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"The sound of gunshots shattered the stillness of the night" - read an excerpt from Chanette Paul's Sacrificed

Caz Colijn receives a phone call from Belgium that tears her out of her reclusive life. In Belgium, where she tries to trace her and her daughter’s family origins, it becomes clear that that country’s colonial past has had as much impact on her life as the apartheid years in South Africa did.

Sacrificed

Read an excerpt from Chanette Paul’s riveting Sacrificed here:

Prologue
17 January 1961
Katanga, Congo

The night air reeked of savanna dust, sweat and fear. Of betrayal, greed and the thirst for power. A stench Ammie knew well.

César’s left hand gripped her arm. The right hand was clenched around her jaw.

“Watch, bitch,” he hissed in her ear. “Watch!”

Elijah stood under an acacia, a hare in the headlights. It was new moon. At the fringes of the pale smudge between somewhere and nowhere loomed the vague shapes of more trees. Somewhere to the left something rustled in the tall grass. A jackal howled in the distance, its mate echoing the mournful cry.

A command rang out, followed by the distinct sound of four rifles being cocked. She wanted to close her eyes but she kept staring as if her eyelids were starched.

Elijah coughed and spat out a gob of bloody mucus. His vest, once white, was smeared with soil, sweat, saliva, blood. One shoe was missing. He wasn’t looking at the soldiers with their rifles. From behind the lopsided spectacles on his battered face his eyes searched out her own. The glare on the lenses made it impossible to read the expression in his eyes.
Another command. Rifles raised to shoulders.

Sweat rolled down Elijah’s temples. He strained against the ropes, tried to find some slack around his wrists and ankles but finally gave up. His knees twitched. His calves trembled. His lips were fixed in a stiff grimace.

Everything seemed surreal — what she was witnessing now, as well as the events of earlier that evening.

On her way to Elijah’s house to warn him, she had seen the column of smoke from a distance. When she arrived at what had been his house it was clear that nothing had escaped the inferno. Not his desk, with all his documents, nor the shelves with the books he valued so highly. Not the photograph, taken in better days, of Elijah and Patrice Lumumba laughing together. Not even his Immatriculation certificate, the one piece of paper that, only a year ago, had been worth more than gold to every évolué: the passport to a better life.

When a vehicle had pulled up beside her and she was dragged inside, none of the spectators feasting their eyes on the mayhem had lifted a finger to help her.

Now, in these moments before the inevitable took place, Elijah stopped being the eternal student, the teacher, the philosopher. He was no longer Patrice Lumumba’s friend, mentor and critic. Or the man who had helped feed, clothe and educate so many orphaned children. No longer the optimist who would simply face the odds and keep going.

He was just a man in a soiled vest, his spectacles tilted at an odd angle.

A man who knew too much. Who had too much influence on Lumumba.

Who had become a complication.

But more than anything, he was the man who loved her.

Another command. The words failed to get through to her, but the intention behind them was unmistakable.

The vice-like grip around her arm and chin tightened.

Did Elijah, at that moment, still believe in God’s will? The will of a God who had saved Abraham when he had been on the point of offering his son, but had not granted his own Son the same salvation? Nor Elijah today.

The sound of gunshots shattered the stillness of the night. Ammie screamed as if it were unexpected. And maybe it had been. Maybe she didn’t really believe that these white savages, that César, could be so debased.

Elijah’s body jerked, spun to the right, fell against a tree trunk and collapsed in a heap in the shallow grave he’d probably had to dig himself earlier that day. Flesh, sinew and bone serving no further purpose. Blood pumping through the heart one last time colored the vest crimson, hiding the smears of dust and saliva.

César shoved her aside. Pain shot through her knee and elbow as she fell on the gravelly earth, grass blades scratching her arms. César wiped his hands on his trousers as if they were contaminated. For a moment his pale blue eyes met hers before a stream of saliva shot from his mouth and splattered against her cheek.

Dimly she became aware of the sounds of Elijah’s body being covered with clods and rocks and gravel.

For a brief moment her world tilted.

“Elijah!” More than a scream, it was a raw sound from a place she hadn’t known existed.

The first boot struck her side. The second, her shoulder.

“Whore!”

Somewhere an owl was calling its mate.

The next kick exploded against her temple.

The pool of light grew dim, giving way to the mysterious sounds of nocturnal Africa.

One
Monday, September 1, Present day
Caz
Overberg, South Africa

Tieneke’s voice was as clear as if she were calling from the neighboring smallholding, instead of six thousand kilometers away. The words got stuck somewhere in Caz’s ear, their meaning distorted by some tube or bone or anvil. Tieneke? After so many years?

