Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

South African fiction

Original title – Buys

Translator – Michiel Heyns

source – review copy

This is the first title to be translated into English by the prize-winning Afrikaans writer Willem Anker. This book won four prizes. He studied Lit at the University of Stellenbosch his final dissertation sounds very interesting and also in a way links to this book. The nomadic self: schisoanalytical views on character subjectivity in the prose work of Alexander Strachan and Breyten Breytenbach. He is also now a teacher of creative writing at the same university. This book has been re-title in English its original title was Buys a border novel. 

With my father’s inheritance, I buy two cows and a dozen sheep. David Dimwit lets them graze on his part of the farm and they multiply. At eleven I am taller than my brother-in-law; at thirteen I’ll be more than six feet tall. During the day I herd cattle with Saterdog a bushman child, perhaps a year or so older than I, but younger of body, named, for no particular reason, for the sixth day of the week.

The early years of Buys life.

The book is the retelling of the life of Coenraad de Buys a real-life character that was an advisor to Xhosa chief and also friends to the missionary Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp. This is a story of a man that saw his father die when he was eight years old leaving him very little. He sets forth and the boy grows into a man. He is a trekker and man of the veldt. He spends time with his wives and various mix of children from his three wives over the years. There are little passaged that shows his world growing. He is a man of the wild veldts this is the late 18th and early 19th century and his home is under winds of change. This man married three times but over the years his farm grows and his power swells. He is one of these untamable wilds as they years go we see his life swing one way to another then in the later 1790 the English take over the land he lives on and declare him an outlaw he then spends time wandering the borders between English and  the colonies he grew up in that are shrinking the forty years covered in this book saw five small wars break out all this told in a brutal world that shows the harshness of the new world as it still was then. He pays the price with wives and time with his kids but this man is happiest in the middle of nowhere with the wild dogs at his feet hence the English title.

A man vomits and his friends laugh and gob. Somebody bumps into me and I look around into the beggars face and looks away.

The Baboon grabs the nearest dog and brings the animal’s faceup to its own, Bo they know how much they look like each other? With the revishing jaws that decorate many a farmhouse, it tears off the face of the fighting dog, who until recently resembled the protp wolf from hich all dogs are descended.

I rub my thumbs and index fingers together until I can feel a static crackling. The remaining dog keeps tugging at the guts.The baboon curls up against the carcase next to him and there is a tremor in one hand and something like a yawn and I see something in his eyes and then he is dead

The brutal world is wonderfully summed up in these few passages of the book.

This is one of those books that draws the reader into a world gone the veldt of the late 1790s and early 1800s. this shows the world and borders for one man shrinking a man that is one of those larger than life figures a raconteur, swindler, and ladies man he is a mix of robin hood and Kevin Costner’s character in dances with wolves. A wild man of the veldt large than life in a world that is violent from his early days and the death of his father violence is always just below the surface as is the harsh world he lives in. He is compared the great American writer Cormac McCarthy and yes I have read a coup,e of his books decades ago it has that same sense of wild untamed lives and worlds. But for me, the writer I was most reminded of was Patrick White the way he described the outback and a harsh world that mix indigenous and colonial worlds especially his book the tree of man I reviewed a few years ago. As I said the main title character is like one of the characters he must have written about in his dissertation a nomadic self!!

Advertisements

June 2019
M T W T F S S
« May   Jul »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Archives

%d bloggers like this: