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Archive for the ‘Book Excerpt’ Category

‘I’m absolutely a white African’ – An excerpt from Green in Black-and-White Times: Conversations with Douglas Livingstone

Green in Black-and-White TimesUKZN Press has shared an excerpt from the newly released Green in Black-and-White Times: Conversations with Douglas Livingstone by Michael Chapman.

The book recollects conversations over a period of almost 20 years between scientist-poet Douglas Livingstone and literary critic Michael Chapman.

In his preface, Chapman describes the conversations as “serious, humorous, ribald”, and says: “Douglas Livingstone often said that the poet, whether in serious, humorous or ironic vein, must aim to entertain readers. I hope that the extracts from, and commentary on, his poems, as well as our conversations, offer the reader both insight and enjoyment.”

Read an excerpt from the book’s opening:

An excerpt from Green in Black-and-White Times: Conversations with Douglas Livingstone by Books LIVE on Scribd

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‘How I Write’ – by literary legend Lewis Nkosi

Lewis Nkosi in Command
Image: Victor Dlamini


Writing HomeUKZN Press has shared an excerpt from the recently released Writing Home: Lewis Nkosi on South African Writing, edited by Lindy Stiebel and Michael Chapman.

Lewis Nkosi, who died in 2010, was a writer and essayist who spent 40 years in exile. He returned to South Africa, intermittently, after the unbannings of 1990, but his critical eye never left his home for long.

Writing Home showcases Nkosi’s wit, irony and moral toughness. In it, he assesses a range of leading writers, including Herman Charles Bosman, Breyten Breytenbach, JM Coetzee, Athol Fugard, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Alex la Guma, Bloke Modisane, Es’kia Mphahlele, Nat Nakasa, Njabulo S Ndebele, Alan Paton and Can Themba.

The following excerpt is taken from a chapter titled “How I Write”.


* * * * *

How I Write
from wordsetc: South African Literary Journal, First Quarter, 2011

It is not so long ago that European modernists, especially in France, used to say that when we read literature writing is everything. When we read books or listen to stories, we have access to the world through words or the word made flesh, as the Bible put it. The mystery, of course, is how something that seems as immaterial as words can be made flesh.

Recently, I twice broke into tears over the death of two fictional characters during a re-reading of a novel and a play; first over Anna’s death in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s famous novel, and then over Cleopatra’s suicide in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. In both works the two women commit suicide over love affairs that have gone badly wrong. Shakespeare’s character is, of course, supposed to be based on a true historical personage, but reading about her in a historical textbook had left me more or less indifferent. So what was it about reading the play about ‘The Serpent of Egypt’ dying defiantly in the throes of love, and trying to avoid humiliation in the hands of the Roman imperialists, that so moved me to tears? Cleo’s pride, her revulsion at being dragged triumphantly through the streets of Rome, achieves a height of sublimity in her self-induced death by the bite of a snake.

Some modernist theorists have sometimes gone so far as to suggest that writing is all, and they claim that beyond writing itself, there is nothing. Maurice Blanchot, then Roland Barthes and, certainly, Jacques Derrida became famously associated with the view that there was ‘nothing outside the text’.

In these discussions, society and the material world are sometimes grandly referred to as the real. The material world is seen as the very ‘outside’ of writing. But is it really? Is the real world that ‘outside’ of what we do when we write and are the effects that writing provokes so beyond comprehension?

After all, my tears shed over two women at the very limit of their despair, over Cleopatra’s suicide and Anna’s death, ground under the wheels of a railway train, were real enough; but how does the creation of illusion manage to produce such real effects? Sympathy, you will say. Empathy. A bit of psychology that goes some way to explain the mystery of the effects upon us of artistic representation, but psychology finally explains nothing.

When it comes to wielding a pen or a brush, how does the manipulation of words or paint finally bring them into contact with the real? It remains a mystery. The mirror is often used as a metaphor, but it is an inexact, even a misleading, metaphor.

The problem of ‘an inside that searches for an outside’ is not confined to art, but extends to questions of political representation. Not surprisingly, critiques of modernity, as two political scientists have told us, reside ‘where the blackmail of bourgeois realism is refused’, going beyond what already exists. Writers certainly and the world or the real resistant to any attempt to capture it through words.

