Book of the Month
In A Different Time
by Peter Harris
Harris was the defence lawyer of the Delmas Four – an Umkhonto we Sizwe cell that were arrested and tried on a variety of charges including murder and treason in the last years before our first democratic election. Harris expertly tells the story of Jabu Masina, Ting Ting Masango, Neo Potsane and Joseph Makhura, from the time when they went into exile after the Soweto uprising of 1976, to their staring down the death penalty in one of the most dramatic political trials of that era. What makes this a special read is the quality of the writing. Once you start it, you won’t put it down…
A Crime So Monstrous
by E. Benjamin Skinner
200 years after the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, more people than ever languish in slavery, forced to work, under threat of violence, for no pay. In Africa, hundreds of thousands are considered chattel, while on the Indian subcontinent millions suffer in generational debt bondage. Across the globe, women and children, sold for sex and labour, are already the second most lucrative commodity for organised crime.
In this eviscerating narrative, Skinner paints a stark picture of modern-day slavery. He infiltrates trafficking networks and slave sales on four continents, exposing a flesh trade never before portrayed in such vivid detail. The personal stories here are heartbreaking, but in the midst of tragedy he also discovers a quiet dignity that leads some to resist and aspire to freedom. He bears witness for the victim and survivors of the greatest human rights challenge facing our generation.
“Skinner’s powerful indictment of contemporary slavery must arouse outrage for perpetrators and compassion for their victims.” Elie Wiesel, author of Night, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
Sugar Girls and Seamen: A Journey into the World of Dockside Prostitution in South Africa
by Henry Trotter
Sugar Girls and Seamen illuminates the shadowy world of dockside prostitution in South Africa, focusing on the women of Cape Town and Durban who sell their hospitality to foreign sailors. Dockside ˜sugar girls’ work at one of the busiest cultural intersections in the world. Through their continual interactions with foreign seamen, they are major traffickers in culture, ideas, languages, styles, goods, currencies, genes and diseases. Based on fifteen months of research at seamen’s nightclubs, plus countless interviews with sugar girls, sailors, club owners, bouncers and barmaids, this book provides a comprehensive account of dockside ˜romance’ at the southern tip of Africa – simultaneously racy and light, critical and profound.
Amis and Son: Two Literary Generations
by Neil Powell
Kingsley and Martin Amis are among the most successful British novelists of the past fifty years – both are known for their savage wit and their readiness to cause controversy. This fascinating biography offers the first joint appraisal of this highly unusual literary dynasty. And how very very quotable they both are…
Son on father:
“Kingsley was never much of a tolerance-cultivator; and his failures were big failures.”
Father on son
“Did I tell you Martin is spending a year as a TAX EXILE? Last year he earned Â£38,000. Little shit. 29 he is. Little shit.” (!!)
Intervention Architecture: Building For Change
with an introduction by Homi K Bhabba
To mark the 30th Anniversary of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (awarded every three years), here is a collection of some of the winners over the years. The award is given to projects which show awareness of their surroundings, of the local culture, of the building’s purpose, use of local/traditional materials and labour; such as the restoration of the Amiriya Complex in the Yemen, or the Koudougou Central Market in Burkina Faso. Beautifully illustrated, carefully explained – these are examples of wonderful architecture which works hand in hand with its local community.
Revolution! South America and the Rise Of The New Left
by Nikolas Kozloff
Ten years ago, the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’ around neo-liberal economics seemed absolutely triumphant. Pressure was put on developing nations to slash social spending, open up to globalised markets, privatise state enterprises and implement financial austerity programmes. That all started changing with the election of Hugo ChavÃ©z to the Venezuelan presidency in 1998. He increased social spending, nationalized his energy resources and other state enterprises and started setting up a counter-hegemony to the long domination of military-backed U.S. corporations in the region. His ‘Bolivarian revolution’ has since grown rapidly all across South America, and in Revolution!, Kozloff tells this story of the region’s astounding turnaround from a history of totalitarian right-wing military dictatorships beholden to American power, to a new future of grass-roots, pro-poor and indigent-driven democracies forming a new ‘axis of hope’ across the continent. It is an instructive book for those other developing countries who have believed it impossible to swim against the neo-liberal tide…
Standard Operating Procedures: A War Story
by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris
Philip Gourevitch is best-known, perhaps, as the editor of the Paris Review, but he is also the author of the gutwrenching account of the Rwandan genocide: We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. He returns to his investigative ways with this fascinating account of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interview footage shot by Errol Morris for his documentary of the same name, Gourevitch weaves together a fascinating and maddening tale of not just the prison itself and the abuse that occurred there, but also of the mindboggling legal machinations that underpin the War on Terror. Gourevitch calls his book a ‘war story’ to emphasise the sophistry with which ‘security detainees’ were declassified as ‘prisoners of war’ and thus removed from the protection of the Geneva Convention – just one of the many downright scary ways in which the War on Terror has undermined freedom and truth in the world.
