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Launch of Helen Suzman: Bright Star in a Dark Chamber by Robin Renwick

Thursday, January 30th 2014 at 5:30 PM

Invitation - Book Lounge - 30 Jan 14


January 2014

Tuesday, January 28th 2014 at 1:03 PM


Jungleland: A Mysterious Lost City and a True Story of Deadly Adventure by Christopher S Stewart

Armed with the personal notebooks of the mysterious World War II spy Theodore Morde, an adventurer who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, journalist Christopher S. Stewart sets out in search of the lost White City, buried somewhere deep in the Mosquito Coast of Honduras. Stewart pieces together the whirlwind life and peculiar death of Morde, who sailed around the world five times before turning thirty, as he tries to verify Morde’s claim of having discovered the “Lost City of the Monkey God.”

In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Lost in Shangri-La, Jungleland is in part a classic tale of man versus wild as well as a story of young fatherhood and a meditation on the timeless call of adventure—an epic search for answers in a place where nothing is guaranteed, least of all survival.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is an irresistible blend of literature and memoir revealing the big experiences and little moments that shaped Ann Patchett as a daughter, wife, friend and writer.

Here, Ann Patchett shares entertaining and moving stories about her tumultuous childhood, her painful early divorce, the excitement of selling her first book, driving a Winnebago from Montana to Yellowstone Park, her joyous discovery of opera, scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, the gradual loss of her beloved grandmother, starting her own bookshop in Nashville, her love for her very special dog and, of course, her eventual happy marriage.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a memoir both wide ranging and deeply personal, overflowing with close observation and emotional wisdom, told with wit, honesty and irresistible warmth.

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of non-fiction. She has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction three times; with The Magician’s Assistant in 1998, winning the prize with Bel Canto in 2002, and was most recently shortlisted with State of Wonder in 2012. She is also the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

I hope it will not sound disrespectful if I say that I read this book for fun . But when I got to the end of the book, I realised I hadn’t taken a single note. I had been so engaged by Ann Patchett’s multifaceted story, so lured in by her confiding voice, that I forgot I was on the job . So compellingly personal you feel you’re looking over her shoulder as she sits down to write.”        International New York Times

The pieces collected in This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage have exactly the tone of a good story told at a convivial dinner party, by someone who has told it often enough to have the timing down cold and who happily caters to her audience’s desire…Patchett writes gracefully.”      Guardian

Witty, warm reflections on life, love and art of fiction…she speaks about the love and happiness of her second and enduring marriage with immense beauty and insight, and without an iota of smugness.”        Independent

Electrically entertaining…Each of these essays feels fresh and bright and, just as importantly, they seem to fit together to achieve a fascinating whole…Funny, generous, spirited and kind.”             Julie Myerson, The Times

Edward Lear: A Life by Peter Levi

Edward Lear – beloved nonsense poet, author of such adored poems as The Owl and the Pussycat, inventor of otherworldly characters like Quangle-Wangles and of the modern limerick; lauded artist and illustrator – was a genius who defies classification. Gregarious and popular, Lear had a wide circle of friends, but was often lonely and subject to frequent bouts of depression and debilitating epilepsy, the shame of which he struggled with all his life.
In this captivating biography, fellow poet Peter Levi renders descriptions of Lear’s sketches and watercolours (of which he painted some 10,000 in the course of his career) and provides incisive portraits of his classic poems, such as The Jumblies, The Owl and the Pussycat and The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo, setting them in the wider context of traditional nursery rhymes. Lear belonged to the great tradition of adventurous British travellers, undertaking extensive journeys in Italy and Greece, in Albania, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine and India and these always-eventful journeys are related here, alongside extracts and quotations from his letters and diaries – an essential biography for all lovers of this remarkable British literary figure and now recognised as one of the greatest 19th century landscape painters.

Unashamedly personal in its approach, [this biography] grew out of a ‘lifelong pleasure’ in all aspects of Lear’s work, and it is Levi’s sheer enthusiasm for his subject that is his book’s principal strength.”                   Peter Parker, New York Times

Reports from the Interior by Paul Auster

In the beginning, everything was alive. The smallest objects were endowed with beating hearts . . .

Having recalled his life through the story of his physical self in Winter Journal, internationally acclaimed novelist Paul Auster now remembers the experience of his development from within, through the encounters of his interior self with the outer world.

From his baby’s-eye view of the man in the moon to his childhood worship of the movie cowboy Buster Crabbe to the composition of his first poem at the age of nine to his dawning awareness of the injustices of American life, Report from the Interior charts Auster’s moral, political and intellectual journey as he inches his way toward adulthood through the post-war fifties and into the turbulent 1960s.

Auster evokes the sounds, smells, and tactile sensations that marked his early life-and the many images that came at him, including moving images (he adored cartoons, he was in love with films), until, at its unique climax, the book breaks away from prose into pure imagery: The final section of Report from the Interior recapitulates the first three parts, told in an album of pictures.

At once a story of the times and the story of the emerging consciousness of a renowned literary artist, this four-part work answers the challenge of autobiography in ways rarely, if ever, seen before.

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal city by Russell Shorto

Amsterdam is not just any city. Despite its relative size it has stood alongside its larger cousins – Paris, London, Berlin – and has influenced the modern world to a degree that few other cities have.

Sweeping across the city’s colourful thousand year history, Amsterdam brings the place to life: its sights and smells; its politics and people. Concentrating on two significant periods – the late 1500s to the mid 1600s and then from the Second World War to the present, Russell Shorto’s masterful biography looks at Amsterdam’s central preoccupations. Just as fin-de-siecle Vienna was the birthplace of psychoanalysis, seventeenth century Amsterdam was the wellspring of liberalism, and today it is still a city that takes individual freedom very seriously.

A wonderfully evocative book that takes Amsterdam’s dramatic past and present and populates it with a whole host of colourful characters, Amsterdam is the definitive book on this great city.

The story of a great city that has shaped the soul of the world. Masterful reporting, vivid history – the past and present are equally alive in this book.”                James Gleick,

An often brilliant – and always enjoyable – investigation of liberalism’s Dutch roots.Shorto is once again revealed as a passionate and persuasive historian of culture and ideas.”                 Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland

Shorto is an excellent storyteller and rootler of strange facts, and Amsterdam should be issued as standard kit for anyone visiting the city.”                                  Guardian

Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir by Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson’s first book for adults was a memoir, capturing afresh the enchantments and fears of her Helsinki childhood. Presented with images from her family archive, Sculptor’s Daughter gives us a glimpse of the mysteries of winter ice, the bonhomie of balalaika parties, and the vastness of Christmas viewed from beneath the tree. Tove Jansson (1914–2001) is best known as the creator of the much loved Moomin stories for children. However, in her fifties she turned her attention to writing for adults, producing a dozen novels and story collections. Sculptor’s Daughter (translated by Kingsley Hart) was the first, published in 1968, and now produced in a splendid gift edition.

Losing the Dead by Lisa Appignanesi

After a lifetime spent steadfastly ignoring her parents’ accounts of their struggle for survival in World War II Poland, novelist Lisa Appignanesi played the “ultimate generation game” as her mother’s increasing old age impelled her to discover the truth about her family’s past. Growing up as part of an immigrant Jewish family in Canada, she had recoiled at “the implicit message…that you could live through terrible things and come out at the other end to sip a glass of tea or Schnapps”. Yet years later she found herself en route to Poland to “excavate” for herself the story of her parents’ amazing endurance – and to reclaim her family history.

Appignanesi’s parents Hena and Aron, together with her older brother and maternal grandmother, had escaped certain death in the Warsaw ghetto by tenacity, audacity (especially on the part of her mother)- -and the ultimate suppression of their Jewish identity. To this end they were helped out enormously by the heroism and sacrifices of individuals and in particular by Hena’s mysterious, fabled brother Arek, who disappeared from view in 1943. Losing the Dead swings effortlessly between Appignanesi’s comedic childhood reminiscences, her tireless search through Polish archives and registers for forgotten identities and the dramatic, immediate narrative of her family’s day-to-day existence in the terrifying war years. It is a story of loss and deprivation, yet ultimately one of profound understanding, as Appignanesi resurrects her past in order to lay it to rest, proving that Losing the Dead is a truly commemorative memoir.”            Catherine Taylor

Distinguished…Appignanesi has a sharp eye for the details of everyday life in the Warsaw ghetto…Read Losing the Dead and you begin to appreciate what life must have been like for hundreds of thousands of European Jews during the long nightmare of the Third Reich.”     The Times

This book crosses genre, combining profound story telling and hard history. It is wonderful and heartbreaking in equal measure, and it remains an astonishing work.”       Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes

How to Read a Novelist: Conversations with Writers by John Freeman

For the last fifteen years, if a novel was published, John Freeman has been there to greet it. As a critic for more than two hundred newspapers worldwide, he has reviewed thousands of books and interviewed scores of writers, and in How to Read a Novelist, he shares with us what he has learned.