I imagine the same is true of painters and sculptors. In artistic representation, ‘mirroring’ reality became a political issue with the arrival of modernity and the question of political representation. Consequently, what is called ‘true’ representation of reality is linked to the question of ‘authenticity’.

In black America and black South Africa what became prized above everything else in literature was referred to as ‘truth-telling’.

The joke and the irony is the attempt by white South African writers to ‘authenticate’ their works by trying to capture the reality of township life, of which they knew very little, while dismissing the parables of fellow writers such as JM Coetzee as far removed from this ‘reality’.

Nadine Gordimer’s rise to literary pre-eminence was based primarily on the perception in London and New York that she was able to describe life as it was lived by ‘real people’, black and white, in South Africa, but most importantly by black people in the township. When being questioned on Dutch television whether she felt comfortable about describing life in the township when she did not live there, she angrily retorted that she had at least slept for one night in the township!

Gordimer’s problem can thus be seen as the reverse of the black writers who created the so-called ‘township novel’. Not all but many of them began to think it was enough to have lived in the township to produce good novels about township life; craft could look after itself.

For me, writing is primarily a struggle with language; words refusing to be made ‘flesh’. When Shakespeare writes: ‘Full fathom five thy father lies / Of his bones are corals made!’, while I know that English people in the sixteenth century did not really speak like this, I find the lines true because of their music: that alliteration of the ‘f’ sound convinces me that a certain man lay in the depths of the sea as truly as if his body had been detected by laser beams.

What is Anna Karenina to me that I should weep for her? Why do I mourn Cleopatra?

A lot of it has to do with how words are put together. The rest is a mystery.

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Read ‘The Room of Family Holidays’ from Kobus Moolman’s Glenna Luschei Prize-winning anthology

Read “The Room of Family Holidays” from Kobus Moolman’s Glenna Luschei Prize-winning anthology

A Book of RoomsUKZN Press and Deep South Publishing have shared an excerpt from Kobus Moolman’s poetry anthology A Book of Rooms, which was announced as the winner of the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry this week.

The Glenna Luschei Prize is a pan-African poetry award worth $5 000 (about R84 000), overseen by the African Poetry Book Fund in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal Prairie Schooner.

In her comments, Judge Gabeba Baderoon called A Book of Rooms “electric, visceral, brilliantly experimental, and profoundly moving”.

Moolman was a guest of the Winter Warmer Festival in Cork, Ireland, last year, and his reading of “The Room of Family Holidays” is available to view on YouTube:

YouTube Preview Image


* * * * *


Read the poem:


The Room of Family Holidays
Bright sunlight. Fat smell of frying.

There is a long

window with thick metal burglar bars painted white The window
runs the length

of the room and looks out across the deep blue Indian ocean on
the south coast of

Natal It is a long narrow room with three single beds One bed is
perpendicular to the

room, in the middle, with its head against the back wall facing
the ocean (This bed is

reserved for his sister) A second bed is directly underneath the
window, and horizontal

to it, at the far end of the room The third bed is in the same
position but up against

the back wall The second bed is a source of continual dispute
between himself and

his brother Because both boys always want to sleep right by the
window so they can

be the first to see the ocean and to see the sun come up This
dispute is finally solved

by their father (with the help of his strap) who decides that they
must take turns to be

at the window on their annual Christmas holidays Although this
still does not prevent

them arguing over who slept there last and whose turn it is this
time About to go

into his final year at high school he feels that such squabbles are
below him, and he

magnanimously allows his brother access to the bed by the
window without any

argument, and with only a superior smile He feels that he is on
the brink of something

very significant in his life, something almost adult And though he
will perhaps feel

this same overwhelming power again For example when he buys
his first car, a 1982

white VW Jetta Mk1, or when he publishes his first – and only –
piece of writing, a

rhyming poem on Mother’s Day in a consumer tabloid distributed
free from local Spar

supermarkets It will never be with the same absolute confidence
in his ability to get

what he wants And what he wants now is to find a way to talk to
the long-legged blonde

girl who stays in the big cottage at the top of the road, with its
own private access

to the beach via a long flight of steps made from old railway
sleepers And so he

doubles up on the arm and chest and leg exercises he does with
his expander springs

