Landskap met diere

deur Welma Odendaal, Human & Rousseau, 2009

Die toilet is verstop. Ek loop wikkel-wikkel en rukkend van wa na wa totdat ek naby die eetwa ʼn bruikbare toilet teëkom. Dit is laat voordat ek weer terug is in my wa. Die soldate is almal wakker. Op ʼn ry af staan hulle, byna in gelid, voorkop teen die vensters gedruk, en uitkyk buitentoe. Waarna kyk hulle? Buite lyk dit asof ʼn groot lig nader kom. Ek druk ook my voorkop teen die ruit. Nou sien ek. In die diep nag van die Karoo, vlak op die verste horison, rys die maan geel en volmaak rond en verhelder die aarde met ál sy kontoere en ál sy gestroopte verlatenheid. Soos een staan ons, ek en die soldate, en kyk, lank en sonder om ʼn woord te praat, totdat die maan hoog, ver bó ons koppe gerys het en jou oë moet knip teen sy verblindende lig.

A Taste of Death

by P.D. James, Faber & Faber, 1986

Before he concentrated on the actual scene of the crime, Dalgliesh always liked to make a cursory survey of the surroundings to orientate himself, and, as it were, to set the scene of murder. The exercise had its practical value, but he realized that, in some obscure way, it fulfilled a psychological need, just as in boyhood he would explore a country church by first walking slowly around it before , with a frisson of awe and excitement, pushing open the door and beginning his planned progress of discovery to the central mystery. And now, in these few remaining minutes, before the photographer, the fingerprint officers, the forensic biologists arrived at the scene, he had the place almost to himself. Moving into the passage he wondered whether this quiet air tinctured with the scent of incense, candles, and the more solidly Anglican smell of musty prayer books, metal polish and flowers, had held for Browne also the promise of discovery, of a scene already set, a task inevitable and inescapable.

Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad, Penguin Books, 1973

It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river.

Skag

deur Jaco Wolmarans, Tafelberg, 2020

Onder die water hoor Jos die skoot. Oukei, so die manne raak nou ernstig. Hy is by die patrollieboot se romp, maar moet kragtig swem om nie deur die kabel na benede getrek te word nie. Hy het hom misgis met die gewig en dit maak hom moeg. Nog net ʼn paar meter, darem, dan is hy agter. Voor hom kan hy net-net in die donker die patrollieboot se groot skroef uitmaak. Hy skop hard, sy longe aan die brand van inspanning. Een meter – toe breek sy kop water onder die ronding van die agterstewe en suig hy lug in. Maar nou moet hy vinnig speel. Dis die gevaarikste deel. As die kaptein besluit om die dieselenjin weer in rat te sit, gaan hy vermorsel word deur die skroef.

Vergeet my nie

deur Francois Bloemhof, Huisgenoot, Jasmyn, 2020

Sy het Pierre op ʼn toe-oog-afspraak ontmoet: die eerste en laaste wat sy ooit sal hê, baie dankie. By Nuweland, rugby nogal. ʼn Sakeman, het sy voor die tyd gehoor by Bessie wat in die kunsafdeling werk en wie se idee dit was dat hulle goed bymekaar sou pas. Hulle het toe ook. Lekker gesels daardie eerste keer, en die tweede keer ook – in ʼn duur kuierplek, La Perla in Seepunt – diéper gesels. Dit was maklik om van Pierre te hou. Net so maklik om op hom verlief te raak. Mardaleen was oortuig dis die man met wie sy gaan trou. Hy het haar baie aandag gegee, maar ook beweegruimte. Hy het nie ʼn probleem daarmee gehad toe hy sê sy is nie van plan om ooit haar loopbaan prys te gee nie. Dit was half verbasend komende van ʼn man wat nie regtig nodig gehad het om te werk nie. Daar was soveel ander mense wat na die besigheid kon omsien wat hy by sy pa oorgeneem het.

Life A User’s Manual

by Georges Perec, Hachette Litérature, 1978

This intimation of grace would sometimes last for several minutes, which made Bartlebooth feel as if he had second sight: he could perceive everything, understand everything, he could have seen grass grow, lightning strike a tree, erosion ground down a mountain  like a pyramid very gradually worn away by the gentle brushing of a bird’s wing; he would juxtapose the pieces at full speed, without error, espying, beneath all the details and subterfuges intended to obscure them, this minute claw or that imperceptible red thread or a black-edged notch, in which all ought to have indicated the solution from the start, had he but had eyes to see in a few instants, borne along by such exalted and heady self-assurance, a situation that hadn’t shifted for hours or days, a situation he could no longer even imagine untying, would be altered beyond recognition: whole areas would join up, sky and sea would recover their correct locations, tree trunks would turn back into branches, vague birds back into the shadows of seaweed.

Afterworld

by Anthony Doerr, from Memory Wall, Stories, HarperCollins, 2017

Unexpectedly, her brain feels quicker, electrified; a night passes in which all she does is draw by candlelight: twenty-thousand cross-hatchings of pencil, dark cities full of rain, pale figures moving down snowy streets, only a few circles of white on the paper to represent streetlights. Draw the darkness, Esther thinks, and it will point out the light which has been in the paper all the while. Inside this world is folded another.

