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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

‘Leonhard Praeg’s Imitation will grab you by the mind and spirit and not let go, even after you’ve finished reading it,’ writes Robyn Sassen

Imitation happened when an unsuspecting philosopher one day found himself equally outraged by South African president Jacob Zuma’s Big Man building project in Nkandla; awed, all over again, by Milan Kundera’s Immortality; and numbed by the monument to hubris generally known as ‘the highest basilica in all of Christendom’, Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire.

Leonhard Praeg is head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. He has published a number of books on African philosophy, violence in the post-colony and African humanism. Imitation is his first novel.

Robyn Sassen recently wrote a rave review of Praeg’s lauded novel:

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) did it.

Italian philosopher Umberto Eco (1932-2016) did it.

And now, there’s South African philosopher Leonhard Praeg with his debut novel weaving together a tale of self-reflection and intrigue; philosophy, politics and coincidence, to say nothing of love and tragedy in a way that will grab you by the mind and spirit and not let go, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Imitation is an extremely lucid narrative which doffs a hat to Czech writer Milan Kundera (b. 1929) as it plays intelligently and curiously with all the possibilities of what storytelling can be.

Granted, it doesn’t have the gravitas of Eco’s Name of the Rose, which engages the meaning of laughter in the world through a medieval cipher, but it sits comfortably on the same shelf.

Cast between a farm in the Karoo, an apartment in Paris and a building site on the Ivory Coast, among other places; it’s contemporary and sexy without being overworked or irrelevant and once you start reading it, you will not be able to remove yourself from its confines until the very last page.

The novel weaves together first person narrative with the back story of fictional characters developed through the pen of Kundera and truths that play with the notion of hubris in our world.

What Praeg is doing here is penetrating deeply into Kundera’s 1990 novel Immortality, and exploring the what ifs of that tale. In doing so, he finds other characters of his own, including a young man who is safe in the confines of his own silence and has survived 17 suicide attempts.

Continue reading Sassen’s review here.

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’n Uiters tydige huldeblyk aan Milan Kundera – Joan Hambidge resenseer Leonhard Praeg se Imitation

Imitation is a strikingly original work of great subtlety, complexity, imagination, originality, and a clear homage to Milan Kundera’s Immortality. I have never read a novel quite like this.’ – JASON M. WIRTH, Commiserating with Devastated Things: Milan Kundera and the Entitlements of Thinking

‘Imitation is challenging, ambitious and intelligent. It is a fascinating and adventurous parallel to Immortality that is intriguingly and playfully managed; an impressive and carefully considered novel that takes some of Milan Kundera’s most enigmatic thoughts and modernises them.’ – ANDREW BROWN, 2006 recipient of the Sunday Times Fiction Prize for Coldsleep Lullaby

‘With stylistic virtuosity, Praeg successfully enacts the tempestuous relationship between philosophy and fiction while elegantly and eloquently exploring the relationship between coloniser and colonised subjects. It is a brilliant, sparkling novel that heralds a very thoughtful, new voice on the South African literary scene.’ – SAM NAIDU, Associate Professor of Literary Theory, World Literatures, and English Literature, Rhodes University


Imitation happened when an unsuspecting philosopher one day found himself equally outraged by South African president Jacob Zuma’s Big Man building project in Nkandla; awed, all over again, by Milan Kundera’s Immortality; and numbed by the monument to hubris generally known as ‘the highest basilica in all of Christendom’, Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire.

Leonhard Praeg is head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. He has published a number of books on African philosophy, violence in the post-colony and African humanism. Imitation is his first novel.

Joan Hambidge het onlangs Praeg se roman gerenseer; hiér deel sy haar opinies:

Leonhard Praeg se roman Imitation beslaan 300 bladsye. Dit is ‘n roman wat gepubliseer is deur ‘n akademiese uitgewershuis en die skrywer is ‘n professor in filosofie. Boonop tree dit in gesprek met Milan Kundera se beroemde roman Immortality (1990), en word ook betekenisvol opgedra aan Kundera as ‘n geskenk.

Immortality vorm deel van ‘n trilogie, te wete The Book of Laugher and Forgetting en The Unbeararable Lightness of Being.

Soos Kundera se roman hou dit nie by die gewone plot-konvensies nie. Dit is veral ‘n roman van allusies en intertekste. Die leser word ‘n toehoorder en onderrig in die betekenis van lees. Wat is lewe? Wat is dood? In Kundera se roman is daar ‘n vriendskap tussen Goethe en Hemingway in die ander oord.

