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Book Bites: 28 October

Published in the Sunday Times

Melusi’s Everyday Zulu ****
Melusi Tshabalala, Jonathan Ball Publishers, R220

Peals of laughter shook me. The cat ran off without looking back. “Doctor” Tshabalala takes politics head-on, wades through current affairs, family, being a “grown-up” (so many aren’t!) and muses on 21st-century life as a Zulu man with the same wild abandon and unexpected humour. You can learn a Zulu word a day (actually about three), on his site or his Facebook page and blog, as this comedian/social guerrilla infiltrates White Monopoly Culture. But it’s the light touch that does it, the gentle prodding that makes you wish you were learning the entire depth of the Zulu culture and language. A really, really fun read. Ngiyabonga kakhulu Melusi! Ungaphumalela na! David Forbes

The Last GirlThe Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and my Fight Against the Islamic State ****
Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski, Virago, R225

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad’s childhood in the Yazidi community was a happy existence in a village of peasant farmers in an area of Iraq that was a curious melting pot of religions – Muslims, Christians and the ancient Yazidi sect – who in the main tolerated each other. But in 2014 that all changed when Islamic State fighters destroyed her village, killed almost all the men, including six of her brothers, and many of the women and took Nadia and other young women to be sex slaves; to be abused, raped and dehumanised. She eventually escaped, and a Sunni Muslim family risked their lives to get her to safety. Resettled in Germany, Nadia is now an advocate for the Yazidi cause and has spoken all over the world, including at the UN. Her story is a stark and compelling reminder that victims of war include more than the corpses you see on the evening news. Margaret von Klemperer

An Unquiet PlaceAn Unquiet Place *****
Clare Houston, Penguin, R260

Neglected, lost and fragile, Hannah Harrison leaves everything she knows in Cape Town for a bookshop in the Free State. There, she discovers a diary dating back to concentration camps from the South African War. Hannah is intrigued by the idea that she could unravel the mystery of the diary and what happened to the person who wrote it, but she encounters many obstacles: new love, an ex-lover and a deranged woman living on a farm nearby. Houston manages to weave together a complicated tapestry of events in an unexpected and rich way. So masterful is Houston’s writing that at the end readers will likely be inspired to research our history. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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In Die troebel tyd bewys Ingrid Winterbach weer haar merkwaardige vernuf as romansier, met ’n eiesoortige, snydende humor en ’n buitengewone insig in die menslike psige

Magrieta Prinsloo, dierkundige, se kop haak uit op die verkeerde antidepressant.

Sy raak vervreem van haar kollegas, beledig haar departementshoof, en haar illustere akademiese loopbaan kom tot ’n einde.

Sy aanvaar ’n betrekking by die Buro vir Voortgesette Onderrig, met die enigmatiese Markus Potsdam as hoof van die Kaapse tak. Daar word van haar verwag om te reis om met medewerkers te skakel, o.m. na die Oos-Kaap.

Op hierdie reise kom sy heelwat teë – sowel medewerkers as walvisse – wat haar lewe in ’n beduidende ander koers stuur.

Wanneer Markus Potsdam boonop op ’n oggend verdwyn, raak haar lewe nog verder gekompliseer.

In Die troebel tyd bewys Winterbach weer haar merkwaardige vernuf as romansier, met ’n eiesoortige, snydende humor en ’n buitengewone insig in die menslike psige.

Die roman is as wenner aangewys van NB-Uitgewers se Groot Afrikaanse Romanwedstryd in 2018.

Ingrid Winterbach is ’n veel-bekroonde skrywer. Sy het al meermale die Hertzogprys, die M¬Net¬prys en die UJ-prys ontvang. Winterbach se romans het al in Nederland, Frankryk en Amerika verskyn. Sy woon op Stellenbosch en is ook ‘n beeldende kunstenaar.

Boekbesonderhede

"Just stick to cricket, Shane." Good ol' Warney has been indulged once more in this tedious biography, writes Archie Henderson

Published in the Sunday Times

No Spin: My Autobiography **
Shane Warne with Mark Nicholas, Penguin Random House, R320

Shane Warne deserves a good biography.

This is not it, even with Mark Nicholas as his amanuensis.

Nicholas, an accomplished broadcaster and writer, played a marathon innings, listening to his subject, recording him, transcribing their conversations and bringing some coherence to the garrulous Warne’s ramblings.

He fails to rein in Warne and a book of almost 400 pages (including seven of fascinating statistics) could have been half the length, enough to accommodate the best part of the book, the cricket.

Warne was a great cricketer – many aficionados believe he was one of the greatest – but he can also be a great bore.

His peccadillos with a variety of women and his affair with film star Liz Hurley are tedious.

His obsequiousness toward the rich (Kerry Packer et al) is embarrassing, especially his blatant pleading to be invited to Johann Rupert’s next golf outing at St Andrews.

And his participation during a TV reality show in the “jungle” near the Kruger Park is ludicrous and irrelevant.