(the thick ones with the blue handles, not the red ones which are
too easy) Even

though his mother warns him not to strain himself And he swims
in the surf directly

in front of her house even at high tide (when his mother warns
him not to because of

his weak legs and the strong undertow) And he tans himself at
low tide on the flat

black rocks in full view of her pathway So that she has no choice
but to notice him

And when she smiles at him on the third day and says hello how
are you on the fourth

he knows with a certainty as firm as the black rocks that he is
chosen And that

he will always get what he wants Just by willing it And on the fifth
day she invites

him to her house and into her small bedroom (with a big blue
teddy bear on the bed)

and together they listen to a stretched tape of the Beatles’
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely

Hearts Club Band (I’d love to turn you on) And on New Year’s Eve
they walk hand

in hand as the white sun sets behind them, along the beach to a
party on the wet sand

where he drinks Spook en Diesel (just like his father’s policemen
friends) out of a

polystyrene cup and the blonde girl is asked to dance by an older
boy, a university student

he assumes, because of his long hair, who comes to the party in
a red beach buggy

with a surf board tied to the top, and who makes the girl laugh by
whispering something

in her ear And he (the boy with a hole in his heart, at the heart of
this story) feels everything

crumble and slide away beneath his small feet in their differently sized
orthopaedic boots

And he leaves without saying anything to the girl And stumbles
home along the cold

moonless beach He knows that if he goes home now his mother
will want to know

What’s wrong? What happened? Are you alright? And she will
want to kiss it all

better (As she always does) But he is much too old for all of that
stuff now So he

hunches behind a dune smelling of damp vegetation and rotten
fish-bait and dog turds

and he sniffs his right hand repeatedly, the hand that held onto
hers (and smells of

coconut oil and Simba Puffs) and he licks it and puts it inside his
trousers and he waits

until it is midnight and the fire-crackers have died down and he
can open their back

door and creep into the sleeping house And in the morning his
mother spoils their

whole family by frying bacon and eggs for breakfast (sunny-side
up) with white toast

This is a special treat Just for holidays she says smiling at him
Because apart from

his father who eats mielie pap every morning for breakfast
everyone else always

has Pronutro, regular or chocolate flavoured, with milk and no
sugar And that is

that Finish en klaar That is the morning when he learns how
much easier it always is to pretend than to admit a painful truth.

* * * * *


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The Complexities of Speaking in Public After Apartheid: An Excerpt from Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere

Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public SphereUKZN Press has shared an excerpt from Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere: Speaking Poetry to Power, a new publication by Anthea Garman.

In the book, Garman considers the contribution of Antjie Krog, the prolific poet, non-fiction author and activist, to the post-apartheid public sphere.

Krog was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Sunday Times Literary Awards on Saturday; and delivered a controversial address that called for white South Africans to perform a “radical act of outreach”, similar to those captured in the iconic images of Nelson Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and at his presidential inauguration with Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk.

The speech was made in the context of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, and despite reaction to it being mixed, it highlighted Krog’s position as an influential and authoritative public intellectual.

According to Garman, in a context where “the public debate about who has authority to speak often falls into racial polarisation or pro- or anti-ANC government positions”, Krog “enables an elucidation of the many hidden factors that make voice possible”.

Read the excerpt from Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere, taken from the Chapter 1: “Who Speaks? Public Intellectual Activity in Post-Apartheid South Africa”.

Excerpt from Antjie Krog and the Post-Apartheid Public Sphere: Speaking Poetry to Power by Books LIVE

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Vishwas Satgar on the Crisis of Global Capitalism in The Solidarity Economy Alternative Excerpt

The Solidarity Economy AlternativeVishwas Satgar published The Solidarity Economy Alternative: Emerging Theory and Practice earlier this year, bringing together contributions from leading thinkers and supporters of the solidarity economy alternative in South Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States.

Satgar is a political activist, senior lecturer in international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand and chair of the board of the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre.

Read the first chapter of the book, written by Satgar and titled “The crises of global capitalism and the solidarity economy alternative”:

Excerpt from The Solidarity Economy Alternative by Vishwas Satgar by Books LIVE

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Read Excerpted Chapters from Archie L Dick’s The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures

	The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading CulturesSouth African History Online has shared a preview of Archie L Dick’s The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures, including the introduction and two chapters.