From such international stars as Doris Lessing, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie and Mo Yan; to British talents including Ian McEwan, Jim Crace, A. S. Byatt and Alan Hollinghurst; American masters such as Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison and Philip Roth; to the new guard of Jennifer Egan, JunotDíaz, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen – Freeman has talked to everyone.

How to Read a Novelist is essential reading for every aspiring writer and engaged reader; the perfect companion for anyone who’s ever curled up with a novel and wanted to know a bit more about the person who made that moment possible.

A selection of Granta editor John Freeman’s very best conversations with the very best novelists of our time, including some revised and unpublished pieces. How To Read A Novelist is a companion for anyone who loves reading; an invaluable reference for writers; and a slap in the face to those who would argue that the novel is dead.

A gift for readers and writers.” Junot Diaz

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: A Biography Through Images

Perhaps in no other novel of the twentieth century the sense of time and place had such a central role and profound significance as in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece, The Leopard a work which captures Sicilian traditional society in a period of transition when faced with modernity and political upheaval. Written by Lampedusa’s cousin and heir, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, this new illustrated biography which includes a wealth of unpublished pictures from Lampedusa s private albums in Casa Butera and documents from his family archive, as well as a foreword by Lampedusa biographer David Gilmour explores all the people and places that were dear to the great Sicilian master and are essential for a fuller understanding of his work.

1963 – The Year of the Revolution: How Youth Changed the World with Music, Art and Fashion by Ariel Leve

Ariel Leve and Robin Morgan’s oral history 1963: The Year of the Revolution is the first book to recount the kinetic story of the twelve months that witnessed a demographic power shift—the rise of the Youth Quake movement, a cultural transformation through music, fashion, politics, and the arts. Leve and Morgan detail how, for the first time in history, youth became a commercial and cultural force with the power to command the attention of government and religion and shape society.

While the Cold War began to thaw, the race into space heated up, feminism and civil rights percolated in politics, and JFK’s assassination shocked the world, the Beatles and Bob Dylan would emerge as poster boys and the prophet of a revolution that changed the world.

1963: The Year of the Revolution records, documentary-style, the incredible roller-coaster ride of those twelve months, told through the recollections of some of the period’s most influential figures—from Keith Richards to Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon to Graham Nash, Alan Parker to Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton to Gay Talese, Stevie Nicks to Norma Kamali, and many more.

The Mistress Contract by She and He

Based on intimate conversations recorded during the early years of their affair, The Mistress Contract is the story of the contract signed four decades ago between an anonymous couple (attributed in the book simply as She and He), and the unique relationship that ensued. The contract She – a highly educated, divorced woman with a successful career, three children and a history of involvement in the feminist movement – asked her lover to sign proposed the following terms: He would provide her with a home and an income, while She would provide ‘mistress services’ – ‘All sexual acts as requested, with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers’. He agreed to her terms, and they found a kind of happiness that more traditional forms of commitment had never provided. They talked endlessly about why this was, and then began to tape their conversations. Now 88 and 93 years old respectively, She and He are still together.Was her suggestion a betrayal of all that she and the women of her generation had fought for? Or was it brave, honest, and radical? Provocative, unapologetic and inspiring, The Mistress Contract shines an unflinching and utterly compelling light on relations between the sexes and is bound to spark debate.

“The Mistress Contract is most interesting for its honest portrayal of a long-term relationship outside the bounds of marriage. How He and She view their differences and handle their life crises is…revealing.”       New York Journal of Books”

Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Energy Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman

Things looked grim for American energy in 2006. Oil production was in steep decline and natural gas was hard to find. The Iraq War threatened the nation’s already tenuous relations with the Middle East. China was rapidly industrializing and competing for resources. Major oil companies had just about given up on new discoveries on US soil, and a new energy crisis loomed.

But a handful of men believed everything was about to change.

By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale – a process now known as fracking – these ‘wildcatters’ started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy – and made and lost astonishing fortunes.

The frackers have already transformed the economic, environmental, and geopolitical course of history, and like the Rockefellers and the Gettys before them, they’re using their wealth and power to influence politics, education, entertainment, sports, and many other fields. Activists argue that the same methods that are creating so much new energy are also harming our water supply and threatening environmental chaos.

Award-winning reporter Gregory Zuckerman gained exclusive access to the frackers, chronicling the untold story of how they transformed the nation and the world. The result is a dramatic narrative that stretches from the barren fields of North Dakota to the tense Wall Street boardrooms.

Dogfight: How Apple and Google went to War and started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein

Behind the bitter rivalry between Apple and Google – and how an an epic battle is reshaping the way we think about technology.

The rise of iPhones, smartphones and tablets has changed the world. At the centre of this are Apple and Google, two companies who have steamrolled the competition. In the age of the Android and the iPad, these corporations are locked in a battle that will play out beyond the marketplace, in the courts and on screens around the world.

Fred Vogelstein has reported on this rivalry for more than decade and has rare access to the boardrooms where company dogma translates into ruthless business; to outsize personalities like Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt; and inside the deals, transactions, lawsuits and allegations. Apple and Google are brazenly poaching each other’s employees. They bid up the price of each other’s acquisitions for spite, and they forge alliances with major players like Facebook and Microsoft in pursuit of market dominance.

Dogfight is not just a story about what devices are going to replace our TVs, phones, laptops, and music players. It’s about who will control what we see on those devices and where that content will come from. This is the future of media, entertainment, communication and information around the globe.


Actors Anonymous by James Franco

Inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, Actors Anonymous is a dark, genre-bending work that mixes memoir and pure invention in an audacious examination of celebrity, acting and the making of fiction.

Actors Anonymous is unsettling, funny and personal – a series of stories told in many forms: a McDonald’s drive-thru operator who spends his shift trying on accents; an ex-child star recalling a massive beachside bacchanal; hospital volunteers putting a camera in the hands of a patient obsessed with horror films; a vampire-flick starlet who discovers a cryptic book written by a famous actor, who may have killed his father and gone on the run.

The book contains profound insights into the nature and purpose of acting. Franco mercilessly turns his ‘James Franco’ persona inside out while, at the same time, providing a fascinating meditation on his art, along with nightmarish tales of excess. ‘Hollywood has always been a private club,’ he writes. ‘I open the gates. I say welcome. I say, Look inside.’

Subversively funny and provocatively honest, is ostensibly about acting but it’s really about a society where everyone’s reduced to Actors Anonymous the roles they play. The novel’s many narrators fight back against these roles in truly original, often hilarious, and deeply affecting ways. So should we all.”          Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

Electrifying to see a writer hold nothing back! This shape-shifting narrative extends a reader’s sense of what a novel can be, can do. Franco plays with persona in ways that implicate a reader. The defiant humor is hard-won (including the best worst job interview ever), his take on irresponsible people is both eloquent and suitably scorching, the language is enviable: the seduction of a virgin is ‘like a bullet through a birthday cake.’ Franco’s novel lures you in with indelible images, provocative mind games, and characters laid bare, then successfully strands you in a frightening place.”        Amy Hempel

The Erl-King by Michel Tournier

An international bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt, The Erl-King is a magisterial tale of innocence, perversion and obsession. It follows the passage of strange, gentle Abel Tiffauges from submissive schoolboy to adult misfit – a man without a sense of belonging until he finds himself a prisoner of war, and then a teacher, and then the ‘ogre’ of a Nazi school at the castle of Kaltenborn. Taking us more deeply into the dark heart of fascism than any novel since The Tin Drum, Tournier’s masterpiece rivets us until the very last page, when Abel meets his mystic fate in the collapsing ruins of the Third Reich. Highly recommended.

