Bundu by Chris Barnard


Bundu by Chris Barnard

South African (Afikanns ) literature

Original title – Boendoe

Translator Michiel Heyns

Source – review copy sent for iffp review

Well I must admit of all the books on this years Independent foreign fiction longlist ,this one came out of right field for me ,I was unaware of Chris Barnard and must admit haven’t read many Afrikaans novels from south africa .So this one has been for me a journey of discovery ,first to the writer .Chris Barnard ,studied art at the university of Pretoria in the fifties ,he then became involved with the Afrikaans writing group Die Sestigers a group of Afrikaans writers including Andre Brink (whom I have read ) ,Breyten Breytenbach (whom I have archipelago books collection by him they published a couple of years ago on my tbr pile ) and a few others .Any way they sought to voice their opions against apartheid from the Afrikaans point of view .Chris Barnard is also a well-known film and Tv producer in his home country ,his second novel Mahala is consider a south African classic ,he has written 18 books this was his last novel to be published in 1999 .

The Baboon troop had originally not really been part of my research .simply because quite a bit of my research had previously been done on every aspect of their feeding habits .But Eugene Marais’s more or less scientific writings on his observations of Baboons in the Waterberg had fascinated me ever since childhood ,even though initially it had been a romantic enchantment rather than scientific interest .

Brand tell how he got there

Well Bundu ,is set in Mozambique ,near the border with South africa in a remote part of the country ,in a small struggling Clinic ,we met them among them is pious nuns ,a drunken pilot ,the clinic volunteers and Brand `de le ray who is studying the local Baboons .During the course of the novel we see this group of people struggle as the rain have failed to come and we see how man is the same as the world around him when this happens we all need water and substance to survive ,along side this runs a love story involving Brand and someone from the clinic , as the tragic figures in this remote place are caught and waiting for much-needed help, are struggling to get by .Will Help get there ,how much have we in common with nature ? what is the aftermath of the war that happened between South africa and Mozambique .

Sister Roma and Sister Erdman were both out of sorts ,and I spent the rest of the day helping Julia and Vukile in the clinic .There was a child with what seemed to be a broken arm and I tried to devise a splint .I sterilized syringes and carried a wet mattress out into the sun and helped make beds and fed weak patients .I tried to steer clear of the smaller ward with the seriously ill patients .

The situations starts getting worse for the clinic all hands to the pumps .

Now this is a book that if it hadn’t been for the IFFP longlist I wouldn’t have picked up ,although vaguely aware of the Die Sestigers via Brink and Breytenbach .Barnard is different to brink but what shines through his prose is a love of the land and also how closely man is connected to the land we live on and the creatures around us .Strange I was reading this as I listen to Simon Savidge and Gav reads pod cast the other day about Literary fiction and Plot driven books ,well I must say this is one of the most plot driven books I have read in a long while ,also fast paced writing you can almost feel a speeding drum beat as you read drawing you ever near to the end of the book

Have you a favourite South African writer ?

Have you read many books translated from Afrikaans ?

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013 (Shadow Jury combined reviews) | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  2. Lisa Hill
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 20:50:31

    Me too, Stu, I have read famous South African authors like Andre Brink and Nadine Gordimer, and (not quite in the same league) Damon Galgut, and a fantastic Black SA author called Njabulo Ndebele whose Cry of Winnie Mandela was a revelation (see http://wp.me/phTIP-55x) but I have never read anything by an Afrikaans author. So this one is on my wishlist whether it makes the shortlist or not.


  3. Parrish
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 21:23:26

    Will be posting on this one myself this Friday and my conclusions are very similar to yours, not a writer I was aware of, or would have picked up if it wasn’t for the IFFP, definitely not based on the blurb on the cover. But it was an interesting & different to my normal read. Which is a success for the IFFP in encouraging individuals to try something new to them.


  4. Heather
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 23:01:04

    Could you elaborate on who would be an Afrikaans author?
    I have read Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie, but none else that i can recall.


  5. Tony
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 02:55:15

    Interesting book and setting, but definitely a surprise on the longlist. It would be a huge shock if it got any further…

    …but as we all know, I haven’t got the best track record on predictions 😉


    • winstonsdad
      Apr 08, 2013 @ 22:01:51

      Me neither tony I think it was the actual translation of this that got it there it is very good I felt but also Tonkin gave it a good write up in independent all the best stu


  6. Brian Joseph
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:54:28

    This sounds like a great character study.

    The theme of people being connected to the land and the creatures that inhabit it is of interest to me as I often think about this.


  7. 1streading
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:15:00

    Like you, I’d neither heard of the writer nor book until the IFFP – but glad to have read it, even though, like Tony I can’t see it making the short list.


  8. ryanfuentesise
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 10:26:36

    I do hope to find books like this as the region/language is a big gap in my reading. I suppose we’ll be reading more and more environmental fiction books, give the increasing effects of anthropogenic climate change.


  9. Trackback: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist 2013 (Shadow Jury combined reviews) | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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April 2013


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