“I said: Mother is at her last gasp,” her sister repeated when Caz failed to react. Tieneke was impatient, even in this situation.

Caz remembered that about her. Though she had actually forgotten.

“I didn’t know Mother was still alive,” she finally found her voice. “She must be well into her nineties.”

“Ninety-eight. She’s been relatively healthy and quite lucid for her age until just a few days ago, when she suddenly went downhill. But she won’t hear of a nursing home. Not that I’d consider it. I’ve been taking care of her for most of her life, after all. Why not see it through to the end?” Reproach lay like thick sediment in Tieneke’s tone.

With unseeing eyes Caz stared at the splotch the Cape robin had left on the corner of the desk. Bloody cheek, eating Catya’s pellets, and then shitting all over the house.
What could she say to Tieneke? I’m sorry to hear Moth¬er is dying at the ripe old age of ninety-eight? I’m sorry you never got married—at sixty-five you’re probably too old now? I’m sorry I didn’t try to make contact again after being chased away like a mangy dog when I needed you most thirty-one years ago?

“Why are you telling me this, Tieneke?” The question sounded heartless. Would have been heartless in any other circumstances. Probably still was.

“Mother wants to see you before she dies.”

Everything fell silent—the sound of the wind in the wild olive tree, the din of birds, the soft hum of the computer—as if she had been robbed of her hearing in one fell swoop.
“What?” The word flew from her mouth.

“We don’t have much time. You’ll have to get a Schengen. Go to the Belgian Consulate. I presume you have a passport. You have to buy your plane ticket before applying for the visa. You probably don’t want to waste your time in Dubai or Istanbul, so forget about Emirates or the Turkish airline, even if they do fly to Brussels. KLM has a direct flight to Amsterdam and from there you can take the train to Ghent-Dampoort. It takes about three hours. You’ll have to change trains at Antwerp Central. From Ghent-Dampoort you take bus number three. Get off at . . .”

“Tieneke!” The sharpness in her voice stemmed the flood. Caz drew a deep breath, tried to calm down. “Why does Ma Fien want to see me?”

A deep sigh came down the line. It began in Ghent, trav¬eled through Belgium, across half of Europe, down the length of Northern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, and found its way to the cottage at the foot of the Kleineberg in the Over¬berg district.

“I don’t know. She won’t say. She gets terribly upset if I mention the possibility that you might not come. Is that how you want Mother to meet her Maker? So unfulfilled?”

Why should I give a damn about Josefien Colijn’s lack of fulfilment, Caz was tempted to ask. After all, Fien didn’t give a damn three decades ago when she turned her back on her month-old granddaughter along with Caz and sent them out into the world to face scorn and humiliation. But this Tieneke knew. She had been there.

The jacarandas had been blossoming in Pretoria. Also the one in front of her childhood home, where she turned for one last beseeching look at the two women on the porch. Stunned that her mother and sister could send her away like that, refusing even to hear her side of the story. Not allowing her to cross the threshold of the house where she had grown up.

The two of them just stood there. Floral dresses stretched tight over plump figures. Tieneke with the first signs of gray in her wispy blonde hair. Fien’s hair snowy white, stiffly permed. Longish faces, pale blue eyes, lips pursed over yellow teeth sprouting haphazardly from both sets of gums—a legacy of cruel genes.

Lilah had whimpered in her arms. And just then a jacaranda blossom had floated down and settled on the dark hair. That was how she got her new name: Lila, which later became Lilah when her modeling career took off. Hentie had wanted to call his daughter Johanna Jacomina, after his paternal grandmother, but Hentie’s father had forbidden him to have the baby registered. Just as well.
“Cassie, please.” These were possibly the hardest two words Tieneke had ever spoken in her life. The image of the women on the porch faded.

“Please what? Why now? Not once in the eleven years before you returned to Belgium did either of you call me or try to find out how I was doing. I had to learn from an at¬torney that you had gone back to Belgium and were living in Ghent. Not a single word after that either. And now you expect me to drop everything and fly over there?”

“I followed Lilah’s career.”

Anger robbed Caz of breath. For a moment everything grew dim. “Is that what this is about? Lilah’s success? Are you after her money?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We live comfortably. You know we believe in sobriety.”

Sobriety? Make that bloody stinginess. Caz had been eighteen before she could choose her own dress for the first time, a dress that wasn’t a Tieneke hand-me-down. One that didn’t have to be taken in and the hem let out to cater for the difference in weight and height. Caz had been a gangly giant in a family of chubby short-arses.