In the introduction Dick discusses “The Significance of Common Readers in South Africa” and in the shared chapters he writes about “Early Readers at the Cape, 1658 – 1800″ and “Books for Troops in the Second World War”. Read these fascinating excerpts on the country’s early reading cultures:

In the 1950s, when Prue Smith was a teenager in South Africa, she was a reader for the illiterate black servants in her parents’ household. Though their memories and mental discipline enabled them to carry out their duties, it was the written word as conveyed by Prue that fed their imagination and offered them leisure. She remembers reading out the letters written by a postmaster or storekeeper on behalf of the sender (always in English – how else would Prue have been turned into their willing servant?).

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Excerpt: Politicisation and Transformation at Boschendal in Winelands, Wealth and Work

Winelands, Wealth and WorkCorrine Cash and Larry Swatuk have shared a pre-publication draft of their chapter from Winelands, Wealth and Work: Transformations in the Dwars River Valley, Stellenbosch edited by CS Van der Waal. The book was recently launched at Solms Delta wine farm.

Cash and Swatuk’s chapter is titled “Boschendal: Politicization or transformation?”. The chapter examines the “Boschendal Sustainable Development Initiative as a case study in participatory planning practice in the Dwars River Valley” and looks at “how political volatility can sabotage even the most well-intentioned and thorough public and stakeholder engagement processes.”

This chapter uses the recent Boschendal Sustainable Development Initiative as a case study in participatory planning practice in the Dwars River Valley. The Sustainable Development Initiative is discussed in the context of the Stellenbosch municipality-wide Integrated Development Plan, which emerged out of a participatory planning process.

The Boschendal Sustainable Development Initiative is Boschendal’s response to the Dwars River Valley’s long history of inequality that dates back to when the Dutch first colonised the Cape. After a period of farming based on slave labour, a mission station was set up, creating the village of Pniel (and its twin Kylemore later on), as part of a system that limited the rights of indigenous people and the imported labourers of colour.

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Tonsils and Love: Excerpt from Nthikeng Mohlele’s Latest Novel, Small Things

Small ThingsIn the opening chapter of Nthikeng Mohlele’s Small Things the protagonist reflects on his love for Desiree, the postmaster’s daughter, who gave him a brief glimpse of her reciprocal feelings by offering him an orange and then a card with a hand drawn heart inside it.

In this excerpt, shared by GroundUp, the protagonist explains why he associates tonsils with love and recalls Desiree’s less enthusiastic responses to his romantic advances.

I, to this day, fall hopelessly in love whenever I see postmen carrying mailbags. My heart leaps at bright-red postboxes in pictures. They remind me of Desiree – the postmaster’s daughter. We never exchanged much, Desiree and I. I caught her roving eye on me one morning during Mass. Hearing nothing of the sermon, I saw only this eye, a beaming light bulb that warmed me from the third row, a good twenty metres from where I knelt praying, my knees molten with love.

Seeing her absent-minded, in the company of tedious friends, aroused suspicions that I was in her thoughts. End of term, after the mid-year exams, was marked by forced labour. We cleaned the school grounds and windows in preparation for a new school term. I never joined the gardening or chalkboard-cleaning crews, but always chose to be on the window-cleaning teams, where I could, with good perspective from standing on upside-down dustbins, admire my Desiree shining classroom floors. I got generous compliments from inspecting teachers (windows shone like mirrors against the sun) – who little knew that such workmanship was done in a trance. I was like a spider on a damaged web, doing my utmost to contain my blossoming heart.

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Excerpt from Bra Gib by Rolf Solberg

Bra GibUKZN Press shared an extract from Bra Gib: Father of South Africa’s Township Theatre by Rolf Solberg. This book chronicles the life of Gibson Mthuthuzeli Kente and how he changed the face of African theatre.

Read the extract which includes the first two chapters describing Kente’s upbringing and his early plays.

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Excerpt from The Fate of the Eastern Cape Edited by Greg Ruiters

The Fate of the Eastern CapeUKZN Press has published an excerpt from The Fate of the Eastern Cape: History, Politics and Social Policy edited by Greg Ruiters.

Read about the contributors to the book and the first chapter, titled “The Politics of Scale and the Political Foundations of the Eastern Cape”, as well as the introduction by Ruiters:

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