Praeg erken dat hy karakters en dialoog oorgeneem het – soos Professor Avenarius.

Hierdie roman begin traag, maar wanneer dit jou beetpak en jy die sleutel waarin dit geskryf is, snap, word dit ‘n besonderse leeservaring. Dit bevat selfs sketse van die St Peters basilika (p. 100 -103). Hier word daar kommentaar gelewer op Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, ‘n nabootsing van die oorspronklike, maar groter as die eerste.

Lees Hambidge se volledige resensie hier.

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Zimbabwe’s Predatory State slices incisively into the intricately meshed networks of Zimbabwe’s ruling party and military apparatuses, writes David Moore

By the dawn of independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had one of the most structurally developed economies and state systems in Africa and was classified as a middle-income country.

In 1980, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was almost equal to that of China. More than 30 years later, Zimbabwe had regressed to a low-income country with a GDP per capita among the lowest in the world. With these dark economic conditions, discussions concerning structural problems of a country once cited as Africa’s best potential are reignited.

Shumba interrogates the ruling elite political reproduction, modes of accumulation across key economic sectors and implications for development outcomes.

The book raises some pressing questions in search of answers.

If Zimbabwe was the golden darling after independence, why did this happen? Was it inevitable? What were the crucial choices made that led to it? Did the ruling elite know that their choices would lead to Zimbabwe’s developmental decline?
Jabusile Shumba is a development and public policy graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand. He co-edited Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition (2012). He works with civil society, governments and international organisations in the fields of public policy analysis, governance and human rights, and he lectures part-time for Africa University, College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance.

David Moore recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Daily Maverick, discussing the future of a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, with reference to Zimbabwe’s Predatory State:

The story of the Zimbabwean coup (which was of course a con) is now well-known. Power-crazed First Lady and her ersatz and erstwhile Generation-40 gang persuade her husband to fire vice-president. He rallies the troops while hiding away and travelling somewhere/everywhere (how: by email and WhatsApp?).

His army comrades – led by a man with an Italianised name and an Ethics Phd from a Pietermaritzburg college – take a few days to persuade/force the long dithering and quickly deteriorating 93-year-old head of party-state to give up. Thousands are in the streets urging the military on. “The Crocodile” – born-again, of course – swims home across the river praising the “father” just deposed to protect him from his disgraceful enemies. On his neatly prepared inaugural, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promises to revive the economy in a Paul Kagame-Deng Xiaoping sort of way, if everyone works hard.

Meanwhile, all the new and faded superpowers are co-operating to help a revitalised finance minister revive an economy that would have died (and still might) by the New Year. They are hurriedly blending all the lessons learnt from decades of floundering Washington, Beijing, Kigali and Fast-Track Land Reform/Command Economy consensuses. Promises of compensation for the white farmers who lost their land flow like milk and honey. Elections? Sure thing: we have them sewn up anyway.

So it will all be fine soon, right? Corruption will be a distant memory. The diaspora will fly or bus back, perhaps encouraged by a UNDP fund for once-exiled technocrats. The currency will peg to regional norms. Zimbabwe will recover its “second most industrialised in Africa” status, raising socio-economic and civil rights to their status at the morrow of freedom. The brutal years of Gukurahundi will be forgiven albeit never forgotten. “Western” donors’ dilemmas over whether to support liberal democrats or desperate dictators will have been solved by this soupçon coup while their hard-nosed investors will flock to the diamonds, gold, platinum, and tobacco and maize in Zimbabwe’s hinterlands. This could be the “democratic developmental state” over which consultants and World Bankers have been drooling for decades. 1

If you read Jabusile Shumba’s Zimbabwe’s Predatory State: Party, Military and Business, out next month from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, you will be convinced otherwise.

Continue reading Moore’s piece here.

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“Reading takes you on a metaphorical journey, and now you can get up and go on a real one.” – Co-author of A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal, Lindy Stiebel

KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe. And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province.

This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place.

This is also a way of reflecting upon and understanding historic and contemporary identities in a changing cultural and political South African landscape.

Niall McNulty is a digital publishing specialist who was involved in the Literary Tourism in KwaZulu-Natal research project for several years. Niall is currently the digital publishing manager at Cambridge University Press where he is at the forefront of researching and developing publishing technologies for the creation of interactive e-books.