Stick to cricket, a strong captain – Steve Waugh, perhaps, whom Warne loathes – might have advised.

But good ol’ Warney has been indulged once more.

When he does stick to cricket, he redeems himself and his book.

He is a deep thinker on the game, was a brilliant exponent of the difficult art of leg-spin bowling and would have made a very good Australian captain.

Sadly, part of his behaviour cost him that job. Now it’s cost him a good book.

One day, when time has created some distance for dispassion, Warne will get his deserved biography. It might even be by Gideon Haigh, the Australian who is as good a writer as Warne is a bowler and who has already compiled a series of essays on the player. In them Haigh describes Warne’s bowling action as being “both dainty and menacing, like Ernst Blofeld stroking his white cat”.

Now that’s a book that would be worth reading.

Book details

Die Afrikaanse uitgawe van die eerste boek in Philip Kerr se Berlin Noir-reeks het pas die rakke getref

Hans-Nazi’s is ’n kragtoer. Bernie Günther is pure speur-plesier.” – Deon Meyer

“Slim, skerp, spannend en supersnaaks” – Karin Brynard

Berlyn, 1936. Hardebaard speurder Bernhard – “Bernie” – Günther word deur ’n miljoenêr-sakeman ingeroep om die moord op sy dogter en skoonseun op te los en waardevolle juwele wat tydens die inbraak gesteel is, te vind.

Gewoonlik is Günther op die spoor van vermiste persone, maar in dié onstuimige politieke klimaat betree hy ’n donker onderwêreld waar misdaad, korrupsie en onderhandelinge met Nazi-leiers aan die orde van die dag is. Sy soektog ontbloot ’n skandaal wat hoëkoppe soos Hermann Goering en Heinrich Himmler betrek …

Smerige nagklubs, smeulende filmsterre, oorvol lykshuise en onderonsies met die Gestapo lei uiteindelik tot ’n skokkende onthulling. Die roman speel af in Nazi-Duitsland – ’n milieu wat Kerr met vernuf skets.

Dié Afrikaanse uitgawe van March Violets is die eerste boek in Kerr se Berlin Noir-reeks, sy eerste Bernie Günther-trilogie. Vertalings van die volgende twee romans in die reeks, The Pale Criminal en A German Requiem, verskyn in 2019.

PHILIP KERR (1956–2018) was ’n Britse skrywer wat wêreldwyd bekendheid verwerf het vir sy speurverhale. Hy het in 1980 ’n meestersgraad in filosofie en die regte aan die Universiteit van Birmingham ontvang en het daarna meer as 30 boeke gepubliseer, waaronder veral historiese romans en misdaadfiksie. Sy Bernie Günther-romans speel af in Nazi-Duitsland. Hy is in Maart 2018 oorlede.

Boekbesonderhede

"Children need to be encouraged from an early age to learn another language or languages" - a Q&A with academic and language activist, Zakeera Docrat

Nal’ibali Column 26: Term 4, 2019

By Carla Lever

Zakeera Docrat

 
Congratulations on your two recent awards – having your MA thesis voted the best in Southern Africa by the African Languages Association of Southern Africa and winning the Albertina Sisulu Doctoral Fellowship at the SA Women in Science Awards. What will this recognition mean for you personally, and for your research specialty professionally?

Thank you very much! It’s an incredibly gratifying feeling to know that my research is being recognized at the highest levels of academia and government. It also casts the national spotlight on a relatively new field of forensic linguistics – or language and the law. Including African languages in the legal system enables real justice: it’s an issue that’s finally being placed on the national stage.

Your academic work looks at how African languages are represented in the legal system. Can you tell us a little about your current research?

My PhD research focuses on language and the law, specifically looking at the language of record in South African courts. In 2017, English was made the sole language of official record, but only 9.6% of the population in South Africa speak English as their mother tongue. Language affects people’s rights in courts. If you are an African language or Afrikaans mother tongue speaker and you have no or limited linguistic competency in English, then you are solely reliant on an interpreter. In my opinion, that’s both unfair and untransformative.

How do you think it changed your worldview, to be able to communicate with a wide variety of people in their own language?

By acquiring an additional language, in turn you acquire a cultural key to navigate cultural barriers. We live in a diverse, linguistically rich country, where the majority of our people speak an African language as their mother tongue. I couldn’t imagine being unable to communicate with the majority of people in the province of my birthplace, the Eastern Cape. You’re able to see the world through someone else’s perspective, to relate to fellow citizens and be respectful and aware of their traditions.

Since 1996, courts have made translation available to anyone who needs it. Why, in your opinion, is this not enough to really ensure people are fairly represented? How can it still place defendants at a disadvantage?

All accused persons have a right to a fair trial and to be legally represented. But can a legal representative defend the accused fully when they communicate through an interpreter? In my opinion, no. When people use interpreters to give evidence, meaning is often lost or changed. If the presiding officer only speaks English there is no possibility of picking up any inaccuracies. There are also often cultural concepts and traditions that can’t be interpreted directly into English.

