Sy kom met die sekelmaan

deur Hettie Smit, Tafelberg 1937

KAAPSTAD, 30 Maart

Die dag was vaal en flou en verlep, en die droë ure netjies en behoorlik afgebaken soos ’n eindelose ry eenderse langwerpige bakstene in ’n baksteenmuur.

Die ruwe berg

deur Einar Turkowski, vertaal deur Nicol Stassen, Protea

In die land waar die kerse van onder af boontoe brand en dit uit die grond boontoe reën, is daar ’n berg met ’n onheilspellende naam. Niemand kan sê waar die berg vandaan kom nie. Baie mense glo dat die naam self na die berg toe gekom het en hom bedek het op die presiese oomblik wat die sombere gesteente uit die aarde te voorskyn gekom het. Daar word gesê dat die berg ’n skaduwee gooi wat soos ’n diep duisternis van die noordekant af oor die land uitstrek, somber en so swart soos die nag.

The darkest corners

deur Kara Thomas, Ember, 2016

Hell is a two-hour layover in Atlanta. The woman to my right has been watching me since I sat down. I can tell she’s one of those people who take the sheer fact that you’re breathing as an invitation to start up a conversation.

’n Slagterseun met ’n brilletjie

deur Tom Lanoye, vertaal deur Daniel Hugo, Protea Boekhuis, 2008

Augustus 1958, hittegolf. My ma kan dit nie meer waag om te gaan lê nie. Skaars het sy haar uitgestrek of ek, in haar maag, begin so hewig skop dat sy weer steunend moet opstaan. Solank sy werk of regop sit, is ek soet. Sy slaap sittend, in ’n leunstoel wat teen die huweliksbed geskuif is. Haar voete teen my pa s’n, dit is die enigste teerheid wat ek toelaat.

Ons wag op die kaptein

deur Elsa Joubert, Tafelberg, 1968

Dis stil om hulle. In die binneplasie en daar buitekant. Dis asof almal wag. Die Kongolees wat met sy groepie soldate teruggetrek het na die skaduwee van die bome, die plaaswerkers wat versadig na die eerste plunder, stil is onder die bome, wag. Ook hier in die binneplaas wag hulle, soos in die hart van ’n orkaan, op die volgende opstuwig van geweld.

’n Porseleinskerf

deur Marié Blomerus, Protea Boekhuis 2019

Byna alles is verlede tyd. Dit wat toekomstig is, is net beplanning en nog geen werklikheid nie. Al wat seker is van die toekoms is dat nie een van ons vir altyd hierdie briljante aardbol sal bewoon nie. Maar van dit wat gebeur het, is ons ten minste seker, hoewel groot gedeeltes daarvan vergeet moet word omdat dit vir ons onaangenaam was en nie tot heil of voordeel nie. Ander moet ons soos kleinode bewaar, diep in die holtes van die hart, want hulle het geskitter en ons lewens soos opkomende sonne laat gloei of selfs soos die aandster.

Saturday

by Ian McEwan, Vintage, 2005

Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet. It’s not clear to him when exactly he became conscious, nor does it seem relevant. He’s never done such a thing before, but he isn’t alarmed or even faintly surprised, for the movement is easy, and pleasurable in his limbs, and his back and legs feel unusually strong. He stands there, naked by the bed – he always sleeps naked – feeling his full height, aware of his wife’s patient breathing and of the wintry bedroom air on his skin. That too is a pleasurable sensation. His bedside clock shows three forty. He has no idea what he’s doing out of bed; he has no need to relieve himself; nor is he disturbed by a dream or some element of the day before; or even by the state of the world. It’s as if, standing there in the darkness, he’s materialized out of nothing, fully formed, unencumbered. He doesn’t feel tired, despite the hour and his recent labours, nor is his conscience troubled by any recent case. In fact, he’s alert and empty-headed and inexplicably elated. With no decision made, no motivation at all, he begins to move towards the nearest of the three bedroom windows and experiences such ease and lightness in his tread that he suspects at once he’s dreaming or sleepwalking. If it is the case, he’ll be disappointed. Dreams don’t interest him; that this should be real is a richer possibility. And he’s entirely himself, he is certain of it, and he knows that sleep is behind him: to know the difference between it and waking, to know the boundaries, is the essence of sanity.

