{archive: August, 2006}

Mandela’s Ego

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Mandela's Ego

by Lewis Nkosi
Umuzi, 2006

reviewed by Ben Oswest

At one of their halts (August 18), the expedition left behind: the ashes of the night fire… the leg bones of a springbok… Fecal matter, blood, pus… Semen (all).
- JM Coetzee, “The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee”, Dusklands

Despite Africa’s large, often unrecognised, literary wealth (its robust oral traditions; its poetry and proverbs; ancient writings like the Timbuktu Manuscripts; the more recent tradition of fine playwrights and novelists), African “master texts” are few and far between. For writing in the West, the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes and others supply a vast, rich - and tamed - metaphorical space for new works to resound in, their own meanings amplified by echoes from the past. Modern African literature enjoys no such milieu - but what Africa lacks in great texts, it makes up for with a powerfully symbolic pantheon of great men, the continent’s liberators, who loom so large in the popular imagination that they are themselves like great texts, their lives of struggle and triumph echoing with as much force here as, say, The Odyssey in imagined Europe.

This would explain autobiography’s prominence in contemporary African literature: the need for the great men’s lives to be made into books underscores a larger project of making independence permanent, of bolting the fact of liberation securely down into world history. In effect, then, the autobiographies of great men stand in as Africa’s master texts - and among them none can be accounted more weighty, more foundational, than Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

Enter Lewis Nkosi, who, with Mandela’s Ego, rushes in like a literary David to contest the Goliath autobiography’s claim to the territory of the African imagination.
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Green-Eyed Thieves

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Green-Eyed Thieves

by Imraan Coovadia
Umuzi, 2006

reviewed by Ben Oswest

Coovadia’s latest novel is the “book of the week” in today’s Sunday Times; I wrote the review, which the paper published in slightly-edited form.

Here’s the review in full:

Of the many astute observations tossed out with offhand dexterity in Imraan Coovadia’s Green-Eyed Thieves, one of the most telling is the remark from the novel’s main character – the aptly-named Firoze Peer – that “It’s a defining trait of great villains… to flourish in death.” The “great villain” Peer refers to is none other than Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on September 11, 2001, and, posthumously, a personality flourishing in the imaginations of dozens of writers, including John Updike and Martin Amis.


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It’s Ashraf, not Ahmed, in Green-Eyed Thieves

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

In my review of Imraan Coovadia’s Green-Eyed Thieves, I gave the name of the main character’s brother as “Ahmed”. In fact - as Coovadia has since pointed out, in a letter to be published in this week’s Sunday Times - the correct name is “Ashraf”.

The error is mine and I regret it. Tune into Boswestblog on Sunday for Coovadia’s letter and my full response. I’ve meanwhile corrected the name in my post of the review:

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Off to the Green Man Festival

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

I’m travelling to London, Wales and ultimately the Green Man Festival at Brecon Beacons National Park over the next ten days or so; and I hope to get a chance to post on some of the festival’s music and literature offerings (my highlight: David Berman’s band, the Silver Jews; Berman’s the author of the excellent book of poems, Actual Air).

At the very least, I’ll have a few bits from the festival to share after returning to Cape Town, meaning boswestblog is guaranteed an update sometime during the week of 21 August, if not before.

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Exchange: Green-Eyed Thieves

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

Imraan Coovadia wrote the following letter to the Sunday Times, regarding my review of his Green-eyed Thieves. The paper did not publish the letter - it merely printed a correction - so here it is, with my brief response, in full.

Dear Editor:

In his review of my novel, Green-eyed Thieves, published 6 August in the Sunday Times, Ben Oswest twice refers to the brother of the narrator as Ahmed.
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Green Man Morsel: Chris T-T

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival yesterday:

Chris T-T

  • Approximation: protest folkabilly.
  • Representative quote: “Billy Bragg’s gone fishin’ in his 4X4.”
  • Homepage: ChrisTT.com
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Green Man Morsel: M. Ward

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival yesterday:

M. Ward
M. Ward

M. Ward

  • Approximation: Nick Drake meets Nina Simone.
  • Representative quote: “All you gotta do is find a sword and a stone.”
  • Homepage: MWardMusic.com


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Green Man Morsel: The Aliens

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Friday:

The Aliens
The Aliens

The Aliens
(formerly the Beta Band)

  • Approximation: Scottish Elvis-Presleyan progrock.
  • Representative quote: “Lady I’m gonna have to let you go.”
  • Homepage: The Aliens on MySpace
  • Cautionary note: The band decided to play a lugubrious ballad (see representative quote) while the audience was being doused in a downpour. Not clever.