The Time Traveller’s Almanac: The Ultimate Treasury of Time Travel Fiction – brought to you from the Future and edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer

The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the largest, most definitive collection of time travel stories ever assembled. Gathered into one volume by intrepid chrononauts and world-renowned anthologists Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, here is over a century’s worth of literary travels into past and the future. The anthology covers millions of years of Earth’s history – from the age of the dinosaurs to strange and fascinating futures, through to the end of Time itself. The Time Traveler’s Almanac will reacquaint readers with beloved classics and introduce them to thrilling contemporary examples of the time travel genre.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac includes stories from Douglas Adams, Isaac Asmiov, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, George RR Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock and, of course, HG Wells.

Playful, richly imaginative and vast…a fabulous collection complemented by essays on the science, fashions and music of time travel.”             Metro.

Across nearly 1,000 pages it collects tales of chrononautical adventure…A compilation worth your time.”              Financial Times.

The Michelangelo Corner

Michelangelo: His Epic Life by Martin Gayford

At thirty one, Michelangelo was considered the finest artist in Italy, perhaps the world; long before he died at almost 90 he was widely believed to be the greatest sculptor or painter who had ever lived (and, by his enemies, to be an arrogant, uncouth, swindling miser).

For decade after decade, he worked near the dynamic centre of events: the vortex at which European history was changing from Renaissance to Counter Reformation. Few of his works – including the huge frescoes of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the marble giant David and the Last Judgment – were small or easy to accomplish. Like a hero of classical mythology – such as Hercules, whose statue he carved in his youth – he was subject to constant trials and labours.

In Michelangelo Martin Gayford describes what it felt like to be Michelangelo Buonarroti, and how he transformed forever our notion of what an artist could be.

Michelangelo Volume 1: The Achievement of Fame by Michael Hirst

This remarkable book is the first volume in what will be the definitive modern biography of Michelangelo. An illuminating study of Michelangelo’s extraordinary career, it follows the artist from his apprenticeship in Ghirlandaio’s workshop to his move to Rome in 1534, when, at the age of fifty-nine, he left behind his native Florence, never to return. During these years he created such outstanding works as the marble ‘Pieta’, the giant marble ‘David’ (commissioned for the cathedral in Florence), the Sistine Ceiling frescoes, and the new sacristy and library for the Medici family at San Lorenzo; he began the monumental tomb for Pope Julius II in Rome, and he became one of the most sought-after artists of the early sixteenth century. Written by the leading Michelangelo scholar, this prodigiously informative account benefits from recent archival discoveries and restorations, and is enriched by material from the long-awaited editions of the artist’s correspondence and artistic contracts. The wealth of new information enables new light to be shed on the genesis of Michelangelo’s works in sculpture, painting and architecture, and on his complex psychological relations with his family, friends and powerful patrons.

Art for All

The Many Faces of Jonathan Yeo by Martin Gayford and Giles Coren

Jonathan Yeo is one of Britains best-known portrait painters. Over more than a decade, he has gained an international reputation for painting some of the most famous faces of our age. Models and movie stars, artists and actors, politicians and princes all have been the subject of his iconic, and often ironic, portraits. Nicole Kidman, Dennis Hopper, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Fry, Damien Hirst, Sienna Miller, Rupert Murdoch, Grayson Perry, Tony Blair and Prince Philip are just a selection of the many household names who have sat for Yeo. Renowned for his distinctive, highly figurative canvases and controversial collages, he employs a range of media and techniques to create a diverse body of work that expands the traditions of portraiture while examining contemporary perceptions of beauty, celebrity and power.
The Many Faces of Jonathan Yeo is the first major publication on the artist. Featuring his most popular paintings, drawings, collages and prints, the book also presents several new canvases made especially for the show. Alongside his intimate portraits of well-known sitters are dramatic and unsettling studies of cosmetic-surgery patients that document the compulsive and painful pursuit of physical perfection. Dozens of studio shots and photographs of works in progress reveal Yeos working practice and chart the process of creating individual portraits. Numerous contributions from his subjects lift the lid on what it is like to be scrutinised by the artists exacting, forensic eye and to have oneself captured on canvas for ever. Martin Gayford discusses Yeos work within the history of society portraiture, while a wide-ranging interview between the artist and Sarah Howgate, curator of the National Portrait Gallery show considers why in our image-saturated world of instant celebrity, the slowly hand-crafted portrait matters more than ever. Not just a monograph on a single artist, this book is also an enlightening exploration of the state of portraiture today and gives an insight into the risks faced by both portraitist and sitter.

Purgatory/Paradise by the Throwing Muses

Throwing Muses return with their first studio album in over a decade – published as a book.

Purgatory/Paradise is a 32-track album which is being released as a deluxe 64-page book containing:

• the full studio album on CD
• photographs and artwork by Dave Narcizo and Kristin Hersh
• lyrics for each song
• stories and essays by Kristin Hersh to accompany each track
• instructions on how to download exclusive content

The exclusive content will only be available with this special book edition.

Hersh still transmits a visionary quality through her songs, her writings only adding to the sense of compulsion 4/5.” Mojo

Strong return 9/10.” Uncut

They manage to sound quite like nobody else, their songs coiled and complex.” Independent on Sunday

Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work by Justin Schiller and Dennis David

The preeminent children’s book artist of the 20th century, Maurice Sendak and his 60-year career are celebrated in this full-colour catalogue of more than 200 images being exhibited at the Society of Illustrators in New York City from June 11-August 17, 2013. Accompanied by 12 essays from such noted scholars and historians as Leonard S. Marcus, Iona Opie, Steven Heller and Paul O. Zelinsky, Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work showcases the collection of Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M. V. David, prominent authorities on Sendak’s artwork, and is a deeply personal and thoughtful tribute to a seminal artist whose singular vision has captured the imaginations of countless children and grownups throughout the world.

Roy G Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Colour by Jude Stewart

Why is the sky blue? Why is pink for girls and blue for boys? Why do prisoners wear orange? And why can one colour have so many opposite meanings? If lobsters are a red emblem of privilege how is it that a red flag can also be the banner of Communism?

Jude Stewart, a design expert and writer, digs into this rich subject with gusto, telling her favourite stories about colour as she discovers what it can really mean. Each chapter is devoted to a colour, opening with an infographic map that links such unlikely pairings as fox-hunting and flamingos. From there on in, you’re plunged into a kaleidoscopic tour of the universe that encompasses everything from wildflowers to Japanese warriors. The links between them reveal hidden realities that you never would have suspected.

Roy G. Biv is a reference and inspiration for everyone, with sidebars and graphics galore. The aim is simple: to tantalise and inform, and to make you think about colour in a completely new way.

And finally – something very funny…

Squared Away: A Doonesbury Book by Garry Trudeau

This all-color volume celebrates the marriage of Alex and Toggle, an event which optimistically confirms that life, like Doonesbury, rolls on. Indeed, how remarkable that the strip has so embraced and occupied its era that three generations of one family have married within its panels. Gathering their kith and kin around them at Walden, the wise but wounded soldier-artist and the brilliant but insecure techhead make a promising team for the years ahead, well-rounded yet squared away.

Doonesbury’s fifth decade finds the largest rep company in the history of comic strips fully and widely engaged. Like so many flesh-and-blood fellow citizens, key characters now struggle with dramatic career change and job stress. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to reverberate through the lives of others, as the strip illuminates their experiences with an attentiveness unparalleled in popular culture. Amid the relentless unfolding of unexpected storylines, the strip’s second and third generation characters increasingly take center stage, and the youngest regular, Sam, comes of age—literally in the blink of an eye—as the newlyweds prepare to welcome twins.

Happy Reading!

Brett Murray – text of speech from event…

Monday, January 27th 2014 at 11:33 AM

We were very luck to host the launch of Brett Murray’s first retrospective publication. He came armed with a speech, in which he spoke about his art and his family – and about the controversy surrounding The Spear for the very first time. We are delighted to be able to present below – for those who could not make it, or those who would like to revisit – the complete text of the speech….


“As I have explained to some of you already, in all honesty this book represents nothing more than the end result of a massive mid-life crisis. It was either do this book or get a Harley Davidson and a grow ponytail and trawl the bars on Long Street. I am still not sure I made the right decision.