Die behoue huis

deur Abraham H. de Vries uit sy kortverhaalbundel Tot Verhaal Kom, Human & Rosseau, 2003

Hoort spoke en voorbodes eintlik in stories? het ek gesit en wonder omdat vanjaar se stories so vol spoke en voorspellings was. Die onverwagte verskynings waarin hulle so uitmunt, is merentyd net té onverwags. Goeie stories berei hulleself geduldig voor op hulle slotte.

As it is in Heaven

by Niall Williams, Picador, 1999

There are only three great puzzles in the world, the puzzle of love, the puzzle of death and, between each of these and part of both of them, the puzzle of God. God is the greatest puzzle of all. When a car drives off the road and crashes into your life. You feel the puzzle of God. You feel the sharpness of its edges fall on top of you and know the immensity of the puzzle from the force of the life being crushed out of you. You want to lift the pieces and throw them away into the darkness.You feel the chill of loss, the draughty air as if the walls of your soul have been knocked down in the night and you wake to realize that you are living in a vast exposed emptiness.

Foxtrot van die vleiseters

deur Eben Venter, Tafelberg, 1993

In Augustus tydens die jaar van die Noodtoestand hoor ek, Petrus Steenekamp, vir die eerste keer die skreeu. Hier onder die peperboom is ons besig om ons brekfis uit ʼn mandjie te pak. Die skreeu skeur oor die veld na ons toe. Sy oorsprong, besef ek oombliklik, is op Renosterberg, vier-, vyfhonderd tree van ons piekniekplek af. Die skreeu moet vergelyk word met die swaar vleislyf van ʼn dier. Sy kop klink skerp, soos ʼn snytand, soos ʼn waarskuwingsgil teen ʼn slang. Die middeldeel van die skreeu, die buik, stol ons bewegings net daar waar ons staan.

Spieëlbeeld

deur Franz Marx, Protea, 2017

My naam is Joseph Hendrikus Minnie, maar almal noem my obviously Joe en ek het drie stupid vrae gehad om my pa te vra.

My Name is Red

by Orhan Pamuk, Faber and Faber, 2001

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Though I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from that vile murderer, knows what happened to me. As for that wretch, he felt for my pulse and listened for my breath to be sure I was dead, then kicked me in the midriff, carried me to the edge of the well, raised me up and dropped me below. As I fell, my head, which he’d smashed with a stone, broke apart; my face, my forehead and cheeks, were crushed; my bones shattered, and my mouth filled with blood.

Shadow Country

by Peter Matthiessen, Maclehose Press, 2008

Seabirds are aloft again, a tattered few. The white terns look dirtied in the somber light and they fly stiffly, feeling out an element they no longer trust. Unable to locate the storm-lost minnows, they wander the thick waters with sad muted cries, hunting seamarks that might return them to the order of the world.

Midnight’s Children

by Salman Rushdie, Vintage, 1995

I was born in the city of Bombay … once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more … On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And outside the window, fireworks and crowds. A few seconds later, my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clocks I had been mysteriously hand-cuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country. For the next three decades, there was to be no escape. Soothsayers had prophecied me, newspapers celebrated my arrival, politicos ratified my authenticity. I was left entirely without a say in the matter. I, Saleem Sinai, later variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon, had become heavily embroiled in Fate – at the best of times a dangerous sort of involvement. And I couldn’t even wipe my own nose at the time.

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck, The Viking Press, 1939

To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The plows crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the gray country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated, The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red earth and white in the gray country.

Flight Behavior

by Barbara Kingsolver, HarperCollins, 2012

A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace. The shame and the loss would infect her children too, that was the worst of it, in a town where everyone knew them. Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eyeing the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the big bag boy. She’s that one. How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run. Like a hunted animal, or a racehorse, winning or losing felt exactly alike at this stage, with the same coursing of blood and shortness of breath. She smoked too much, that was another mortification to throw in with the others. But she had cast her lot. Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else. Now it was her turn. She could claim the tightness in her chest and call it bliss, rather than the same breathlessness she could be feeling at home right now while toting a heavy laundry basket, behaving like a sensible mother of two.