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Green Man Morsel: Circulus

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Friday:

Circulus
Circulus

Circulus

  • Approximation: Jethro Tull on “faerie” dust.
  • Representative quote: “Do you like those groovy pop tunes from 1630?”
  • Homepage: Circulus.net


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Green Man Morsel: Gruff Rhys

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Friday:

Gruff Rhys
Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys
(member of Super Furry Animals, singing solo)


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Green Man Morsel: Donovan

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Friday:

Donovan
Donovan

Donovan

  • Approximation: Karaoke.
  • Representative quote: “Lalena I can’t blame ya.”
  • Homepage: Donovan.ie


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Green Man Morsel: King Creosote

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Saturday:

King Creosote
King Creosote

King Creosote

  • Approximation: A real pop rock band at last!
  • Representative quote: “She’s jumping at the cats and nothing wrong.”
  • Homepage: KingCreosote.com


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Green Man Morsel: Micah P. Hinson

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Saturday:

Micah P. Hinson
Micah P. Hinson

Micah P. Hinson

  • Approximation: Texan Coldplay on road to maturity.
  • Representative quote: “Don’t you don’t you don’t you, forget about me forget about me.”
  • Homepage: MicahPHinson.com


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Green Man Morsel: Silver Jews

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Saturday:

Silver Jews
Silver Jews

Silver Jews

  • Approximation: Rag-tag indie rock emperors.
  • Representative quote: “When they turn on the chair, something’s added to the air.”
  • Homepage: SilverJews.net | Silver Jews on Drag City
  • Note: I managed to get a quick interview with David Berman, plus a few backstage photos, and will post these once back in South Africa. (Tease: the regular SJ drummer was sick, so ex-Pavementian Steve West stepped into the breach for the set.)


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Green Man Morsel: Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Kieran Hebden
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

  • Approximation: Miles (circa Get Up With It) Davis update: funk duologue of sharp, melodic electronica with fast-paced, marathon exertions on the drum set.
  • Representative quote: [wordless].
  • Homepage: KieranHebdenandSteveReid.com


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Green Man Morsel: Juana Molina

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Juana Molina
Juana Molina

Juana Molina

  • Approximation: One-woman electro-Pampas symphony.
  • Representative quote: “Por qué serás tan presumido.”
  • Homepage: JuanaMolina.com


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Green Man Morsel: Archie Bronson Outfit

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Archie Bronson Outfit
Archie Bronson Outfit

Archie Bronson Outfit

  • Approximation: Spenceresque (as in John).
  • Representative quote: “This one’s called ‘Kangeroo Heart’.”
  • Homepage: ArchieBronsonOutfit.net


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Green Man Morsel: Bert Jansch

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch

  • Approximation: Your pure folk fix.
  • Representative quote: “Goin’ down the highway… I’m gonna get there my way.”
  • Homepage: BertJansch.com


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Two Upcoming Wordsworth Events: Finuala Dowling and Marita van der Vyfer

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Coming up from Wordsworth Books…

Author’s choice evening with Finuala Dowling:

  • Thursday, 31 August, 18h30 for 19h00
  • Wordsworth Books, 1 King’s Warehouse, Victoria Wharf,
    V&A Waterfront
  • Finuala will be discussing her poetry, inspiration and favourite authors and reads.
  • Her books, I Flying (available from Clarkes), The Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe and What Poets Need will be on sale at a 20% discount.
  • RSVP before Tuesday, 29 August 2006: (021) 425-6880 or waterfront@wordsworth.co.za


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Green Man Morsel: Alasdair Roberts

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Alasdair Roberts
Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts

  • Approximation: Alchemist: hand and voice gently coax ugly-duckling Scottish funeral ballads into exquisite musical swans.
  • Representative quote: “Mother dry off your tears ’til I return from Waterloo.”
  • Homepage: AlasdairRoberts.com


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Green Man Morsel: Calexico

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Seen at the Green Man Festival on Sunday:

Calexico
Calexico

Calexico

  • Approximation: The big brass sounds of Tijuana, Arizona.
  • Representative quote: “Burrrrrrrrrrrru!”
  • Homepage: CasadeCalexico.com


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Hav

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Hav_01.jpg

a novel, comprising Last Letters from Hav and Hav of the Myrmidons
by Jan Morris

reviewed by Ben Oswest

The 20 August 06 Sunday Independent originally published this review, in slightly edited form.

Here it is in full:


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Book Launch: My Ousie is ‘n Blom

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

My Ousie is ‘n Blom, which began life as an issue of Karapaks (an all-Afrikaans Carapace), but grew into a fully-shelled project for Snail Press, will be launched on Thursday, 7 September, at the Irma Stern Museum, Cecil Road, Rosebank (map). Time: 6 - 8 p.m.

The poetry collection includes work by Breyten Breytenbach, Antjie Krog, Alfred Schaffer and Riedwaan Solomons, among many others; and the launch will feature live music by Valiant Swart and David Ferguson.

My Ousie is ‘n Blom was edited by Charl-Pierre Naudé and illustrated by Karlien de Villiers. Please RSVP to Gus Ferguson if you’d like to attend the launch: snaily@pulsar.co.za or (021) 762 3714.

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