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!!

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Bundu by Chris Barnard

bundu

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 ?

The beautiful screaming of pigs by Damon Galgut

DAMON GALGUT

Notes –

Damon Galgut is one of South Africa’s leading writers with a number of books after being published  at 17  in 1980 with a sinless season ,this is his third novel and won the C.N.A South Africa’s leading literary prize ,He has also been shortlisted for the booker in 2003 with the good doctor ,he has also written several plays .

The book –

The book revolves around Patrick Winter and his two visits to South West Africa the first as a solider ,and secondly with his mother who has recently got divorced  ,the second visit his mother is visiting Godfrey her new lover a black swapo activist ,still a taboo at the time in South africa ,we also discover that Patrick had a great love on his first posting to South West Africa ,we are lead to belive this may have been a male love ,there is a funeral of a white activist from swapo that was killed ,the themes  are love discovery ,change and new beginnings in this book .

My view –

This is an amazing book for its short length ,and tackles the changing face of Southern Africa in the early nineties ,the breaking of long-held taboos and love between couples and a mother and son ,I read this book after some one  on twitter recommend his new book but at the library it wasn’t there but this wonderful book was ,this book made me think as i work with a colleague from Nambia which is what south-west africa is now called ,and was also a great counter point to the purple violets of Oshaantu ,which i read after this book .

Links –

An  interview with damon galgut

Questions –

Have you read any South African writers ?

Have you read Damon Galgut ?

 .

Summertime by J m Coetzee

summertimeThis is one of the six books to make the booker shortlist .This is by two timer winner and nobel prize winner J M coetzee going for a hatrick of bookers . The premise of the book is a journalist going round interview former friends of coetzee in the seventies , and that coetzee himself is now dead .This could quite easily turn in to a piece ego massage luckily it dosen t as the person that comes through as coetzee through the interviews isn t always a likeable person ,it’s hard to learn anything new about the famous shy coetzee a man who tends not to talk about his fiction .this is the third of a trilogy of which the first two i ve not read ,so could only judge on this book which i found a little frustarting as the line between fact and fiction is blurred and can make the reader confused .maybe coetzee should have written a book about a fictional writer and a autobiography about himself

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