The Fred De Vries Interviews: From Abdullah to Zille
Dutch journalist De Vries has become legendary in the South African media for his reviews of especially entertainment figures in South Africa, and – in fact – for his analyses of post-Apartheid South African culture generally. The best of this work is on show in this collection of 39 interviews with painters, poets, politicians, musicians, writers and other cultural figures. Each interview is accompanied by an extremely useful potted CV, and a fascinating list of influences and heroes (although it’s noticeable that almost no Afrikaans band seems to have realised that popular music didn’t actually end in around 1972…). But it’s the substance of the interviews that are so interesting: in true ‘New Journalist’-style, De Vries builds an entire impressionistic story around each interview which makes for a truly impressive collection.
Masquerade: The Story of My Life
by Rayda Jacobs
Rayda Jacobs recently played the lead role in the movie adaptation of her own novel, Confessions of a Gambler. Not surprisingly, this gave rise to repeated questions about the proximity of that character to her own – a question, she writes, she was surprised to find herself unable to really answer. Hence the need to write a memoir to explain who Rayda Jacobs is, to herself as much as to anyone else. As the title implies, the book is an attempt to get below the mask to who she is. It is a quintessentially Capetonian story, spiced by the fact that this is a thoroughly remarkable woman, and hence, a remarkable memoir!
The End of Food: The Coming Crisis in the World Food Industry
by Paul Roberts
It has been one of the stories of the year – not since the early seventies and its attendant oil crisis has the price of food worldwide risen so fast and so drastically. Roberts has already written about our own current oil crisis in The End of Oil, and now he tackles the food crisis in this new book. However, he gives a much wider analysis than just of scarcity. Amongst the topics he tackles is how global supermarket chains and distribution groups enhance the possibility of disease outbreaks, the gross paradox of an equal number (1.1 billion) of clinically-obese and starving people in the world today, the obsession of the West with “bad carbs and good fats, additives and allergies“, as well as the most vexing question: how to safeguard and maintain a sustainable food supply for an ever-growing global populace. It could perhaps be said that at base the need to eat is what unifies the entire natural world, and this is an important book for anyone who is concerned about our capacity to continue doing so.
Fifteen Men: Images and Words from Behind Bars
compiled by Margie Orford
No, not a rugby team, but the culmination of a creative writing research project run by Capetonian Margie Orford over nine months at the Groot Drakenstein Correctional facility outside Franschhoek. Here, Orford ran creative writing workshops with fifteen prisoners – though the title speaks of the extent to which the experience humanised them in their own, and her, eyes – where they delved deep into themselves and tried to write themselves out of the tedium and hopelessness of their incarceration. This book – the contents of which were selected by the men themselves from a far larger corpus, showcases the astonishing result of this journey, from a perspective and a situation only seldom voiced in South African literature, and never before as eloquently, or as movingly.
Devil May Care
by Sebastian Faulks (writing as Ian Fleming)
He’s back. To celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth, Bond is back in a brand new novel – but this time penned by Faulks…Sebastian Faulks. A Bond fan since he used to sneakily read it under the covers when he was twelve (it was banned at his school), he has risen wonderfully to the challenge to re-create the hero for the legion of fans – complete with an evil villain and a saucy minx called Scarlett Papava (obviously!). A must for any Bond-lover.
by Sarah Lotz
“So…we’re back in another crappy hotel room that stinks of other people’s BO and old fags, and Vicks is off out buying food for us with the money we had left over from the pervert’s stash.”
It’s the late 80s and British teenagers Vicki and Sage go on the run after burning down their art school pottery shed. Penniless, homeless, and worst of all, out of cigarettes, it isn’t long before they find themselves living on the streets. While Sage battles with her own damaging secrets in the angry scrawls of her diary, Vicki finds herself drawn to the damaged and often dangerous people living outside society. Both harrowing and darkly humorous, Pompidou Posse is a unique glimpse into the dark side of Europe’s most glamorous city.
by Morten Ramsland
In the Eriksson family, childhood is an unsettling experience, full of crude and disturbing rites of passage.
It all started with Askild – painter, murderer and thief. His son, Niels ˜Jug Ears’ Junior, is born in an outhouse, wins respect by kicking other boys in the balls, and uses dynamite to blow up the privy when his father sells his cherished coin collection. And his son, Asger ˜The Liar’, collects stories about his shipwrecked family which are always exciting, but not always true. Unable to banish Doghead, a horror from his childhood, he reveals the very bad deeds children can do – pushing his family forward, past a point of no return. A gritty and powerful family saga with a difference.
by Gil Adamson
On a moonlit night in 1903, a mysterious young woman flees alone across the Canadian wilderness, one quick step ahead of her pursuers. Mary Boulton is nineteen years old, half mad, and a widow by her own hand. Following her every move are two brothers, rifles across their backs, lurching closer behind her – she has murdered their brother, and their lust for vengeance is unswerving. The widow scrambles to stay ahead of them, and the burden of her existence becomes a battle in which the dangers of her own mind are more menacing than the dangers of the night. But as she plunges further away from civilisation, her path from retribution to redemption slowly unfurls.
by Tim Winton
The story of lost youth recollected: its attractions, its compulsions, its moments of heartbreak and of madness. A young man learns what it is to be extraordinary, how to push himself, mind and body, to the limit of terrible fear and exhilaration, and how to mask the emptiness of leaving such intensity – in love and in life – behind.
“Gripping and breathtaking…his most forceful and perfect novel to date.” Colm TÃ³ibin
by Peter Church
Cape Town has recently become the capital of South African crime-writing, and continuing this trend, Church offers a dark and harrowing tale of temptation and rapidly-darkening grey areas. Alistair Morgan is seemingly a golden child with everything going his way, but when he is commissioned by a mysterious American to provide him with a series of very specific and increasingly macabre videos for his website, Morgan starts slipping down an increasingly dark and demented rabbit-hole into a zone where nothing is beyond the pale anymore. A very fresh twist on an old genre, this is not fare for the faint-hearted, but a darkly seductive and all-too-plausible tale to chill the bones.
by Ursula Le Guin
Ursula Le Guin has long been renowned for her feminist-inflected and highly-regarded fantasy fiction. In her latest novel, however, she reaches into the distant past instead – the semi-mythological, nonhistorical landscape of Virgil’s Aeneid. Eschewing the large, overly-familiar stories from this epic, Le Guin chooses instead to tell the story of Lavinia, Aeneas’ final partner, and (supposed) ur-Matriarch of the Romans. Virgil did not give her a voice; Le Guin sets out to let her speak, and in so doing, brings to wonderful life the bronze-age Italy of the pre-Roman Latins, that austere people from whom the latinate West derives half its languages, most of its laws and so much of its cultural heritage.
McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Volume 27
edited by Dave Eggers
The latest issue of McSweeney’s has hit these shores, and it is no exaggeration to claim it as the most attractive yet! Not least because the focus here is on the visual and the graphic, even more so than ever before. It is another tripartite affair, with the usual fantastic story collection (guess what? Of all people, Stephen King makes an appearance here!) accompanied by a marvelous autobiographical sketchbook (entitled Autophobia) from the inimitable Art Spiegelman, as well as a lush, full-colour collection of artwork from the exhibition curated by McSweeney’s in New York around the theme of Humour and Text in Art. The selection ranges from the canonical (Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe, shoe designs by Andy Warhol and Duchamp’s LHOOQ) to more modern and whimsical pieces. Each is good for a momentary smile at the very least! Another gobsmacking package from the undisputed Kings of Cool in American letters.
Hoekie vir Afrikaanses
Etienne van Heerden se nuwe roman, Asbesmiddag, is onlangs bekroon met die M-Net prys vir Afrikaans. Dit is terselfdertyd ˜n verkenning van die rol van Afrikanerkapitalisme in die geskiedenis van die land, asook van die rol en etiese verantwoordelik van die skrywer, maar gekleÃ« in Van Heerden se gewone sensuele rykheid en komplekse verwewing van motiewe.
Verder is Willem Anker se Siegfried bekroon met die Jan Rabie/Rapport-prys vir innoverende letterkunde in Afrikaans. DiÃ© debuut-roman vertel ˜n vreemde en roerende storie oor ˜n frats en die Kaapse onderwÃªreld in pragtige Afrikaans, en is iets heel sonderling.
