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Chwayita Ngamlana on her debut novel, abusive relationships and gender-based violence

What is Sex? Sex is a humid climate. What is Desire? Desire is snow. What is Loneliness? Loneliness is a badger trying to figure out why it looks different to an otter. What is Obsession?Obsession is trying to fix a broken chair without realising that the chair is just bent at the knees and that’s how it was born. What is a Dyke? A dyke is an intricate, indecipherable encryption.

Chwayita Ngamlana, in her electric debut book, explores the above questions through her characters as they struggle through the volatility of love, the danger of not knowing themselves and
discovering their voice in the world.

The story follows the characters, Shay and Sip, who are very different in class, style, character and education. Shay is a journalism student working part time as an intern on a site that has no clear sense of direction. Sip is an unemployed varsity drop out and ex-gang member.

Their vastly different lives make it challenging for them to be the kind of couple they so desperately want to be. Unable to get themselves untangled from the web they’ve created, Shay and Sip use money, other people and sex to fix things, but is this enough?

Ngamlama has created a world that is somewhere between the present day and a sub-world of delusion. The reader will want to watch both story and characters unravel. This book will touch anyone who has lost themselves or their loved ones to unhealthy, destructive relationships.

Chwayita Ngamlana was born and raised in Grahamstown. She is an only child who found comfort and companionship in reading and writing from the age of 10. She has a degree in music and has her master’s in Creative Writing. This is her debut novel – and it won’t be the last.

Here Chwayita discusses her book, abusive relationships, and contemporary issues in South Africa, including corrective rape, on SABC:

If I Stay Right Here

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Fantasie-liefhebbers kan nou Die hobbit in Afrikaans lees

Wanneer Bilbo Baalens uit sy gerieflike hobbitgat weggevoer word deur Ghandalf die towenaar en dertien vrypostige dwerge, word hy onverwags meegesleur in ’n samesweerdery om die dwerge se verlore skatte terug te steel by Smaug die Vreeslike: ’n reusagtige en baie gevaarlike draak…

Die hobbit is al vir tagtig jaar lank een van die mees geliefde fantasieverhale ter wêreld en word met reg as ’n klassieke werk beskou.

“’n Knapgeskrewe sage oor dwerge en elwe, vreesaanjaende aardgeeste en trolle.” Observer

“’n Foutlose meesterstuk.” The Times

J.R.R. Tolkien is in 1892 in Suid-Afrika gebore. Nadat hy as luitenant in die Eerste Wêreldoorlog gedien het, het hy hom as akademikus onderskei en word gereken as een van die beste letterkundiges in die wêreld. Hy het verskeie professorate beklee en is talle kere bekroon. Hy is in 1973 oorlede. The Hobbit, professor Tolkien se debuutwerk, is die eerste deel van die verhaal wat in die drie volumes van The Lord of the Rings hervat en voltooi word. In die 1930’s het Tolkien die verhaal van The Hobbit aan sy kinders begin vertel – na publikasie was dit onmiddellik suksesvol. Die boek is wyd vertaal en was sedertdien nog nooit uit druk nie.

Janie Oosthuysen is ’n gerekende naam in Suid-Afrikaanse vertalerskringe en met meer as 300 publikasies agter haar naam ook skrywer in eie reg. Haar werk is al verskeie kere bekroon, onder andere met die SAVI-toekenning en die Akademie-prys vir haar Harry Potter-vertalings, asook die ATKV-prys en die C.P. Hoogenhout-medalje vir kreatiewe skryfwerk. Sy het ook by ’n aantal internasionale konferensies opgetree, soos die Harry Potter-vertalers-konferensie in Parys, die SCBWI-konferensie in Goudini en die UNESCO-skryfskool in Windhoek.

Boekbesonderhede

A literary tap dance: Pearl Boshomane reviews Alain Mabanckou's Black Moses

Published in the Sunday Times

Black MosesBlack Moses
Alain Mabanckou (Serpent’s Tail)
****

The cliché that comes to mind after reading Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses is “better late than never”, because I had previously never heard of him or his works. And I’m glad that I’m tardy to the party rather than never having cracked an invite at all. The novel, which made the Man Booker longlist, is a delicious read – even if its premise is a tragic one.

The Black Moses of the title is a boy who was named by a priest, Papa Moupelo, when he was a child in an oppressive orphanage. His full name is actually a sentence: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko, or “Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors.” While this name might seem almost ridiculous, Moses tries to live up to its meaning – as someone who will lead the lost out of the proverbial desert.

But after Papa Moupelo is plucked from his life and a Marxist-Leninist revolution erupts in 1970s Democratic Republic of Congo, Moses joins a street gang and reinvents himself as Little Pepper, before eventually appointing himself Robin Hood.

Black Moses shows a character at various stages of their life in what feels like a series of screen grabs. That’s not a criticism – it’s one of the things I love about it.

Mabanckou is a delightful writer whose long sentences (much like Moses’ name) are pretty rather than pretentious. Even when he writes about Moses’ descent into madness, it’s hard not to find pleasure in its description, as tragic as the subject matter is.

Example: “My memory problems affected my gait and I started to walk in zigzags because it completely slipped my mind that the shortest route from one point to another is a straight line, which is why, as they say around here, drunkards always come home late.”

If writing really is like dancing as Zadie Smith said, then Black Moses is a literary tap dance.