The myth where I place myself outside of conventional cultural paradigms, David throwing stones at Goliath, should have been exposed for the fraud that it is a long time ago. Ultimately this should have become apparent when I discovered that my work was being taught at high schools, as part of the syllabus. I should have realised then that I am no longer a dissident, a young anarchist, a subversive agitator rattling the cages of the establishment. I am the establishment!!. I have been bought by the Palace! The Che Guevara of the Suburbs. Have I sold out or just bought in? I am not sure, but I now represent the old folks boogie. The ageing Barry Manilow of the visual dance-floor. Hopefully with this book, the young and edgy might find something to remix and catapult me onto the 21st century’s dance-card. I can only dream.

Growing up I would always look at the older generation of artists and say to myself, with the arrogance of youth and after many beers: “What wankers!” With this book I have become one of those wankers. So indulge me a bit as I savour and share with you my few final dribbles. And, who knows, there might be something left in this aging, pretend -pretend iconoclast’s last dying twitches that could still drizzle on a few parades…

A few years ago I might have called Jacana and asked if they were interested in publishing a coffee table book of my work. They would have asked” Brett who..? ” And this would have been an appropriate response. I was… you see… massive only in Woodstock. So it is with deep irony that I have to thank the current custodians of our democracy for the leg up they have given me in terms of name recognition…if anything.

A few months ago I was having my blood taken by a large grumpy and officious looking Xhosa woman for a middle age prostate issue when…and I am petrified of needles thanks to a few lumbar punctures I received at an impressionable age… she plunges a needle into my arm and asks me sternly if I am “That Brett Murray? ”

What would you do? My poepall puckered and I denied…denied…denied…. She wasn’t convinced …and asked me repeatedly…” Are you sure you are not That Brett Murray?!?”… Until I finally faced my ultimate fear like a man and sheepishly confessed… “Yes it’s me…I am him!”.

She guffawed, smiled broadly and said that she had just been talking about the Spear thing with her nursing friends that very morning…and invited them all in to my bloodletting for introductions. They were delighted to meet me and we went on a sad and funny tirade against the powers that be, all wishing me good fortune and a peaceful future, with huge bosomy hugs, nogal! A close call. Thank God I don’t live in Kwa Zulu Natal.

The idea for a book came from many threads and thoughts. A part of it might be to mark an end of a period of production…or maybe to contextualise the recently contentious events. Or just something to make my mother proud. The comic darkness that I often attempt to mess with in my work is not nature … rather nurture. My family make The Simpsons look like The Swiss Family Robinson.

My parents can take full responsibility for the cover pics of the book, both back and front. For the back cover: I was 6 years old and I was cast as a Zulu warrior for a school play, as were a few of my friends. Being at an apartheid driven all white school in Pretoria in the 60’s, our parents had to transform us from lilly white to Zulu black. This was done with no irony or reflection …rather as a matter of course. Troubled times indeed! Deeply problematic and tragic…. but also comic in hindsight.

Regarding nurture: Dress -up was always interesting at the Murray household. I went to the Jewish Manora Nursery School, also in Pretoria. I am as Jewish as the Pope. Purim is an annual celebration where Jewish children dress up: often in masks as Princes and Princesses and the like, for a holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them. My Mom, in her dark wisdom, dressed me up as an Arab and ushered me in. Politically shrewd and challenging… or just plain insensitive? Not sure. Needless to say…I was hurled out.

Many years later I was travelling with Sanell, my wife, in Italy researching my Crocodile Tears show. This body of work commingles the pomp and ceremony of European High Renaissance with that of the Mbeki era of sycophancy and cant, where the overriding question still remains: Do we own or storm the Bastille? I was imagining a kind of failed African Renaissance flavoured with the sanctimoniousness of the shameful era of Aids denialism. On the show I presented many ostentatious images of the privileged and the powerful. The figures were in full Renaissance finery, but now the white faces of expediency where transformed into the black faces of entitlement.

I was refining these themes when I remembered the images of myself in black face as a Zulu warrior, one of which I had previously used as an invitation to the show called White Boy Sings The Blues. I wanted to return the favour and now dress my parents up in black face and take a few pics of them watching rugby on their double-bed in a small flat in Fish Hoek. A confused pseudo- African Royal Family of the New South Africa… with Brandy and Tabs in hand-not sure where it was going- but an image I couldn’t get out of my head. My father once astutely said to me, with a sprinkling of racism, apropos his sad economic state of affairs and related to the privileges he had received in South Africa, that he…quote… “Was a waste of white skin…” where his colour just barely allowed him a foot- hold into the middle class. While visiting Florence we received an e- mail from a friend saying he was sorry to hear that my dad had passed away. It was the Tab that finally got him, I am sure. Bad news travels quickly…so by the time I called home it was only 2 hours after his passing. I got through to an informal wake. We are not religious. My Dad was an architect and thought he was God. I had a very teary conversation with my remaining family.

After a while, grieving with my mom on the phone, she related to me that everyone was around my dads body…talking to him…crying and laughing at the retelling of the many colourful stories that followed him wherever he went, when there was a reflective silence in the room. Maybe for once the TV was off. My mom noticed a change in my dad…he was a big fellow…the Tab didn’t do anything for his huge girth…My Mom notices he is changing colour…going a bit yellow and asks everyone present: “Guess who dad looks like now?…. Homer Simpson!” At which point everyone cracks up and roars with laughter…as do I in my mom’s long distance retelling.

Sick and wrong or sick and right? I am not sure… but this is my genetic make up. Using humour to get through. So in memory of my father, and of both my parent’s guilt and innocence in turning me into a Zulu warrior years earlier, I black-faced myself instead. And this is the front cover.

Choosing the cover was difficult. More so with the Spear Saga being still so close and hanging over me. This image had been used on the cover of Art South Africa a few years ago. I was, and still remain, confident of both its awkward nuances and my intentions with this photograph, particularly in the context of the rest of the works I produced for the show. But what the Spear Saga has unveiled is a self-consciousness, a cross questioning and a doubt in my practice, an acute self-censorship which is exactly what the current crop at the helm would want. Pre- censorship. Not that I am ignorant of the complexities of images of blackface.

I mailed Jacana with a few of these misgivings:

“The cover, as you know, has been a worry for me. My default setting is to be provocative…so me in blackface ticks this box. My concern is that it will be read as proof to the naysayers of my innate racism. Much of my prevarication is definitely post Spear, which is of deep concern for me going forward. I had no problems with this image being used a few years ago on the Art SA cover. Although the blackface trope is deeply problematic… I am the butt of the joke in this work. It will, in any case, be seen by some as the continuation of postcolonial arrogance. Is it not a bit Leon Schuster?”

Jacana ignored this cry for help! Thanks Bridget.

It is this double guessing that I need to challenge vigorously going forward. Oddly enough…and tellingly I think…artists do reflect and change there minds and grow and fine-tune. Ironically, there were two works that were on the original Hail to The Thief Show in Cape Town that, after putting the works up and listening to various responses to them, seemed to me to fail in tone and were ineffective in reflecting what I was trying to articulate. The first was directly aimed at Zuma and after considerations came across to me as a cheap shot about education and culture. This is ironic in light of the unfolding events. The second work could be read as misdirected and metaphorically over reached musings on venality. These were in hindsight, failed works, so I decided not to show them in JHB on the show that caused all the problems. This is the natural way to hone your craft. To present and to reflect and to cull and to shift. To pull the various threads together, and to tighten. Like a stand up comics routine, my own assessments and presentation of my work is always shifting and changing. This remains the privilege and sanctuary of the artist producing the work, and the potential cullings and distillations that these reflections might effect must be the exclusive domain of the artist, certainly not that of government organs and institutions or current political parties or factions.

That a few sarcastic t-shirts put together by high school students have recently offended the current crop in power is telling.

Transgressive ideas and imagery push and shift boundaries and if effectively used and charged can result in cathartic understandings and fresh reflections. Works and ideas that divide and challenge are interesting to me. I am drawn to this thin edge of the wedge, but not exclusively. With these works the possibilities for discussion are often effected.

A while ago, in 1997, the Italian stand up comic Roberto Begnini imagined and directed the beautiful and uncomfortable parable, the film, Life is Beautiful. Set in Italy at the time of the rise in fascism and the incarceration of Italian Jews into concentration camps, the film reflected on the true story of Roberto’s father’s concentration camp memories.