Anker het naam gemaak met, onder andere, ˜n toneelstuk oor Etienne Le Roux, en diÃ© “man in swart” van die Afrikaanse letterkunde is weer sterk terug op die voorgrond. Nie net word sy “18-44 trilogie” weer binnekort heruitgegee in ˜n enkele band, maar die doyen van die Afrikaanse letterkunde, J.C. Kannemeyer, het sopas ˜n omvangryke nuwe biografie van Stephen/Etienne Le Roux vrygestel. Met die eenvoudige titel Le Roux – ˜n Lewe, bied Kannemeyer ˜n definitiewe beeld van diÃ© komplekse karakter in ˜n boek wat reeds beskryf word as die kroon op Kannemeyer se lewenswerk.
Aural Poetry, or CD of the week
Super-smooth South African lounge-electronica act Goldfish have long entertained laidback Capetonians with their chic and glossy jazz-inspired sounds – and a good thing can’t be kept secret for long! Their brand new second album, Perceptions of Pacha, has just arrived, and it is more (much more!) of what we’ve come to expect from these globetrotters – yes, that’s right! Goldfish are currently wowing the summer crowds in Spanish hot spot Ibiza, after which they go to London. Come in sometime and have a listen: it won’t take you long to see what the fuss is all about!
On a completely different tack, we are very proud to now be stocking the seminal, legendary label K Records from the States. When Nirvana embarked on their first U.K. tour, they insisted on having along the virtually-unheard of Beat Happening as their support act. Frontman Calvin Johnson – still active in the extremely lo-fi Beat Happening who (rumour has it) started off with just a borrowed guitar and a biscuit tin for a drum – was a legend in his own Seattle lifetime, through the work of his label, K Records. Anyone who was anyone on the nascent twee-pop scene in the nineties was – and is – on K: from the adorable girl-girl vocals, soft as a blanket lyrics and chimy guitars of The Softies, to the perfect guitar pop of the fantastic Heavenly and Talulah Gosh, and the boppy, chirpy Kimya Dawson (of Juno-soundtrack fame), the emphasis is on fun, melody, fun, tenderness, fun, a DIY-culture… and more fun. (Not for nothing is the All Girl Summer Fun Band also on K!). K Records do not sell music; they create a world which is warmer and softer than most others. Come have a listen, and bask!
Something for the Little People
One of the most prestigious prizes an illustrator can receive is the Kate Greenaway Medal for Illustration. This award has been given since 1955 and Edward Ardizzone was the first recipient for his mesmerising, Tim All Alone.
In the last few years a new name has been accumulating this prize for nearly all her work…
Emily Gravett appeared on the scene with her clever Orange Pear Apple Bear and won her first Medal for Wolves, an excellent cautionary library tale. Following her success, next was the great Meerkat Mail book of letters (reminiscent of Griffin and Sabine), which introduced this little curious creature to the Western World. Then there was Monkey and Me for younger children with beautiful pencil drawings, and of course the must-have book Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, which is a perfect gift for anyone thinking the world is too much. The first half of this year brought us the very funny Odd Egg with a twist in the tale, to be followed by Spells (hopefully by September). Spells features a frog wanting to be kissed. Let’s hope he finds his princess and you find a new author/illustrator to treasure.
by Ã‰mil Zola
This extraordinary and wonderful book, the first major work on a strike, was based on Zola’s first-hand research into conditions in the coalmines, and was attacked by right-wing political groups as a call to revolution. Between 1894 and 1898 all of Zola’s books were added to the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum (sounds like a Harry Potter spell!) – the list of books Catholics were forbidden to read.
The Things They Said
Alexandre Dumas was asked to contribute 25 francs to bury a bailiff. Not a great fan of the breed, he whipped out 50 francs from his pocket and roared, “There you are – bury two of them“!
“Some American writers who have known each other for years have never met in the daytime or when both were sober“ James Thurber
Arise Sir Salman
And in other news, Salman Rushdie was (controversially) knighted recently, for services to literature. Well, not controversially, really, although it did spark protests across segments of the Muslim world. However, to be reminded of how well-deserved this accolade is, just have a look at latest offering The Enchantress Of Florence, if you haven’t already. There would be no reservations afterwards, we promise!
Thank you for reading – see you all soon!