Lindy Stiebel is Professor Emeritus of English Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research interests are linked by a profound interest in the relationship between writers and place: these include the South African colonial and post-colonial novel; Indian Ocean studies, particularly literary interconnections between South Africa, India and Mauritius; and literary tourism. Her latest book published in 2016 is entitled Writing Home: Lewis Nkosi on South African Literature (with Michael Chapman, UKZN Press).

The Times‘s Shelley Seid recently discussed this remarkable book with Lindy Stiebel. Take a peek!

That KZN has the only active literary tourism project in the country must have greatly enhanced the bid to proclaim Durban a Unesco World City of Literature, the first on the African continent.

Literary tourism engages with writers and their real lives as well as the fictional settings that appear in their works.

It is a flourishing niche market in Europe and more prominently in the UK where it’s often hard to avoid – Harry Potter’s platform at King’s Cross station in London, for example, or the George Inn, where you can have a pint in a pub that featured in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit.

Where geography and literature meet. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


In South Africa it’s a new initiative and most of the credit for what is available is due to Professor Lindy Stiebel, a UKZN academic who began a research project on KZN writers and writing in 2002.

“KZN Literary Tourism began as a five-year research project. Students received bursaries for their work on KZN writers and we built up an archive. We then created a website and loaded authors’ profiles. My particular interest was literary maps so I began mapping out where and how writers were linked.”

Initially the tourism aspect was “muted”, she says, but grew almost organically.

“Who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book, Cry the Beloved Country, has not wanted to see the place in reality?” asks Stiebel.

Cry, the Beloved Country fans can journey to Paton’s office. ©University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.


Continue reading Seid’s article here.

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Reney Warrington Recommends the Movie Adaptation of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola by Nape 'A Motana

Fanie Fourieâ��s LobolaReney Warrington has written a glowing review of the movie adaptation of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola by Nape ‘A Motana for LitNet.

Warrington says that it is “a world-class film with a strong South African flavour” and compliments the casting, camera work and soundtrack, which is largely made up of Jack Parow. She comments that the fun made at the expense of our cultural traditions in South Africa is done with respect and that it “asks questions around racism, patriarchy and sexism and even goes so far as to suggest we should give the younger generation some room to start their own traditions.”

By saying Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (FFL) is an awesome South African flick I do not mean compared with other South African films, or lekker for a local flick. Oh, no, I mean FFL is a world-class film with a strong South African flavour.

In a nutshell

Afrikaner laaitie falls in love with Zulu girl. Their families are unimpressed.

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Janet van Eeden Interviews Kobus Moolman on Light and After (And Reviews the Book)

Light and AfterAfter calling Kobus Moolman‘s latest collection of poetry, Light and After, a “revelation” in a perceptive and highly positive review, Janet van Eeden settles down with the poet for a nice winter’s chat:

Your poetry is dense with meaning. Do you spend a long time contemplating your poetry before you put pen to paper, or do you write a few words down and then play around with ideas until you find your poem? What I’m asking, essentially, is, “How do you write your poetry?”

An interesting question. My answer is related to the first point. Ultimately, I aim more and more in my work for an unconscious way of writing, for a way that attempts to sidestep the rational and cognitive mind, with its ego and its need always to understand everything, and to allow more of the instinctual to take over. And this is interesting too, because never before have I been able to do this without running the risk of obscurity. Now I don’t believe my poems are obscure; they just need or expect a different way of being read. A freer, looser way of reading. And this way of reading is related to a freer and looser way of writing. So that often as I’m writing I don’t have the faintest clue (a) where I am going and (b) what any of it means.

  • Complete interview at LitNet

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Special Report from Grahamstown: Siphiwo Mahala on Thando Mgqolozana and A Man Who is not a Man

Thando Mgqolozana and Siphiwo Mahala

When a Man CriesA Man Who is Not a ManUKZN Press authors Siphiwo Mahala and Thando Mgqolozana both hail from the Eastern Cape – and returned to their home province this week to attend the National Arts Festival and WordFest in Grahamstown.

As Mahala reports, “We had great time in Grahamstown and Thando was fantastic in his session. The audience was surprisingly receptive and women were particularly vocal… One of [the MEC's]… seemed very pleased that we are both “sons of the soil”.

Mahala published a treatment of Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is not a Man in the literary newspaper of the festival, Wordstock. For those who couldn’t make Grahamstown, we bring it to you here:

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