Invisible Cities

by Italo Calvino, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1972

No city is more inclined than Eusapia to enjoy life and flee care. And to make the leap from life to death less abrupt, the inhabitants have constructed an identical copy of their city, underground. All corpses, dried in such a way that the skeleton remains sheathed in yellow skin, are carried down there, to continue their former activities. And, of these activities, it is their carefree moments that take first place: most of the corpses are seated around laden tables, or placed in dancing positions, or made to play little trumpets. But all the trades and professions of the living Eusapia are also at work below ground, or at least those that the living performed with more contentment than irritation: the clock maker, amid all the stopped clocks of his shop, places his parchment ear against an out-of-tune grandfather’s clock; a barber, with dry brush, lathers the cheekbones of an actor learning his role, studying the script with hollow sockets; a girl with a laughing skull milks the carcass of a heifer.

Ancient Evenings

by Norman Mailer, Mcmillan London, 1983

So she broke the seal of perfumed wax, unrolled it, gasped with delight as a ruby scarab fell into her plate – then touched it for luck to the tip of her nipple before she set it down. She read to all of us: “Just a slave on the Night of the Pig, but may you seek my freedom,” to which my father and Menenhetet laughed. Ptah-nemhotep and Hathfertiti did not. They stared back and forth with a tenderness so agreeable I wished to sit between them. It was as if there could be no end to the fascinating conversations they might have. All the while, my father looked on with pride, a happy, even a boyish look on his face as if by these attentions given to his wife, he was receiving an honor he had not wholly earned, while my great-grandfather kept a smile on his face until the corners of his mouth looked like two short fence posts, and contented himself by rotating the great round black plate on which the pig rested, as though in this animal there were other messages to read.

Shalimar the Clown

by Salman Rushdie, Vintage Books, 2006

Shalimar the clown thought at first that he understood one-eyed Talib’s rage, thought it was the anger of the wounded warrior. Later he revised his opinion. Talib’s rage was not a side effect. It was his reason for being. An age of fury was dawning and only the enraged could shape it. Talib the Afghan had become his wrath. He was a student, a scholar of rage. Of all other learning he was contemptuous but he was wise to the ways of anger. It had burned through him and now it was all that remained: the rage, and his attachment to Zahir, the boy he had brought with him from Kandahar; his protege, disciple and lover. A warrior of Kandahar, like some ancient Greek, would take such a boy for a time, make a man of him and let him go. Zahir the Boy slept in Talib’s tent and looked after his weapons and attended to his normal, nocturnal needs. But this was not homosexuality, those unnatural effeminates upon whom God expectorated most violently of all.

Oscar and Lucinda

by Peter Carey, Faber and Faber, 1988

She could not draw. She put her visions on paper and made them seem gross and malformed. She found a Frenchman, a Monsieur Huille, an artist, a friend of Mr D’Abbs. The lessons were not a success. Monsieur Huille, while very free with his own criticisms, would not put pencil to paper until, finally, at his pupil’s blunt insistence, he executed the most dismal oak tree. Pigs (or possibly dogs) grazed  beneath its wispy limbs. The drawing was so very bad that Monsieur Huille, pretending to be posthumously affronted by her insistence on this ‘proof’, resigned. He took the evidence of his incompetence with him. He said it was worth twenty pounds, but later she found it, leached by rain, blown in amongst the hay in the stable.

The Winter Vault

by Anne Michaels, Bloomsbury, 2009

There is one moment in every lifetime when we are asked for courage we feel in every cell to beyond us. It is what you do at that moment that determines all that follows. We like to think we are given more than one chance, but it’s not true. And our failure is so permanent that we try to convince ourselves it was the right thing, and we rationalize again and again. In our very bones we know the truth; it is so tyrannical, so exacting, we want to deny it in every way. This failure is at the heart of everything we do., every subtle decision we make. And that is why, at the heart of us, there is nothing we crave more than forgiveness. It is a bottomless desire, this desire for forgiveness.

Toorbos

deur Dalene Matthee, Filmuitgawe, Tafelberg, 2003

Kort ná die middag het hulle haar by Diepvalle afgelaai. En ʼn vreemde hartseer-bly oorval haar toe sy by die Boom kom. Mister Fourcade het eendag gesê hy dink berge praat met mekaar. As berge met mekaar praat, kan bome seker ook met bome praat? “Boom,” sê sy vir die ou kalander toe sy haar lyf teen hom aanleun en die hartseer keer om nie trane te word nie, “sê asseblief vir die ander bome ek is terug in die bos, sê vir hulle ek het die bespotlike ding aangevang, ek weet nie hoekom nie.”

Herzog

by Saul Bellow, The Viking Press, 1964

He lay down near the locust trees. They bloomed with a light, tiny but delicious flower – he was sorry to have missed that. He recoznized that with his arms behind him and his legs extended any way, he was lying as he had lain less than a week ago on his dirty little sofa in New York. But was it only a week – five days? Unbelievable! How different he felt! Confident, even happy in his excitement, stable. The bitter cup would come round again, by and by.This rest and well-being were only a momentary difference in the strange lining or variable silk between life and void.