She took a deep breath. “Sorry, Tieneke, no go. Give Ma Fien my best, but I can’t travel halfway around the world just because she’s dying. I may be many things, but I’m not a hypocrite.”

Silence hummed across thousands of kilometers before Tieneke cleared her throat. “I think she wants to tell you the truth.”

“Truth?” The computer’s screensaver began its little dance. Multicolored bubbles rolling across the freshly translated text added to the out-of-body feeling that took hold of her. “What do you mean?”

“Come over here and find out, Cassie. Before it’s too late. I was only eleven when you were born. Only Mother can tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“Who your biological parents are.”

“My what?”

“Your birth mother didn’t want you, so Mother and Father took pity on you and offered to raise you. That’s all Mother said at the time. It’s all I know. You can contact us through the attorney to tell us when you’ll be arriving. Mr. Moerdyk, in case you’ve forgotten. In Pretoria. Good day, Cassie.”

The line went dead. The silence was pitch black. Like the spots dancing in front of Caz’s eyes.

Book details

Franschhoek Literary Festival: Day One

From great discussions about identity politics to the psyche of apartheid spies; speculative fiction and Holocaust denialism; women who write crime fiction and debates about whether writers are made or born -the first day of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival provided enough stimulating conversation to exercise festival goers’ brain muscles, and festival-sponsor Porcupine Ridge supplied enough wine to keep them hydrated.

Hotter than expected, veteran FLF’ers were often heard remarking that “it ALWAYS rains during Franschhoek,” yet the pleasant weather made for an excellent excuse to enjoy a glass of in vino veritas.

To whet your appetite for whatever Saturday might bring, here are a few tweets of the vet pret first day of Franschhoek Literary Festival:


 

Help Barbara Erasmus publish her fifth novel

Author Barbara Erasmus is currently attempting to publish her fifth novel Four Letter Words through Kindle Scout.

Erasmus was the founding editor on Mike Nicol’s Crime Beat blog for three years and is the author of Kaleidoscope, Even with Insects, Chameleon and Below Luck Level.

Four Letter Words is a story about the unfairness of infertility – a girl with Turner syndrome struggles to fall pregnant because of her genetic background. It also highlights the Khanya Project which is an initiative in the Western Cape to improve literacy in the foundation phase through the use of technology.

Read an excerpt from Four Letter Words here and visit www.barbaraerasmus.com to help realise the publication thereof.

FOUR LETTER WORDS

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

Phillip Larkin

The class was divided when our teacher read out Larkin’s famous poem for the first time. Half the kids sprang immediately to their parents’ defence. The other half nodded reflectively.

The three of us were among the nodders, even then.

PROLOGUE

Dead is a four letter word. So is kill.

I didn’t use either in my garbled, panic-stricken description of how my mother died. I’ve always liked four-letter words so I had a handy string of alternatives which spilled out like a waterfall when I told my story.

Dusk. Trip. Drop. Spin. Thud.

I’m haunted by the details. Not that I remember them. It’s more that I can’t forget. It happened so quickly that I’ve probably embellished the train of events. There are too many details in the slow-motion video that plays endlessly in my mind. I pray I’ll find a switch to turn it off but somehow I know that’s not an option. The worst detail is her eyes. They’re huge. Terrified. And her hands – clutching the air, fingers stretching to find a branch that isn’t there. Her legs are flailing. Is that a word? I have an indelible picture of what I think it means.

Splat has more than four letters so I don’t use that in my description. It has too many dimensions. Sound. Sight. The water seems tinged with red but I couldn’t possibly have seen that. It was nearly dark. I wish I couldn’t see the redness. I wish I didn’t somehow know about the pain. I shy away from splat. I didn’t say it when I told them.

I didn’t say push either so no-one arrested me.

The South African police have an unenviable reputation but I can’t fault their treatment. I remember a warm blanket. Endless cups of hot sweet tea. Gentle hands around my shoulders.

No-one passed me any tissues because I wasn’t crying.

Hate is also a four-letter word.

****

2017 Caine Prize Shortlist announced

The five-writer shortlist for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced by Chair of judges, award winning author, poet and editor, Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The list includes a former Caine Prize shortistee and features a story translated form Arabic for the second time in the 18 year history of the Prize.

Nii Parkes said the shortlist ‘reveals the depth and strength of short story writing from Africa and its diaspora.’

‘This year’s submissions were a pleasure to read; we were all impressed by the quality and imaginative ambition of the work received. Indeed, there were a dozen stories that did not make the shortlist that would win other competitions.’