Are there countries in the world where legal language policies are inclusive and work well? Who can we look to as an example?

Indeed there are! We could emulate a Canadian model, which is fully bilingual with judicial officers and legal practitioners being fully bilingual. Cases are heard in either of the official languages. Although South Africa has eleven official languages as opposed to Canada’s two, there is no reason why there can’t be language policies for each province, given that there are two languages spoken by the majority in each province.

Academics are often theory-driven, but was there a practical moment or discovery that really brought home the injustice and shortcomings of a legal system that can’t accommodate people’s lived, language-based realities?

I’m actually trying to find the answer to a very practical question: how do we enable access to justice for the majority of our people who are not English mother tongue speakers? The case of State v Sikhafungana (2012) really brought home to me how difficult it can be for South Africans to navigate our legal system. It saw a Deaf complainant needing to testify about being sexually assaulted, but being at a severe disadvantage because she couldn’t understand English or communicate using South African sign language. It was heartbreaking to see how there were so many barriers to justice for her.

People often counter policy suggestions by saying expanding options will prove too expensive. In your opinion, are there incremental or simple changes that might already make a big difference, or should South African invest in a large system overhaul?

The expense argument is one that is constantly used, yet there is always money available for wasted expenditure. Language is seen as a problem rather than a right and a resource. It isn’t valued.

We can’t expect to wake up tomorrow and have the entire legal system fully functional in all eleven official languages. What can be done, though, is for universities to begin to train prospective lawyers in languages other than just English. African languages and Afrikaans should also be language of record where practical.

Of course, the legal system isn’t the only one that is failing to truly represent our country’s diverse needs. Education, healthcare, policing…do you think all these areas could benefit from drawing on the richness of our languages as resources rather than sideline them as problems?

Indeed. Miscommunication in services such as healthcare, education and the legal system can have disastrous effects. It’s sad that pupils and parents think that English is the only language that will give rise to job opportunities. The power of the mother-tongue in acquiring a sound education and learning content subjects isn’t recognized in policy. Language is also key to the decolonization and transformation of our universities, yet we continue to see an emphasis placed on what we learn rather than what language we’re learning in. There’s a real need to create awareness on the importance of language as a tool to empower and transform South Africa.

How do you think we can develop and nurture a love for, and practical engagement with, all of our country’s languages in South Africa?

It starts in the home! Children need to be encouraged from an early age to learn another language or languages. Mother tongue speakers also need to value the power and status of their language – by doing this, others will be encouraged to learn those languages too.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

Nasty Women Talk Back: these are the stories told by nasty women who are making the personal political while resisting and challenging the patriarchy

Women, womyn & womxn: Are they really nasty?

This collection contains humour and pathos; it an easy read, despite being academically grounded and completely relevant. Wonderful doodles at the start of each essay soften the page. This is a want-to-read book on an extremely important topic.

In South Africa the Fallist movement became an extremely important platform to discuss gender, while #MeToo has become a global phenomenon. Ashanti Kunene, a Fallist-leader, is one of the contributors.

Other essays include “Pussies are not for grabbing” (Joy Watson), “My arms are tired of holding this sign” (Amanda Gouws), “Oh, no you can’t go to heaven in a broke down car” (Anastasia Slamat), “I’m with her” (Zama Khanyile), “To Womb it may concern” (Christi van der Westhuizen), “Womb with a (very strong) view” (Helen Moffet) and “Diary of an Indian woman” (Aarti Narse); but there are many more – twenty eight in total.

The idea for the collection was born, cradled and nurtured between friends who wanted to create a space for writing and thinking about the women’s marches.

The group of feminists who contributed to this collection used the marches and the posters inspired by the marches as a vehicle which galvanised women into action to put pen to paper and show fervour for ongoing feminist activism.

The nexus of this beautifully written and evocatively illustrated collection is telling narratives that link very personal stories with deeply political issues.

These are the stories told by nasty women who are making the personal political, who are seeking to live their lives in ways that resist and challenge patriarchy.

Through their very intimate nature these are stories that speak to the creation of a different kind of social order, one based on equity, the promotion of human rights and social justice.

The presidential campaign in the USA grabbed the global imagination. It also grabbed the feminist imagination, presenting the hope that if a woman could become the president of the USA, women throughout the world would finally break through the reinforced glass ceiling.

However, when it didn’t happen, the lost opportunity became the metaphorical kick in the feminist gut on a global scale.

Through the subsequent misogyny, vulgarity, lewd comments, the pussy-grabbing video, and the threats of the erosion of feminist activism in the trenches, worldwide a deep mourning arose from the feminist community. It was the name calling of “nasty women” that really smarted. Initial feelings of anger gave rise to empowerment of women – those who talk back to patriarchy – to embrace the label of “nasty women”.

LAPA Publishers has signed an agreement with Imbali to help market these books.

Book details