In the film, when a family is sent to the concentration camps and the family is split up, Guido, the father figure, uses a game to explain features of the concentration camp that would otherwise be terrifying for his young son: the guards are vicious only because they want to win a tank for themselves; the dwindling numbers of children (who are being killed by the camp guards) are only hiding in order to score more points so they can win the game. He puts off his son’s requests to end the game and return home by convincing him that they are in the lead for the tank, and need only wait a short while before they can return home in it. Despite being surrounded by the misery, sickness, and death at the concentration camp, Joshua does not question this fiction because of his father’s convincing performance and his own innocence. Gripping…gruelling and darkly funny.

The film caused massive ructions within the Jewish communities. It seriously offended some liberal critics and the reception to it by various holocaust communities was divided. Some thought it was an effective metaphor and a story hauntingly told through humour and allegory, others were disgusted that the horrors of the Nazi’s could be so insensitively portrayed and ultimately debase the memories of the deaths of their loved ones. Marches and boycotts were the order of the day. There are no right opinions. I loved the film. It won the Best Foreign Film of the year at the Oscars that year.

The point is, it is up to artists and play writes, film makers and poets and the like to attempt to tell these uncomfortable stories, or these stories uncomfortably, to invent, to re-imagine, to construct metaphors and to be able to do this without fear and without the added burden of an abusive government with its attempts to censor and sanitize these, and by proxy, all ideas.

As the author Hanish Kureshi has written: ‘You can never know what your words may turn out to mean for yourself or someone else; or what the world they make will be like. Anything could happen. The problem with silence is that we know exactly what it will be like.’

I am my own worst critic. I am as battle weary as all of us are regarding the meta-narratives of this troubled country. I so don’t want to see another film about the 
B- I- G issues in South Africa, see a play about apartheid oppression or read a book about the continuing poverty of many South Africans or, as one of my recent press statement reads: “ Murray’s bronzes, etchings, paintings and silk-screens form part of a vitriolic and succinct censure of bad governance and are his attempts to humorously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite”… Don’t you just want to run screaming and go and see Shrek in 3D? I do. But this is the uncomfortable monkey on my back. It is what I do and have to do and will return to again and again. And although it might seem that what social commentators are producing, are reflections of what is happening “out there” exclusively, pointing accusatory fingers, and to some it might look like a gallery has been lambasted with wet newspapers leaving behind only traces of current headlines and popular graphics, all the work we do is driven by an internal, almost therapeutic and private process.

In reflecting on what is unfolding we hope to articulate a very personal understanding and an idiosyncratic psychological sense of place, and we begin to describe who we are with this anomalous vision. Paradoxically through this critique and comic exposure, we actually begin to define a preferred ideal in which we would like to live. Autobiographical by default. As there should be: in this process there is a constant re-calibration and fine- tuning of who I am, where I am, my privilege, my class and inevitably, I suppose, my whiteness. And this is all good.

More than 40 years ago, and also in Pretoria, I was busy in an art class with a paper folding, origami type project. I keenly set about making a paper figure. I produced what I thought was a great example of the possibilities of folded paper and shared this with all and sundry. This was many, many years before the internet…. but my work and copies of it spread through the school corridors and from classroom to classroom, jumping from suburb to suburb via lift clubs and bus routes and into neighbourhood schools and finally arriving at family homes with a speed equal to the copy and paste of currently shared files.

( I showed the audience an approximation of what I had made many years before… a paper cut out figure of a man in a suit…when you pull on his legs an oversized penis folds out.)

My piece looked like this…I was 8 years old…. another dick joke

Needless to say the authorities tracked this down to source…. me…and I was beaten by the our fascist class teacher. He had special canes with hosepipes covering sections of cropped fishing rods, fitted with bicycle grip handles. I am sure that if I really concentrate hard, I have memories of seeing the indications of a flange twitch in his trousers with every lashing he gave me. Nice job if you are into that sort of thing.

Years later when a book was published revealing the membership details of the Broederbond, it came as no surprise to me that our class teachers name was amongst the other fascists listed. Ironically, I can now hardly differentiate between the ANC’s Chancellor House, a kind of official avenue for state sanctioned corruption, where huge deals favour the cronies within the new predatory elite, and the Broederbond, which functioned similarly and achieved indistinguishable corrupt ends.

Humour comes in different packages and sizes. Arthur Koestler wrote a great book called The Act Of Creation that basically looks at scientific discovery and compares this to humour and the invention of comedy. He postulates that scientific discovery is often the chance conjoining of two separate scientific paradigms, the unexpected merging of previously unrelated sights of enquiry. At the moment of this scientific insight is the cry of Eureka. Similarly, comic invention applies the same principle with the unexpected fusion of unlikely scenarios being celebrated through laughter or sniggers. These humorous inventions run the full range from the one-liner to the metaphorical novel, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The more critical might view The Spear as probably the least sophisticated of all of these constructions. It is a dick joke after all…

They might add that The Spear, which appears wide in girth, at the end of the day, lacks real conceptual depth …and is probably short of staying power.

The critical are a well hung jury. And depending on my mood …I might or might not agree with them.

That the work hit its mark is not in doubt though.

Its just a pity that all the work I have produced up to the Spear, and all the work I will make going forward will always be seen in relation to this event. This could be an albatross around my neck going forward…. or just an irritation…depending on how I deal with it, I suppose.

It nearly didn’t see the light of day. I was ambivalent about adding the dick to the painting. I thought then, and still do now, that it might have been a stronger and a more layered work without it. Specifically in the context of the rest of the show where I was parodying the pseudo- Soviet iconography and Comrade- Viva- Viva language of the new pigs at the trough. MasterCard Marxists, at best. But I stuck with it once it was painted more out of laziness than anything else.

If I had given the painting an erection, which I was considering, I am not sure I would be here to tell this sorry tale.

I have made a few dick jokes along the way. Years ago, in about 1983, I did a sculptural portrait of a friend. His testosterone levels were legendary. We all loved him for it…. mostly. He wore, with honesty… how can I put it nicely? …his balls on his sleeve. I did a portrait of him as a set of such balls, in high-gloss pink, with a dick as a nose so that the whole set up, with a ginger hair arrangement, looked like a face. Funny… maybe… a bit harsh …definitely…but hey?! I was probably channelling my jealousy of his formidable success rate. He didn’t sue me or beat me up. Our friendship has lasted.

In 1986 I produced a sculpture called “ King” for a body of work looking at patriarchy and the military. I sculpted an image of implied onanistic pleasures, where a young king simultaneously sucks on a pacifier while hosting a small erection, metaphorically answering the call to “Go and fuck yourself”. In 1989 I produced a work called Voortrekker. A direct translation would be “Front puller” or rather Wanker in English, of a monkey with a gun on his back playing with his dick. I revisited this image recently, without the gun, and called it One Party State. What goes around comes around, it seems.

I have given a sunburnt Bart Simpson an erection in a work with the moniker “ I love Africa”. There is an intended ambiguity in its reading. Is this cultural relationship about rape or about consensual pleasures? I have recently done two French poodles nobbing each other called “Power and Patronage”….two pigs rutting away called “At The Trough”. A poodle with an erection called Mr. Entitled. A poodle with large boobs called Mrs. Entitled. And on and on…There are hundreds, if not thousands of explicit sexual metaphors in the history of art…I certainly didn’t invent this wheel.

The Kafkaesque events that unfolded regarding the Spear seemed to have been scripted by the Marx Brothers on acid. That is not: Harpo, Chico, Groucho and Zeppo… but rather Jakob, Blade, Jackson, and Gwede.

The script included a court case.

I can easily deconstruct and expose my own craft as that of a devious racist right wing apologist’s. These self-critical insights are the devils I listen too when I make my work and which I need to listen to when some of these works balance unsteadily on the satirists paradox, where there might appear to be contradictory celebrations of what you are actually attempting to expose. So I was apprehensive….to say the least.

I received the States legal documents from our attorneys. These included amongst others a file containing full colour images of the Spear and all of the Hail To the Thief works on show. With a combination of fear and delight I saw that Number 1 had to go through my entire show, work for work, and sign each page and image in his prepared affidavit.

