NOVEL

THE YEARNING | BY MOHALE MASHIGO
This debut novel skilfully explores the effects of past hurt on the character and mind of a grown woman. We first meet Rubi as she divides her time between a well-paid job on a wine estate and hanging out with her French restaurateur boyfriend in Cape Town. After a seizure leaves her in a pool of blood on her bathroom floor, Rubi’s family and friends become increasingly concerned. Her sangoma grandmother believes the attack has a supernatural explanation.

After all, Rubi’s birth in Soweto was marked by a rainstorm that restored her mother’s once-dead garden. Her grandmother believed, at the time,  that this – and her apparent resemblance to the women of ancient civilisations – was a sign of a powerful gift. As Rubi’s seizures and visions 
continue, she’s confronted with the possibility that she may have the same 
calling as her grandmother and father before her.

She refuses to succumb to a neat explanation, however, trying desperately to rationalise what is happening within her. As she edges closer to the truth, the reader is left to ponder the journey, rather than the conclusion. The Yearning is both thrilling and wise, highlighting the confl ict between the modern and the ancient, their opposition centred within Rubi. The reader feels strongly the influence of Rubi’s ghosts, the story expertly woven  between present and past tenses. Authentic and heartfelt, this novel is a triumph. 


POETRY

MATRIC RAGE | BY GENNA GARDINI
Written with iridescent energy and poise, Matric Rage’s deeply personal poems loosely follow a chronological arc, from early childhood to Genna Gardini’s late 20s. They’re about moving house, about friendships, sex and love – both when it fails and when it flares. Scenes – a shark being dissected on a school outing, a visit to the beach with a girlfriend – unfurl vividly.

Metaphors, dizzyingly cryptic at times, kaleidoscope through pages, often unforgettable – an aqua aerobics instructor jerks like “biltong in a condom”; loss is kept “locked, like a tampon”.  

As memories are confessed and moments captured, so a richly textured emotional gamut emerges: aching tenderness, simple joy, burning fury, and almost every shade between them. 

The poems exploring the aftermath of Gardini’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis (particularly Performance Scale) demonstrate poetry at its most powerful and poignant. As she is “thinned the way paint under the slow drip of turpentine is” so the experience is of “paper as metaphor and limbs as punctuation. This is the reverse of writing.”


SHORT STORIES

STATIONS | BY NICK MULGREW
This colourful collection of short stories announces a confident and accomplished new voice on our literary stage. From suburban Durban North to Clifton’s bungalows, Nick Mulgrew shows extraordinary dexterity in the way he captures voices and characters plucked from a dizzying spectrum of backgrounds – such as Posman’s postman; the loutish middle-aged braaiers in Mr Dias; a bigoted Grahams-town housewife in Restaurant. 

Without ever becoming didactic, he explores, pokes and questions the paradoxes and politics of contemporary SA with colourfully rendered precision, offering a wry and often humorous barometer of our complex milieu. While it has frequent allusions to Catholicism (the title refers to the stations of the cross) and often sombre subjects (a mother whose husband has just left her; a woman whose restaurant is on the verge of being 
shuttered), Stations is certainly no purgatory. Even at their darkest, these stories aren’t easily parted with: you’re left yearning for more. Let’s hope there’s a novel on the way soon. - AM


Image: Thabo Jijana

WRITER’S BLOCK | THABO JIJANA
Born in 1988, Jijana won the prestigious Ingrid Jonker Prize for his debut poetry collection, Failing Maths and My Other Crimes (uHlanga), as well as the Sol Plaatje/EU Poetry Award in 2014, the same year his memoir, Nobody’s Business, was published.

Why do you write? An easy answer would be I get inspired by something (inspired as in provoked, angered, “touched”, any number of ways really) but another answer would be that I write because there are things I would like to see being written about in this country or being written about in a certain way, and in both cases I feel this is not being done at the moment: not enough different voices, certain issues/themes being shunned for what sells, etc. In other words, I attempt, in my work and as far as I can, to fill in the gaps.

The thing you love most about poetry? My affair with writing, with words, really begins with reading. After that, it’s all just words – poetry, fiction, the factual, it all makes no difference at the end, it’s all writing, writing I want to read and have gained so much from. The same things I love about poetry can be said of prose: the fluid play with image, the demands on economy, the language, the captured moment.

The greatest lesson writing has taught you? If it’s got you, it’s got you. (Borrowed from that fried chicken ad we all know.) But it takes a lot of work. As (author James) Baldwin said, “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all endurance.” 

The hardest thing about writing? Sticking with it when doing something else – securing a government tender, going out drinking, busking for R2 coins from 
uncaring street walkers – could really make one’s life a little easier. There’s more to life than writing, and I always have to remind myself of that just to stay sane.

What are you working on next? I’m doing my MA at Rhodes at the moment. My thesis is a couple of fabulist novelettes. A very kind of modern folkloric writing. Crude realism of some sort. Beyond that, I wish I knew.


David Cornwell
David Cornwell

EXTRACT

LIKE IT MATTERS | BY DAVID CORNWELL
The Rainbow Lodge used to be a warehouse off Salt River Road. A massive concrete floor space with resounding walls and high windows, a mezzanine in one corner, no showers, just a couple of cramped toilets and a tiny kitchen area with jack shit in the way of appliances or crockery or anything. Most of the floor space had been partitioned up with chipboard that stood about six feet from the ground.

The partitions made rooms with doors you could lock with a bicycle chain – thirty-two rooms all roughly the same size, basic as 
anything, most of them permanently taken. It had a sign outside and a reception desk and 
everything, but it was all a kind of front. There were some rooms that were rented by the hour, and people – maybe 80% of them were fulltime junkies, but the rest were rich schoolkids, businessmen, housewives, off-duty cops and ambulance drivers – would come in to hide away from the world for a few hours and just sin to their hearts’ content. 

Everyone who actually lived at The Rainbow Lodge, though, worked for Ken in some way or another. There were thugs and robbers and a doctor and 
drivers, and there were ten guys living there who sold tik, Sparks and his friends, and they were the ones that really made you wonder. They’d go out on the road for days – jumped up, plugged in, superhuman – and only every 
now and then you’d see them stalking around The Rainbow Lodge, their faces 
like gloomy masks either grinning or irate, backlit by a brain that couldn’t put out more than forty watts anymore and carrying a smell on them of singed wires and sour smoke.

It was a thoroughly illegal sort of place, but it wasn’t lawless. There were pieces of paper up on all the walls, A4 printouts of a list called KEN’S RULES, and if you broke any of them, you were out. And if you really fucked up – if you tried your luck in any way – you’d make it onto The Noticeboard, this corkboard pinned full of grainy CCTV shots of people that Ken wanted to take revenge on.


TJIENG TJANG TJERRIES AND OTHER STORIES | BY JOLYN PHILLIPS
Weaving English and Kaaps together,  Jolyn Phillips vividly portrays life and death in the fishing dorpie of Gansbaai. Whether bleak and haunting or humorous and lively, these stories pulse with colour and intensity, bristling with characters you’re not likely to forget.

 

 

 

 

 


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