Review: Sunset Park, Paul Auster

27 January 2011, 10:18 am

Paul Auster, Sunset Park, Faber & Faber, 2010

(originally published in Afrikaans in Rapport, 24 Jan. 2011)

As with his previous novel, Invisible, Auster continues in Sunset Park with main characters who are in early adulthood. This time, however, the story is set in 2009, post-recession America, and the book can very much be read like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom: a lament from and for a world in decline. This sense of decline is firstly captured by the rudderless lives of Auster’s four main characters.

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The Literature Police

24 March 2009, 1:17 pm

THE LITERATURE Police is an interesting website that accompanies Peter D. McDonald’s book, The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences (2009, reviewed by Michael Titlestad at the Times). The site contains all manner of material related to the history of censorship in apartheid South Africa and is worth a visit.

Update: A good review of the book by Shaun de Waal over at the M&G. I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on a review copy.


Alan Paton, The Hero of Currie Road

25 August 2008, 10:29 am

The Hero of Currie Road: Complete Short Pieces, by Alan Paton (Umuzi, 2008)

[Review originally published in Afrikaans in Rapport, 24 August 2008]

The Hero of Currie Road collects a variety of short pieces by Alan Paton: short stories, biographical pieces and the odd miscellania, all from Debbie Go Home/ Tales from a Troubled Land (1961) and Knocking on the Door (1975). In short, all Paton’s short pieces are now available in one volume. The end pages include brief notes about either a story’s print publication date or when it was read first by Paton, and so the volume is a convenient source for literary historians.

Not having been a fan of Cry, the Beloved Country when I was a university student, and therefore not having read any Paton beyond that, I nevertheless approached the volume with a degree of openness. Youth, after all, can be blind in its passions. Read the rest of this entry »


Short fiction: The Book of Tongues

19 June 2008, 2:20 pm

“The Book of Tongues”, a piece of short fiction I wrote, appears at the Chimurenga Library:

If you know where to look, there is a steel trap door on one of the city streets that opens with double panels, such as those leading to the basements of many shops. There is no secret code, but if you know where to look and you find the trapdoor, all you need to do is knock and Maalik, a scrawny man with an ascetic aspect and dressed in robes of light shades, will open and let you in. Past a shelf of cabbages, onions and tomatoes, he will lead you into an opening that has a few armchairs, a couch, a gas burner sporting a brass pot brewing sweet coffee, and a sparse assortment of books and magazines. You might see a few people standing around or browsing the books or sipping coffee… (ctd)


E.M. Forster

11 February 2008, 9:10 am

“[T]he novel is a formidable mass, and it is so amorphous – no mountain in it to climb, no Parnassus or Helicon, not even a Pisgah. It is most distinctly one of the moister areas of literature – irrigated by a hundred rills and occasionally degenerating into a swamp. I do not wonder that the poets despise it, though they sometimes find themselves in it by accident. And I am not surprised at the annoyance of the historians when by accident it finds itself among them.”

E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel, 1927


Theory is not fiction, but…

4 December 2007, 2:56 pm

Explaining its ommission from the 2007 Booker shortlist, Giles Foden notoriously dimissed J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year as not quite fiction:

My personal view of Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year is that it’s a piece of radical literary theory offered as a (no doubt well-deserved) subversion of the whole commercial and promotional mechanism whereby books are distributed. But theory is not fiction. (The Guardian, 15 Sept. 2007)

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The man who would be eaten

3 July 2006, 6:58 pm

ONE DAY, I joke with friends: ‘If you were a cannibal, which author would you eat and which herb would you use?’ I almost immediately go for J.M. Coetzee – slow-roasted over coals – and simply but deftly flavoured: salt, pepper, tarragon. Now, every time I have bearnaise sauce, I think of slow roasted Coetzee and tarragon. Read the rest of this entry »


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