Talk about “Speaking Truth To Power”…directly.

As it turns out the states lawyers could have benefited from my insights. The case, which was set out at the onset to last three days was given short shrift by the 3 judges and ended rather dramatically. We watched this unfold live on TV at Zapiros house. He was a sounding board for me throughout this saga. He had been down this absurd rocky road before…court cases and death threats. We also shared legal teams. He had a few Zuma court cases pending and was interested to see how this fight panned out.

Watching this mini drama on TV I had my first whiskey in 12 years. Purely medicinal! It was a large jug.

As the court case unfolded I was receiving sms’s from our legal team from inside the court room: “ Did you hear that…the judge says your works are powerful” and “ Their case is falling apart and we haven’t even started our arguments yet” and on and on.

Nazeer Cassim, one of Zuma’s personal lawyers, had been trying behind the scenes to get the ANC to withdraw the case, but with no luck. On the day of the court case he approached the ANC protagonists and said that Zuma wanted to settle. It seems that, for whatever reasons, Zuma didn’t want the case to go ahead.

A faction within the ruling party could see an opportunity for political gain and pressed on despite this.

We can only speculate why Zuma wanted out: The fanning of the flames of racism by a faction within the ANC and the resulting threats of violence was unhinging the country and this was becoming unmanageable. Maybe because the state had a weak case and Zuma had better legal opinion. Maybe Zuma didn’t want his dirty laundry publicly aired, again. Or he is a very, very weak president and that the seat of power lies at Lithuli House. Probably a combination of all…Whatever.

Just before the start of the trial there was another call made, apparently to Zuma, by the ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu insisting that the ANC were going ahead with the case despite the president wanting out.

Interesting. Especially in the light of the preceding court events where it was quickly pointed out by the judges that neither The Office of the President nor The ANC as an organisation could be part of the legal arguments in the unfolding case as it was ultimately between the artist, myself, and Zuma as an individual, not even as the president! So with those institutions playing no further part in the proceedings and with the knowledge that Zuma, in his personal capacity, did not want the case to go ahead at all and with the ANC’s Advocate Malindi being dropped in the legal deep end by the conflicting ANC factions, and not presenting arguments that the work or my intentions were racist, which should have been the cornerstone of their arguments…Malindi buckled under the pressure and broke down in tears. It wasn’t going to be easy for him. He had conceded after some tough questioning by one of the judges that:”It is not a racial issue.”

The court was adjourned and both legal teams where immediately summonsed into the Judges chambers to discuss a way forward.

Our legal team where demanding to be given an opportunity to present our arguments before the close of the days proceedings…but the ANC where running scared and would have none of it.

I felt for their advocate. He was caught between a rock and a hard case. He has my utmost respect for the sacrifices he made on all of our behalves. He spent 2 years on Robben Island. Advocate George Bizos, one of our few remaining heroes, describes him as a gentle spirit. The subsequent racially driven, face-saving spin by the ANC that it was for Malindi a reminder of his court case when he was on trial as one of the Delmas Treason trialists, where he was cross questioned aggressively by a white Afrikaans Judge, was only half the truth. If that.

And then in the inimitable words of the Secretary General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe: “What we can’t win in the courts we will win in the streets!”. So much for our constitutional democracy.

Death threats against the protagonists escalated. Lissa Esser, the gallery owner, received threats from people claiming to be MK veterans that her gallery would be bombed. She employed bodyguards because of personal death threats as well. A call was made for the boycott of the City Press…a strategy that was used as a tool during “the struggle”. Ferial Haffajee ultimately capitulated under the pressure and took the image off the City Press website as demanded by the ANC. She would later say that she, and all of us, where played and with hindsight would never cede to the bullying tactics of the state again.

Journalists were then, and are still now, scathing of her decision. In her defence…we were all incredibly vulnerable and it’s difficult for others to comprehend the pressures and fears that had enveloped all of us at the time. I always thought that the press was the cornerstone of this battle and should have taken centre stage. An unhindered and free press is crucial for our democracy. Artistic freedom of expression, although obviously important, seems like a sideshow in our context. So although I was as disappointed as others, I understood where Ferial’s decision came from.

That the painting was used for expedient political ends was obvious, and the states legal team virtually conceded this to various protagonists. The whole saga was 90% politics and 10% art.

Following the unfolding saga in the media, I was encouraged to see commentators come out immediately in support of the painting and in favour of an unfettered freedom of speech, as is constitutionally enshrined. Mondli Makanya, the Sunday Times columnist: Pierre de Vos, the constitutional law expert: Anton Harber, the Journalist professor and founding editor of the Weekly Mail, Justice Malala, a sharp political and social commentator and also Feriel Haffajee. They were all scathing about the states reactions to the painting.

I remained silent throughout the ordeal because I instinctively thought that this would be wise. I also just wanted to listen. An out of context and angry sound bite would not further our cause either…and certainly appearing with the shrill Napoleon wanna be Blade Nzimande and Debora Patta in a debate, live on 3rd Degree… which I was invited to be part of …would have been fatal. I would rather have brain surgery with no anaesthetics.

I was, at the time, vacillating between tears of frustration and a potentially violent anger…things that do not come across well on TV…so I declined this, and many other local and international media invitations from New Delhi…Helsinki…New York …London… Sydney and many, many other requests for interviews.

So for the idiots in the art-world who have said that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt … I have no words.

I was as interested as everyone was in the various debates and positions that were discussed and taken regarding the painting. The more measured conversations ultimately came down to where freedom of expression ends and the right to dignity begins. I am well aware of our shameful history that necessitated this right to dignity to be included in our eloquent constitution. The arguments that the work perpetuated post- colonial visions of oversexed black males are equally important. We all have to be constantly reminded of these issues and our context.

Ironically I was busy with another work at about the same time as The Spear that articulates some of these issues. This is a text work and ventilates what has been called elsewhere: “Poor-nography” and the post-colonial gaze and reads: What is it about photographs of black men, centrally framed, looking back at you from desolate surroundings, that gives you a neo-colonial half-lazy?….

Again the sexual innuendo…I can’t help myself!!

So I didn’t go in blind. Knowing these issues I decided to bite the bullet and express directly what I understand to be musings on the venal abuse of power in a patriarchy that accommodates a president’s well-documented carnal curiosity.

I found it informative that once the states propaganda machine had been amped up, and once the calls of racism had been sparked and fanned, and in the tinder dry context of poverty stricken South Africa, these flames would catch…this was populist propagandising at its very core…. I found it interesting that all of those commentators who had unequivocally supported the painting to begin with, started to hedge their bets and were now calling for a freedom of expression with added caveats and provisos. The right to dignity, and the like.

J.M Coetzee wrote in his essay Taking Offence, and rather appropriately in the context of The Spear: “ A censor pronouncing a ban…is like a man trying to stop his penis from standing up. The spectacle is ridiculous, so ridiculous that he is soon a victim not only of his unruly member but of pointing fingers, laughing voices. That is why the institution of censorship has to surround itself with secondary bans on the infringement of its dignity.”

You don’t find a cure for cancer in the comments section of newspaper websites. However…I did find it informative to read what the general public was saying on these, and other platforms. And although there was much vitriolic flag waving and threats of violence, there were equal amounts of support. This was also enlightening in that the fault lines of these debates and discussions were not based on race. This despite the States attempt to colour the saga accordingly.

A social media message, which ruffled a few feathers when it was sent out by Tselane Tambo, the late ANC President Oliver Tambo’s daughter, read:

“So the Pres JZ has had his portrait painted and he doesn’t like it.
Do the poor enjoy poverty? 
Do the unemployed enjoy hopelessness? 
Do those who can’t get housing enjoy homelessness? 
He must get over it. No one is having a good time. He should inspire the reverence he craves. This portrait is what he inspired. Shame neh!”

Harsh words indeed.

Two of South Africa’s senior artists, who I share a gallery with and whose work and political positioning I respect and admire, both are white, had conflicting positions on the Spear issue. One called me and said he thought I should take the work down, that my point had been made… and the other thought I should not buckle under the pressure and succumb to the bullies and that we should take it to the Constitutional Court.

The support I received and the hate mail I received through my website were equally divided between the various race groups.

There is a now huge gray area and this can only be positive going forward in our new democracy.

Its just a pity that there was not a more measured response by the state and a call for discussion rather than the attempts to brutally suppress the freedom of speech through anger manufacturing and political grandstanding.

But in all honesty…surely the powers that be have a country to run.

Education in crisis, unemployment…housing, health…and lest we not forget …rampant corporate and government driven corruption.

The Marikana slaughter was around the corner. These are the issues of the day. Not a small rant by a disillusioned and angry artist. Shrug this off and do what governments do…govern.

I believe the defacing of the painting was staged. At the time it happened I was actually relieved – it seemed to lower the temperature considerably. I was concerned that there might be violence and possible killings that I didn’t want in any way to be associated with, or a victim of. And although a settlement was finally agreed to, I still believe, fundamentally and to my core, that there are no compromises with regards the freedom of expression. This, unfortunately, would include us having to listen to the views of Boere Volkstad blogs, old school apartheid believers, Oraanje separatists and the like, spewing out their racist nonsense… and all of us having to defend their rights to do so.

Naom Chomsky put it succinctly when he said: “ If we don’t believe in the freedom of expression for those who we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

As I have said earlier, I was keen to see the case go to the Constitutional Court. I articulated this to our lawyers through a haze of industrial strength tranquilizers. We were also all anxious to get out of the hell that this relentless public scrutiny had become for us. Our legal team received information; I am guessing from someone within the state, that all of our phones where being tapped in order to monitor our legal strategy. We were warned to use safe phones. Sound familiar? (Those in power were not uniform in the condemnation of the painting…but all were silent…) My assistant of 17 years and his family were receiving unpleasant and continued violent threats from some members of his community in Khayalisha. The spokesperson for the Shembe Church, representing 5 million worshipers publicly called for my public stoning to death…it was serious. We had to leave our house and studios for a safe place. We were terrified.

I had started planning to move my family out the country if the case was to drag out and go to the Constitutional Court. The eventual settlement, however disappointing from a principled perspective, was pragmatic and allowed us all to get on with our lives as best we could.

The march on the Gallery was nothing more than the protagonists saving face after a brutal beating in the High Court. They insisted on going ahead with this march while seemingly scrambling and desperate to negotiate the settlement. The march was nevertheless unbearable for me to watch. I was deeply troubled by the message that was being sent out about our country, both locally and abroad…but more so on a very personal level. Those images were deeply scaring and remain so.

The more cynical would say that bussing in 4500 unemployed people from Limpopo, at the drop of a hat, with promises of a t-shirt, a placard and a lunch voucher is more an expose of the new elites inability to generate employment for our people and the cynical exploitation of these vulnerable citizens for political agendas, than anything else.

A few months after the saga came to an end I had an interesting conversation with retired Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs. He argues for a culture of nation building and celebration. I argue that criticizing bad governance and questionable leadership is as patriotic and builds nations equally. Senior Council Jules Browde , who was a founding member of the Lawyers for Human Rights in the 80s was also part of the conversation and summed it up cogently: He said: “ If you can write it…you can paint it”.

That the States apologists can’t decipher irony was made beautifully clear when they were set up in front of my artwork called “Manifesto” at the Goodman Gallery for the public announcement of the Spear settlement.

The work spells out in large red and gold letters:


Its my favourite memory of the sorry saga…

Where I felt we had capitulated, Albie said that the settlement should be seen as a victory for us and for the freedom of expression. I was not so sure. A few months later, the night before Zuma’s cases against Zapiro were to start, a settlement was fashioned and agreed to by the state. I think that the state, on this issue, has been silenced …for now…however which way they want to spin it. So Albie might be right.

Surely part of the presidential manual is that you will be up for public scrutiny from society and that this would include lampooning and uncomfortable comedic satire, accurate or not. In all democracies this is grist for the mill. The cabinet should get out more often. They would see and hear across the country scathing and tasteless jokes being told about them by all and sundry. Ayanda Mabulu’s paintings are but one example. Trevor Noah, the stand up comic, does a sketch, which predates the Spear by a few years, and has him on stage mimicking the Presidents faltering reading speech patterns, hauling out his, that is Zuma’s metaphorical dick…and slapping the faces of cabinet ministers with it, much to the hilarity of a packed and demographically accurate audience. Now that is a transgressive image if ever there was one! Clinton got the treatment. Berlusconi gets the same, as did Prince Charles. Those in public office will continue to suffer the consequences of an exposed Achilles Dick. Look at the troubles it has caused Vavi recently. For satirists a president’s sexual peccadilloes are manna from Heaven. A bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

So, finally, regarding the sorry saga…. It was with equal measures of anger and disappointment that I have expressed my contempt for some in the new regime who are undermining the victories that have been achieved through their corruption and guile and who are effectively desecrating the graves of our struggle heroes. Political correctness and self-censorship are not cornerstones of effective political satire. If they were it would not be called satire, rather “ Ironic Praise Singing.” Parody is part of the satirist’s arsenal and it is often through this that I hope to expose the new pigs at the trough. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where you stand, nothing is sacred.

That some faction of a political party saw fit to jackboot through a gallery space and call for the burning of an exhibition and suppress a newspaper editor’s independence and by proxy attempt to censure the ideas of artists, playwrights, poets, film makers, social commentators, stand up comics and the like, and coming so soon after the apartheid regimes attempts to do the same, this was eye opening, shortsighted and ultimately chilling.

The silence of those within the echelons of power when there were public incitements made for the killing of some of us, and when private death threats were made public, renders them all complicit in the attempts to subvert the constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression and in the brutal suppression of dissent.

I have received many bits of correspondence from many quarters. Two stand out.

A Supreme Court of Appeal Judge sought out my e-mail address and wrote to me. It must be noted that the author in question is no apartheid lackey. The judge is not white either, and had this to say to me:

“ Because your case is no longer proceeding – and there is no danger of my having to recuse myself for expressing my solidarity with one of the protagonists in the litigation over the Spear – it would not be inappropriate for me to express my solidarity with you.

The basic idea that you convey in your ‘Goodman exhibition’ –the decent of the governing party into venality – is felt by many of our compatriots and I have to say that the conduct of some of the temporary custodians of the governing party over your painting was nothing less than shameful. They, not you, have lost their way.

By contrast your contribution has been consistent – from you’re principled opposition to Apartheid to living by the values which that struggle taught you.

I wish you well and salute your courage.”

As we seem to be living in a script that embraces simultaneously both tragedy and farce, here is another bit of correspondence I received at about the same time that reads:

“Dear Mr. Murray

We do much of our work globally in 25 countries in brand strategy, events, PR, sponsorship and digital content management.

We are exploring the idea of partnering with you as part of a new product packaging for a lifestyle intimacy brand. This is part of a global campaign that is geared towards changing and improving attitudes towards sexual intercourse as a pleasureful and a natural human endeavour. We hope to drive positive behaviour towards not only the brand but sexual intercourse as a human experience.

The idea is to brief you to design the new product packaging for condoms, lubes and other associated intimacy products, which will be revealed in September 2012.”

I cried laughing.

We seem to do this quite a lot.

Thanks for coming.”

Living in the City Story Time

Saturday, January 25th 2014 at 11:00 AM

citiesSome people live in cities, some in towns, some on farms, some like nomads, travel around all the time.

Sometimes when we get really busy we forget that we live in a great city. We love Cape Town, don’t we? Today we will read stories about cities and with paper and pens we will make our own cities.

Please join us in the city bowl!


Launch of Owning the Future: Lindiwe Mazibuko and the Changing Face of the DA by Donwald Pressly

Thursday, January 23rd 2014 at 5:30 PM

An unauthorised biography of Lindiwe Mazibuko, the first black person to lead the parliamentary opposition in South Africa: a crucial overview of the Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2014 general elections and a tale of the remarkable campaign led by a young team of MPs to replace a member of the old guard.

 Chapters include:

 Who is Lindiwe Mazibuko?

 “Cheeky Blacks”. What does the profile of Mazibuko – and how Julius Malema denigrated her – say about being young, black and powerful in South Africa today?

 “Dirty Laundry” For the first time in Opposition history, the intrigues surrounding an internal party election spilled over into local media.

 “Let’s talk money” Unpacking the DA’s economic policies and how Mazibuko supports these.


