 2: Lake of Memories.

The book is the follow-up to Powers of the Knife, and part of the Shadow Chasers series, a contemporary Afrocentric fantasy adventure series.

The book will be launched on Saturday, 26 November at Skoobs Theatre of Books at Montecasino, when Senne will be chatting to Pamela Power.

“I’ve never been one to buy into the ‘Africans don’t want to read’ hype,” Senne said in a recent interview.

“I’m not saying that there isn’t a huge challenge for trade publishers and booksellers in South Africa. There is, of course. But the absence of relevant, engaging, local and accessible literature is something that is improving pretty slowly.”

* * * * *

 
Read an extract from Chapter 3 of the book:

They knock on the door and hear Gogo’s voice telling them to come in. As they enter the candle-lit room, they see that Gogo is already in bed.

“Zithembe, Nomthandazo,” Gogo says with her eyes closed. “I thought you would come.”

“You did?” Nom blurts out.

“Yes. You see, many years ago I was one of the Bhekizizwe, a Shadow Chaser. Just like you. I know why you are here,” she says. “You want Zithembe’s knife. You want to use it to get into the dreamworld, where the Army of Shadows lives, and rescue his mother. You will need to find her knife to do so. But I cannot help you. The Army of Shadows is too dangerous and powerful now.”

“But they have Mama,” Zithembe blurts out. “I have to rescue her, Gogo. She’s been trapped in the dreamworld for years.”

Gogo’s eyes snap open. She stares at Zithembe, her lips pressed tight, before whispering, “Do you think I haven’t thought about rescuing her? Itumeleng is my daughter! I have prayed every night for her.”

“But the war against the Army is bigger than one person or one Shadow Chaser, even if she is my only child,” Gogo continues. “Itumeleng knows this, and if she was here, she would agree with me: you must stay out of this fight, Zithembe.”

Zithembe goes to this grandmother’s side, kneels besides the bed and takes her hand. “Please, Gogo,” he pleads. “Where is my knife?”

Gog pulls her hand away from Zithembe and rolls over, away from him, to face the wall.

“I am an old woman,” she says. “I have forgotten where the knife is. Now leave me. I want to sleep.”

Zithembe stands and steps back, unsure of what to do next. But Nom walks straight towards Gogo.

“That’s it?” Nom says.

“Nom!” Zithembe says, as if he is warning her – or scolding her. He tries to grab her arm to drag her out of the rondavel, but she pulls away from him.

“No, I don’t care about being respectful. This is a war!” Nom says, folding her arms. “I know you know where the knife is, Gogo. Please, you have to tell us!”

“How dare you! Gogo does not take orders from children,” says a voice from the door.

Zithembe and Nom whip around to see Zithembe’s cousin, Rosy, standing in the doorway with both hands on her hips.

“Gogo is right,” says Rosy as she walks into the room. “This is not a game. The Army of Shadows is dangerous, and you two are too young to be in a war with monsters.”

Nom rolls her eyes. “How old are you?’ she asks. “Thirty-five?”

“I’m fifteen. I’m old enough to take Gogo’s knife as my own. I’m old enough to be a real Shadow Chaser. Twelve is too young – you are too young,” Rosy says, kneeling beside Gogo’s bed. The sleeves of her dress are long, but Nom thinks she sees a flash of an angry yellow scar on Rosy’s arm. “You heard what Gogo said,” Rosy continues. “Get out.”

Nom is about to start a real fight, but Zithembe is faster than her this time. He grabs her arm and drags her out of the rondavel.

“You can’t just – ,” Nom begins to argue, but Zithembe puts a hand over her mouth and a finger to his lips. He points towards the back of the rondavel and pulls Nom with him as he sneaks into the shadows. They crouch in the weeds and nettles underneath an open window. Rosy’s voice drifts to them in an urgent whisper.

“… an evil water spirit that calls itself Mami Wata. Gogo, I believe that the Army has sent Mami Wata to tear apart the village in search of the knife.”

There is a pause before Zithembe’s grandmother says, “I wish I could remember where Zithembe’s knife is. If I could remember, I would hide the knife again, somewhere new, somewhere no one could find it. But for now, you must protect the village. And we must keep Zithembe and Nomthandazo safe until they are old enough to fight.”

“Yes, Gogo,” agrees Rosy.

“Go to the beach and attack just before midnight tonight. Your knife will be the light to guide the way and open the door to send this monster back to the dreamworld. Good luck, ngane yam. Be safe,” says Gogo.

 
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