Signs of the Heart, Love and Death in Languedoc

by Christopher Hope, Macmillan, 1999

The Circus of Dreams arrived without warning. Like the marin, blowing from the sea. You got up one morning and the posters were roped to the lamp-posts beside the bridge and across the road from the maternelle. Tied in neat bows – the rope was used again and again. Posters red and blue as blood and bruises, touting trapeze artists, clowns … hours of fun for all the family! See the Dromedary, the Wonder of the Desert! The Beautiful Boy Clown! Promises dizzying in their lies.

Scorched Earth

edited by Fransjohan Pretorius, Tafelberg, 2017

The Hague Convention of 1899 determined that the destruction of property had to be limited to what was “imperatively demanded by the necessities of war”. Roberts was acting within these limits when in the period March to June 1999 he authorised the destruction of farmhouses from which Boer snipers fired on British troops under cover of a white flag. However, once Roberts had ordered that houses be burned down under these circumstances, the policy was implemented by officers in the field less judiciously. Various houses had therefore already been burned down before Pretoria was captured.

Omega, oor en uit, die storie van ʼn opstandige troep

deur Francois Verster, Tafelberg, 2016

Een van die grootste uitdagings en frustrasies by 1 SAI (SA Infanterieskool) was die uiterste verveling. Hoe enige mens daardie soort lewe as ʼn loopbaan kan kies, het my dronkgeslaan. Die ongemaklike uniform was klaar erg genoeg. Alles het gekom in variasies van grys en groen. Dit was asof die hele basis gestroop was van alles wat enige plesier kan bied. Masochisme, sadisme en verbeeldingloosheid, so het dit vir my gelyk, was die temas van hierdie kostuumparty.

Scorched Earth

edited by Fransjohan Pretorius, Tafelberg, 2017

Despite the variable quality of diagnoses, the main causes of death are clear enough, Between the beginning of June and the end of December 1901 the most significant cause of death in the Transvaal camps was measles, aggravated by pneumonia and diarrhoea. Measles is primarily a childhood disease, but, because babies acquire a passive immunity from their mothers, it usually appears in slightly older children. Where populations are isolated, however, and contact has not provided immunity, all ages may be affected. Malnutrition makes people particularly vulnerable to measles, which also weakens the natural immune system and gives rise to secondary infections. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are common complications in susceptible societies. British doctors were aware that the Boers were vulnerable. Dr. G. Pratt Yule noted that “it seems as if the Dutch by their long sojourn in South Africa and the isolation of their dwellings had practically lost this immunity … [as] is abundantly shown by the extremely malignant type the disease assumes in the camp”.

Agter tralies bly hy steeds my kind

deur Petro Hansen, Protea, 2019

“Ek sal jou wel een ding vertel,” sê hy. Ek is nie skaam vir my kind nie. Al trek mense die sluier van misdaad oor ons hele gesin, sal ek dit steeds teen die berge uitroep: ‘My kind is in die tronk, maar ek bly sy pa!’ Ons kry drie uurbesoeke per maand. Daardie uur is my kosbaarste besitting. Die dag as sy vonnis uitgedien is, sal ek die een wees wat buite daardie verdomde tronkhekke in die straat vir hom gaan staan en wag. Ek het hom, soos die Here met sy kinders maak, myne gemaak. Ek sal hom nie verwerp nie. Ek het hom na die beste van my vermoë grootgemaak. Maar die dag toe hy self kon kies, het hy ontspoor, het sy kompas hom in die steek gelaat.”

ʼn Akkerboom groei nie in die Bosveld nie

deur Petro Hansen, uit die bundel Vervleg, Protea, 2019

Ek besluit dis nooit te laat om ʼn groeihand te kry nie. Skoonma sal help, en ek meld een oggend aan vir ʼn blitskursus. Sy verduidelik geduldig wat turfgrond en wat rooigrond is, en watter plante en bome ek nie moet plant nie en wat wel. Ek neem kennis. Turfgrond het ʼn hoë klei-inhoud, dit dreineer moeilik en plante wat goeie dreinering nodig het, sal nie daarin aard nie. Turf is alkalies of soet en plante wat suurgrond verkies, groei glad nie daarin nie. Dis dié dat sommige boervrouens wat hul sprokiestuine in genadelose turf moet aanpak somtyds gedroogde teeblare, sitroensuur en suurkompos in hulle beddings gooi – dis om hul suurgrondplante ʼn hupstoot te gee!

Yes, hyena robots are scary. But they’re also a cunning marketing ploy


That we respond with a sense of fear to sophisticated-seeming robots makes sense. Robots have been associated with a narrative of insurrection and replacement since they made their debut in Karel Capek’s 1920 play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, which was about worker robots violently overthrowing their human overlords. This narrative has been repeated ever since in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, and more recently, the HBO series Westworld. The purpose of these narratives has been to use the robot as humanity’s mirroring other, similar enough to force us to reflect, with some productive distance, on issues of exploitation, labor, slavery, bigotry, revolution. In other words, the robot apocalypse narrative speaks to our deepest fears about ourselves.

Charles Dickens, A Life

by Claire Tomalin, Viking, 2011

He was always able to sparkle, charm and command admiration, but he aged in appearance now and began to look older than his years. The keen and lustrous eyes were sinking in their sockets and losing their brilliance, lines appeared across his brow and his cheeks were cut across by diagonal furrows. His hair thinned, his beard grizzled: some photographs showed this clearly, others suggest he may have had them touched up on occasion.

Picasso and Walt Disney: Room for Nature in a Modern World?

by Paul Johnson, from Creators, from Chaucer to Walt Disney, Phoenix, 2006

Many people find it hard to accept that a great writer, painter, or musician can be evil. But the historical evidence shows, again and again, that evil and creative genius can exist side by side in the same person. It is rare indeed for the evil side of the creator to be so all-pervasive as it was in Picasso, who seems to have been without redeeming qualities of any kind. In my judgment his monumental selfishness and malignity were inextricably linked to his achievement. His creativity involved a certain contempt for the past which demanded ruthlessness in discarding it. He was all-powerful as an originator and aesthetic entrepreneur precisely because he was so passionately devoted to what he was doing, to the exclusion of all other feelings whatever. He had no sense of duty except to himself, and this gave him his overwhelming self-promoting energy. Equally, his egotism enabled him to turn away from nature and into himself with a concentration which is awe-inspiring.

Ode aan plekname

deur Marié Blomerus, uit die bundel herinneringe Porseleinskerwe, Protea, 2019

Nog ʼn dorp naby Karibib is Usakos. Daar het mense vroeër jare in die nag van die smalspoortrein op die gewone trein na Windhoek of na Swakopmund oorgeklim. En daar was geen perron nie en baie min lig. Nogal ʼn ervaring van ʼn ander aard gewees. Hier vloei die Khanrivier wat soms in ʼn goeie reënjaar met geweld afkom. Lank gelede was daar nie ʼn brug oor die rivier nie en moes die wat êrens wou heen, maar wag tot die ergste water afgeloop het en dan deur die taai modder beur. Hierdie dorpie sal ek altyd onthou vir die prosopusbome en die oleanders. En as jy uit die dorp per motor na Swakopmund reis, is daar altyd ʼn sekere plek waar jy stilhou en kyk na die poublou van die Erongoberge en weer en weer kyk, want nêrens is daar nog iets so mooi nie. Nog ʼn rukkie later hou jy weer stil om asem op te hou by die aanskoue van “Spitzkuppe”, die Matterhorn van Namibië.