Launch of Brett Murray a Retrospective by Brett Murray

Tuesday, January 21st 2014 at 5:30 PM

Brett Murray invite

Brett Murray is a Pretoria-born,  South African artist mostly known for  his steel and  mixed-media  wall sculptures.  He  studied  at  the University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art where he was awarded his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1988 with distinction. From

1991 to 1994 he established the sculpture department at the University of Stellenbosch. This is his first book documenting his career over the past 30 years as a practicing artist.

This is the ultimate book on all things Brett Murray. Spanning his entire career, Brett Murray’s book boasts both powerful imagery, and reflective texts from his 80s cultural/struggle work, through his career to The Spear; the natural outcome of his art and reflections on injustices past and present.

The book features short introductions  at the start of each body of work, and includes contributions by Roger van Wyk, Michael Smith, Steve Dubin and Njabulo S Ndebele, among others. Each chapter is richly visual and extensively illustrated. The book takes an in-depth look at the artist, and the man.


Going to School Story Time

Saturday, January 18th 2014 at 11:00 AM

school-bannerToday is our first story time for 2014. Can you believe it! Another year and some of you are going to school for the first time, be it Grade R or nursery school.

Join us for some funny going to school stories as we get ready to learn many exciting new things this year.



2014 Preview

Wednesday, January 8th 2014 at 2:03 PM


E.L. Doctorow: Andrew’s Brain – This giant of US literature (Ragtime, Billy Bathgate) returns with a new novel (Little, Brown)

Helen Dumore: The Lie – A story of loss set during World War One from the Orange Prize-winner (Hutchinson)

Armistead Maupin: The Days of Anna Madrigal – The last novel in the magical and wonderful ‘Tales of the City’ series (Doubleday)

Jojo Moyes: The One Plus One – Another outing for the author of the hugely successful Me Before You (Michael Joseph)

Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage – The prolific Oates brings us an examination of the psychological after effects of war (4th Estate)


Isabel Allende: Ripper – Allende turns to the thriller form with a story of a game gone very wrong (4th Estate)

David Grossman: Falling Out of Time – The award-winning Israeli author returns with a genre-defying drama – part play, part prose, part poetry – dealing with bereavement (Jonathan Cape)

Hanif Kureishi: The Last Word – Always wonderful, often provocative – Kureishi’s latest is about an ageing Indian writer and his biographer…(Faber)

Gary Shteyngart: The Little Failure – Russian immigrant memoir from the quirky Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story)  (Hamish Hamilton)

Chris Tsiolkas: Barracuda – A coming of age tale from the author of the internationally bestselling The Slap (Atlantic)

Audrey Magee: The Undertaking – A deeply affecting set on the Russian front in WWII – one to watch (Atlantic)

Helen Oyeyemi: Boy, Snow, Bird – The latest novel from the author of White Is for Witching and Mr Fox (Picador)

John Burnside: All One Breath – A new collection from the internationally acclaimed poet (Jonathan Cape)

Edmund White: Inside a Pearl – A memoir of the author’s years among the cultural and intellectual elite of 1980s Paris (Bloomsbury)


Emma Donoghue: Frog Music  – The author of the phenomenal Room returns with a shady crime tale based on a true story (Picador)

Damon Galgut: Arctic Summer – One of our absolute favourites returns with a novel set in Imperial India (Penguin)

Lorrie Moore: Bark – The author of the highly acclaimed The Gate at the Stairs returns with her first collection of short stories in 15 years  (Faber)


Peter Ackroyd: Chaplin – The prolific and masterful Ackroyd turns his attention to film icon Charlie Chaplin (Chatto)

Sebastian Barry: The Temporary Gentleman –  Multi award-winning Sebastian Barry’s new novel deals with war, self-examination and redemption (Faber)

Philip Gourevitch: You Hide That You Hate Me and I Hide That I Know – Philip Gourevitch (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow we will be Killed with Our Families) returns, twenty years after the genoicide, to Rwanda and the eastern Congo (Allen Lane)

Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone – A new novel from the Granta Best of Young British, Orange shortlisted author of Burnt Shadows and Open Book star (Bloomsbury)

Richard Powers: Orfeo – A composer’s artistic experiments arouse the suspicions of homeland security in a new novel from one of America’s most exciting novelists (Atlantic)


Colm Tóibín: Nora Webster – Set 10 years after the events of Brooklyn, this new novel returns to the small town she left, to unfold the story of a woman coping with widowhood. (Viking)

Satah Lotz: The Three – A new unsettling and dark tale from our very own Queen of the Zombies! (Hodder)

Joseph O’Connor: The Thrill of It All – Four friends form a band in the 1980s. Spanning 20 years this is a story of love, friendship, consequences and music! (Harvill)

Deon Meyer: CobraThe king of South African crime fiction returns with another case for our favourite rough diamond, Bernie Griessel (Hodder)

Jo Nesbo: The Son – The next fix for Nesbo’s legion of fans – there is murder afoot in Oslo…(Harvill)

Bryan & Mary Talbot: Sally Heathcote: Sufragette – The graphic novel duo behind Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes turn to the story of the campaign for votes for women (Jonathan Cape)

Lauren Beukes: Broken Monsters – Our good friend Lauren returns with a new thriller set in Detroit (Harper Collins)

Edward St Aubyn:  Lost for Words – A satire of literature, celebrity culture and ambition, as writers and judges jostle over the ultimate accolade – the Elysian prize for literature ( Picador).

Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner: Think Like a Freak More thoughts on how to make better decisions from the authors of Freakonomics (Allen Lane)

Tim Butcher: The Trigger: The Teenager Who Took the World to War – Timely biography of  Gavrilo Princip – the young man who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started WWI – oops! (Chatto)


Stephen King: Mr Mercedes – A retired cop, a race against time, an insight into the mind of an insane killer…King follows Dr Sleep with what he has described as his ‘first hard-boiled detective novel’ (Hodder)

Georges Perec: Portrait of a Man – The first novel by the author of Life: A User’s Manual, buried in a drawer in the 1950s and recently discovered by his biographer, features a forger – and a killer (MacLehose Press)

Naomi Klein: The Message – The Canadian literary political activist turns her attention to climate change. (Allen Lane).


Dave Eggers: The Visitants – A collection of travel writing from the acclaimed author (Hamish Hamilton)

Philip Hensher: The Emperor Waltz – Hensher’s ambitious new novel spans fourth-century Rome, 1920s Germany, and 1980s London, and is sure to be gripping (4th Estate)


Martin Amis: The Zone of Interest – The title refers to the outer perimeter of the camp at Auschwitz, as Amis returns to the imaginative territory of Time’s Arrow with a love story set amid Nazi horrors (Jonathan Cape)

The Moth, introduced by Neil Gaiman – The product of a not-for-profit organisation, this collection comprises real stories written by ordinary people, as well as established writers such as Malcolm Gladwell, Sebastian Junger and Nathan Englander (Profile)


David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks – The first novel in four years from the Cloud Atlas author is the “rich and strange” story of one woman’s life, from the 1980s to ecological disaster in the mid 21st century (Sceptre)

John Carlin: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius – The sprinter is due in court in March for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. John Carlin (Invictus) will be watching (Atlantic)

Simon Schama: The Story of the Jews: When Words Fail, 1492-Present Day – The second part of the ambitious work which started with the bestselling Finding the Words (Bodley Head)

Nick Hornby: [Untitled] – A new novel from the lovely Nick Hornby – more than this we do not yet know (Viking)


Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Murakami’s latest is already a smash hit in Japan. The story of an isolated thirty-something struggling with traumatic memories of high school, it is Murakami in realistic and sombre mood, according to transaltor Philip Gabriel (Harvill Secker)

Rose Tremain: The American Lover A new novel from the always brilliant and engaging Rose Tremain (Chatto)

Marilynne Robinson: Lila – Lila is the wife of John Ames from Robinson’s previous books, Gilead and Home; now her story will be told (Virago)


Michel Faber: The Book of Strange New Things His first full-length novel since 2002’s Victorian epic The Crimson Petal and the White begins with a missionary’s perilous journey (Canongate)

Mo Yan: Frog – The first new book from the controversial Chinese novelist since winning the Nobel prize in 2012 explores China’s one-child policy (Hamish Hamilton)

Please note that all publication dates refer to the UK, and were correct at the time of posting