He continued, ‘there seemed to be a theme of transition in many of the stories. Whether it’s an ancient myth brought to life in a contemporary setting, a cyber attack-triggered wave of migration and colonisation, an insatiable quest for motherhood, an entertaining surreal ride that hints at unspeakable trauma, or the loss of a parent in the midst of a personal identity crisis, these writers juxtapose future, past and present to ask important questions about the world we live in.’

‘Although they range in tone from the satirical to the surreal, all five stories on this year’s shortlist are unrelentingly haunting. It has been a wonderful journey so far and we look forward to selecting a winner. It will be a hard job, but I’ve always believed that you can’t go wrong with a Ghanaian at the helm of an international panel.’

The 2017 shortlist comprises:

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’ published in The New Yorker (USA. 2015)
Read ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) for ‘Bush Baby’ published in African Monsters, eds. Margarét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas (Fox Spirit Books, USA. 2015)
Read ‘Bush Baby’

Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan) for ‘The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away’, translated by Max Shmookler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction eds. Raph Cormack & Max Shmookler (Comma Press, UK. 2016)
Read ‘The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away’

Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) for ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’ published in A Public Space 24 (A Public Space Literary Projects Inc., USA. 2016)
Read ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’

Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) for ‘The Virus’ published in The Harvard Review 49 (Houghton Library Harvard University, USA. 2016)
Read ‘The Virus’

The full panel of judges joining Nii Ayikwei Parkes includes the 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko; accomplished author and Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; and distinguished African literary scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac, University of Southampton.

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at Senate House Library, London, in partnership with SOAS, on Monday 3 July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

Each of these stories will be published in New Internationalist’s 2017 Caine Prize anthology The Goddess of Mwtara and Other Stories in June and through co-publishers in 16 African countries, who receive a print-ready PDF free of charge.

Vier Lapa-romanza's om jou in te verlustig

Dans met ’n maangodin
Rosita Oberholster

Lilly is oortuig dat haar buurman Matt ook gevoelens vir haar het. Maar dan trek sy eks-vrou oornag by hom in en boonop praat hy gereeld van die nimlike “Selene” wie sy nog nooit met die oog gesien het nie.
 
 

Lank en gelukkig
Magdaleen Walters

Om skielik jou huis met ’n vreemdeling te deel, is moeilik. Veral as dié vreemdeling jou eks-verloofde se broer en onmeetlik aantreklik is – en jou boonop gekoester en beskermd laat voel. Dit is die dilemma waarmee Larita sit.
 
 


Ridder van die branders

Rika Du Plessis

Duart red Dineke van die diepsee se branders. ’n Ridder, dink sy. Maar vanaf sy eerste woorde vryf hy Dineke verkeerd op. Duart dink sy is bedorwe en sy dink hy is ongemanierd. Waarom vind hulle mekaar dan onweerstaanbaar?
 
 

My hart se keuse

Ria Richards

Ná haar eks-man se verraad glo Saskia nie haar hart kan weer herstel nie, totdat sy die sproetgesigseuntjie in haar speelgroep se aantreklike pa, Quintin, ontmoet. Hy maak teenstrydige emosies in haar wakker: een oomblik laat hy haar hart bokspring, die volgende wil sy hom vermoor.
 

Boekbesonderhede

Boekbesonderhede

Boekbesonderhede

Boekbesonderhede

Come see Modjaji's Stellar Authors at the Franschhoek Literary Festival

Franshhoek Literary Festival

 
This year’s edition of the annual Franschhoek Literary Festival is being held from the 19th to the 21st of May. Modjaji is proud to have some its authors among the ranks who will soon file into town to fill it with vibrant ambience and all the bookish conversation one could dream of.

Tickets are priced at R70 per event, and are on sale via Webtickets. A limited number of student tickets are available for R20 per event – verification will be required.

Don’t miss our authors discussing their work at these not-to-be-missed panel discussions:

Philippa Mamutebi Kabali-KagwaFlame and SongPhilippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa
 
FRIDAY 14h30-15h30
[25] Writing their continent (Old School Hall): Darrel Bristow-Bovey invites Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Flame and Song) and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Season of Crimson Blossoms) to share how they reveal their love and knowledge of Africa through fact and fiction.
 
SATURDAY 10h00-11h00
[45] The transformative power of reading (Council Chamber): Jacques Rousseau discusses the intellectual, social and personal impact of reading, with Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (The Printmaker) and Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa (Flame and Song).
 