Follow Pearl Boshomane @pearloysias

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Twists and shouts: Anna Stroud talks to Fred Strydom about his latest novel The Inside-Out Man

Fred Strydom’s new novel explores identity through characters who are striving to find peace. By Anna Stroud for the Sunday Times

Photo © Joanne Olivier

 
The Inside-Out ManThe Inside-Out Man
Fred Strydom (Umuzi)
*****

Fred Strydom was a kid who always asked, “Why?” He started writing as soon as he could read, and in high school he wrote Pulp Fiction-style plays with his friend Sean Wilson that smashed the tedium of traditional school productions. It’s only natural then that his inquisitive mind and subversive streak should culminate in a book like The Inside-Out Man.

“Both The Raft and The Inside-Out Man are books about identity,” Strydom said about his debut and second novel. “[They’re] books about people being scared of who they are.”

The narrator is jazz genius Bently Croud – aka Bent, “the misshapen state” – who meets billionaire Leonard Fry. Leonard presents him with an unusual proposal: live in my house for a year while I lock myself in a room, and let’s see what happens.

Strydom’s characters are unnervingly honest. “Always write from the perspective of the person you trust the most,” he said. He spent the most time with Bent, but there’s also a part of him – a part that scares him – that identifies with Leonard. “Leonard does represent a twisted, idealistic version of how I wish I could sometimes be… to act on impulse, to say ‘to hell with it’, to make rash decisions, to be totally confident and to let the chips fall where they may.”

The setting is Krymeer, a countryside mansion – a three-dimensional character with a locked door at the centre of the narrative.

“Something can only be constricting if it’s alive,” Strydom said. Bent is trapped by the city, the countryside, and the deal he made with Leonard. “Each trap is presented to him as an option out… but it isn’t.”

Bent struggles to cope with the residues of an unhappy childhood – an absent father and an unhappy, alcoholic mother – and his own lack of self-awareness. The one thing he wants, Strydom said, is peace. “I think we’re more aware of how Bent’s past affects him than he’s aware of it.” Leonard, on the other hand, “represents somebody who’s trying to find peace with himself by keeping himself from a world that he can’t fit in with.”

The tension in The Inside-Out Man is maintained by the three characters in the house – Bent, Leonard, and Jolene (Bent’s girlfriend) – and their secrets. Strydom drew on influences like Edgar Allan Poe, the irrational horror of HP Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock’s film noir, and Raymond Chandler’s gritty dialogue. “There’s a femme fatale you can’t trust, there’s an anti-hero and there’s a mystery at the heart of it.”

There are strange parallels between Bent and his mother and Jolene and her son. He gets sucked into her world, and soon he can no longer recognise himself in the mirror.

Strydom writes his stories in his head, and finds the act of putting words to paper the “least interesting” part of writing. He wrote a third of The Raft during a road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg. “If it’s good it will stick and if it’s not good it will go,” he said. “It’s just a case of getting a hold of your story.”

Strydom wants his work to inspire people to pursue their own talents. “We should have the courage to be pure storytellers,” he said. “I don’t mind if my book isn’t the best book of the year, but it’s really great if it invites people to take a stab at it.”

If one book can inspire others, it’s The Inside-Out Man. Multilayered, honest and, as promised, a hell of a trip. Don’t try to label it, but if you must, forget about it being speculative fiction. That raft has sailed.

Follow Anna Stroud @annawriter_

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Book Bites: 23 July 2017

Published in the Sunday Times

Kill The FatherKill the Father
Sandrone Dazieri (Simon & Schuster)
****
Book thrill
Dante Torre always thought his life could be divided into before and after. During his 11 years as the abused hostage of a faceless man known only as the Father, every day was caged. After his escape, he seeks to help others and live as normal a life as possible. However, when detective Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli knocks on his door and asks for his help in a case involving the abduction of a child, Dante realises that perhaps there was no “after”. Italian crime writer Sandrone Dazieri is a master of the macabre, weaving a satisfying adventure and creating a sense of lingering paranoia. – Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

The Boy on the BridgeThe Boy on the Bridge
M.R. Carey (Little, Brown)
****
Book fiend
This is sort of a sidelong prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts. Not a sequel. But read Girl first and don’t panic when none of the characters is familiar. They become so quickly. Once again Carey writes with a light touch when it comes to the gore and the zombie/“hungries”. Once again there is a humane feeling of empathy with the lead character – this time an autistic boy, Stephen Greaves, who is supposed to save the world with the help of a bunch of scientists. Once again, Carey writes something that will become an important part of apocalyptic references. – Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

The Fire ChildThe Fire Child
SK Tremayne (HarperCollins)
***
Book fling
SK Tremayne follows in the grand tradition of the Gothic romance in which an isolated woman, an iffy love interest, and the welfare of a child make for compelling reading. In a whirlwind romance, Rachel from the “sarf of London” marries rich, handsome widower David and moves to his historic family mansion in Cornwall, where she lives with her delightful stepson Jamie. David is home only for weekends though, and Jamie changes, becoming remote and claiming his late mother Nina is going to return. Is Jamie hallucinating? Eerie, scary and compulsive reading. – Aubrey Paton

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Time is running out for Ebba in the second title of the Elevation trilogy...

Elevation 2: The Rising TideThe second title in this popular trilogy set in futuristic Cape Town.

Time is running out for Ebba and all four amulets are missing. The General is now in control of the city and he is planning a genocide.

Can she use her position as a member of the Council to stop him? Micah is heading the resistance with the gorgeous Samantha Lee.

With nothing left to lose but his love, Ebba agrees to one final sacrifice.

Helen Brain was born in Perth and grew up in Durban. She has written over 50 books for children and young adults, as well as a memoir for adults entitled Here Be Lions. Her teen novel, Tamara, won an ATKV prize in 1998. She teaches part time at an international online writing college. She lives in Cape Town with her husband and two dogs.

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