SUNDAY 11h30 – 12h30
[95] Writing my family: (Council Chamber): Negotiating the path between family sensitivities and the author’s right to write the story as they choose is a skill that Daniel Browde, Neil Sonnekus and Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa have all developed. They tell Hagen Engler how they did it.
 

Jolyn PhillipsTjieng Tjang Tjerries and other storiesJolyn Phillips

 
FRIDAY 13h00-14h00
[23] I write short stories because… (Elephant & Barrel): Are they easier than long fiction, more lucrative than nonfiction, more popular than Harry Potter? Jolyn Philips (Tjieng Tjang Tjerrie) asks fellow writers Harry Kalmer (A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg), Ken Barris (The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions) and Marita van der Vyver (You Lost Me) what it is about this form that appeals to them as they discuss the challenges of writing in the short form.
 
SUNDAY 10h00 – 12h00
[90] Workshop: Hide & Seek Poetry (The Hub) Sometimes the writing comes easily, but what do you do when the spring dries up or you have more sand than compost in your head? Come and learn to hunt and gather words at a two-hour poetry workshop with poets Jolyn Phillips and Karin Schimke. Tickets R120 through Webtickets.
 
SUNDAY 13h00 – 14h00
[104] The polylinguists (The Hub) Tom Dreyer asks Jennifer Friedman (English/Afrikaans) and Jolyn Phillips (English/Afrikaans/French) whether the ability to speak and write in different languages is a help or a hinderance?
 
Dawn GarischAccidentDawn Garisch
 
SATURDAY 13h00-14h00
[63] Dark things brought to light (Elephant & Barrel): Fred Strydom (Inside Out Man), Dawn Garisch (Accident) and Dale Halvorsen (Survivors’ Club with Lauren Beukes) discuss the darker side of human nature as reflected in their writing, and why readers feel the need to be disturbed.
 
Ishara MaharajNamaste LifeIshara Maharaj
 
FRIDAY 13h00-14h00
[22] The power to move us (Hospice Hall): Ishara Maharaj (Namaste Life) and Dennis Cruywagen (The Spiritual Mandela) discuss the joys and challenges of writing of spiritual matters in a contemporary world.
 
 
Colleen HiggsLooking for TroubleLava Lamp PoemsHalfborn WomenColleen Higgs
 
SUNDAY 13h00 – 14h00
[102] What publishers want (Council Chamber): In preparation for next year’s projected Porcupine’s Den event (think ‘Dragon’s Den’ for writers), would-be authors get to pick the brains of publishers Ester Levinrad (Jonathan Ball), Phehello Mofokeng (Geko Books) and Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books), led by Colleen Higgs (Modjaji Books). Other publishers are welcome to attend and weigh in on the discussion.
 
Karin SchimkeBare and BreakingKarin Schimke
 
SUNDAY 10h00 – 12h00
[90] Workshop: Hide & Seek Poetry (The Hub) Sometimes the writing comes easily, but what do you do when the spring dries up or you have more sand than compost in your head? Come and learn to hunt and gather words at a two-hour poetry workshop with poets Jolyn Phillips and Karin Schimke. Tickets R120 through Webtickets.
 
Helen MoffettStrange FruitStrayHelen Moffett
 
SATURDAY 14h30-15h30
[70] What is feminism, and who ‘owns’ it? (Ebony Gallery): Helen Moffett (Prunings) asks the questions of poet and singer Blaq Pearl and Thabiso Mahlape (BlackBird Books).
 
SUNDAY 10h00-11h00
[87] A few good editors (Council Chamber): Alison Lowry and fellow editors Helen Moffett, Phehello Mofokeng and Thabiso Mahlape discuss the consistent criticism around the literary world of ‘poor editing’ and the state of the industry in South Africa.
 
Michelle HattinghI'm the Girl Who Was RapedMichelle Hattingh
 
SATURDAY 16h00-17h00
[73] From victim to survivor (Old School Hall): Michelle Hattingh (I’m the Girl Who Was Raped) uncovers stories of courage, faith and perseverance in the face of opposition and adversity as told by Grizelda Grootboom (Exit), Lindiwe Hani (Being Chris Hani’s Daughter) and Shamim Meer (Memories of Love and Struggle).
 
Shirmoney RhodeNomme 20 Delphi StraatShirmoney Rhode
 
SUNDAY 11h30 – 12h30
[93] Playing with words (Hospice Hall): On knowing the rules of writing, and how to break them: Sue de Groot tests the boundaries of poets Blaq Pearl and Shirmoney Rhode (Nommer 20 Delphi Straat), and novelist Claire Robertson (The Magistrate of Gower).

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