Die eindelose avontuur, ʼn Venster op die wêreldletterkunde

deur Audrey Blignault, uit die hoofstuk ‘n Noodlottige dwaalweg na geluk, Tafelberg, 1993

Waarom is Emma Bovary een van die onsterflike vroue in die letterkunde van die wêreld? Omdat sy elke mens se wesenlike verlange na geluk, na liefde, na die vervulling van ʼn droom verteenwoordig, en omdat sy nie die insig gehad het om te weet waaruit dié geluk, dié liefde, dié vervulling van die droom werklik bestaan nie. Het ʼn mens nie dié insig nie, moet die geluk jou altyd ontwyk en kan die soektog na die geluk jou op gevaarlike dwaalspore bring, soms so gevaarlik dat jy op jou eie vernietiging afstuur.

Crowds and Power

by Elias Canetti, Penguin, 1973

An executioner is a man threatened with death in order to make him kill, although only those he is told to kill. If he keeps strictly to his orders, nothing can happen to him. It is true that he may allow the way he carries them out to be affected by other threats which have been used against him at different times; he naturally comes to his task with any stings he has accumulated from elsewhere. But the basic mechanism of his job remains the same: killing others he frees himself from death. To him it is a clean business, with nothing shocking or unnatural about it. He cannot find inside him any of the horror he awakens in others. It is important to be quite clear about this: official killers are contented in proportion as the commands they are given lead directly to death. A prison warder’s life is far more difficult than an executioner’s. It is true that society penalises the latter for the gratification he derives from his job by making him a kind of outlaw; but even this is not without some advantage for him. In fact he is nothing but a tool, but still he does survive his victims and so some of the prestige of the survivor accrues to him and compensates for his outlawry. He finds himself a wife, has children and leads a normal family life.

Page after page

by Darran Anderson, TLS, March 30, 2018

The Great Kantō earthquake laid waste to Tokyo and its inhabitants. Many buildings collapsed, but it was the resulting fires that did the most damage, destroying over 60 percent of the capital’s housing. Faced with the carnage, the young Kurosawa averted his gaze but his brother chastized him. “Akira, look carefully … If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened. If you look at everything, straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.” Throughout his films, Kurosawa would encourage this unflinching gaze, nowhere more so than in his masterpiece of shifting perspectives and unreliable narrative, Rashamōn (1950).

Impossible return

by Siona O’Connel, Kwela Books, 2019

The move from Harfield Village took several months. Sharifa and Suliaman recall a certain ‘Mr Burger’ regularly knocking on the doors of homes in the area. Suliaman recalls: ‘He kept telling us: “You must get out! You must get out!”’ Tellingly, he recalls that ‘if you gave Mr Burger something … then you could stay longer’. His sister comments quietly: ‘That’s how we could stay a long time. I didn’t want to say that.’ This went on for at least six or seven months. ‘He would come with his file in his hand and wanted to know who all lived in the house. Everybody’s name was taken down with their identity number. He used to come every two to three months to check that everybody was still alive and living there. Eventually he said we got a place for you. You have to go to Hanover Park. Mr Burger told us there were nice places in Hanover Park and he took us to see the flats.’ Sharifa, her mother and sister-in-law went to see the flats at the end of Blomvlei Road. ‘At that time, Hanover Park was just starting up. There was nothing there. Mr Burger asked us why would we all want to stay in one house. We could each have a flat here. It was sandy and far from everything. And the flat itself wasn’t something we could live in.’

9 Questions to Joy Harjo, the first Native American US poet laureate

by Olivia Waxman, Time, Sept. 2 – 9, 2019

Audiences for poetry are growing because of the turmoil in our country – political shifts, climate shifts. When there’s uncertainty, when you’re looking for meaning beyond this world – that takes people to poetry. We need something to counter the hate speech, the divisiveness, and it’s possible with poetry.

Eye of the Storm

by Vivienne Walt, Time, September 30, 2019

A lifelong bibliophile, Macron says he carves out “one or two hours” a day for reading – essential for his well-being, he says. Over the summer, he reread books by Albert Camus and polished off the new novel by French writer Luc Lang, among others. Once or twice a week he plays sports, including boxing, sparring with his bodyguards in the sweeping gardens of the Élysée. Downtime is crucial, he says, “to remain independent and to think and remain creative.” A karaoke maven while a graduate student, Macron admits he “still sings” karaoke “in some contexts.” And his musical tastes are last century: French greats Charles Aznavour and Johnny Hallyday.

Sushi en Shosholoza, Rugbyreise en pelgrimstogte in Japan

deur Erns Grundling, Queillerie, 2019

In Japan kan ʼn doelwit of teiken klaarblyklik baie vinnig in ʼn obsessie verander. Ek het in my navorsing afgekom op ʼn berig op die nuuswebwerf Japan Today oor ʼn amptelike verskoning wat die JR West-treindiens gemaak het nadat ʼn trein in Mei 2018 ʼn volle vyf-en-twintig sekondes te vroeg by Norogawa-stasie in die Shiga-prefektuur vertrek het. “The great inconvenience we placed upon our customers was truly inexcusable.” Bid jou dit aan! Dit is uiteraard onregverdig om hierdie standaarde te vergelyk met Suid-Afrika s’n. Maar ek kan nie help om te dink hoe ons land vooruit sal boer as ons openbare vervoer veiliger en meer stiptelik kon wees nie.

Spitstyd, uitgesoekte rubrieke

deur Wilhelm Jordaan, Litera, 2011

Baie van vandag se (outo)biografiese werke (en die hordes awesome life-stories) wat in die media aandag kry, handel oor glansmense se lewensepisodes; flentertjies voorvalletjies en belewenissies wat aanmekaar gevleg word met oppervlakkige moralisering en aansprake oor wat die lewe hulle geleer het. Waaruit die indruk kom die lewe verloop soos ʼn sepie op TV. Wat op die voorgrond is, is die skouspel van die oomblik eerder as die duursaamheid van gedagtegang en lewenskundigheid. Die verhaal moet verbyster eerder as verhelder, vermaak eerder as ontleed, oorrompel eerder as rustige nabetragting wek.

H is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald, Vintage, 2014

Independence – a state of being self-contained – is the only generosity, I thought, the only charity we can claim of a living creature. We must have nothing to do with another’s bones; that is our only right – to have nothing to do with them. The bone must be the axis of a globe of intrusion-proof glass. One could not say, watching a hawk: ‘I ought perhaps to do this for him.’ Therefore, not only is he safe from me, but I am safe from him. Stella Benson, England Have My Bones

Love in the afternoon, When Picasso exalted his mistress in art

by Matthew Bown, TLS, March 30, 2018

Picasso in his work is a fluid god: Harlequin, the Minotaur, a curly-bearded flute-player to naked ladies, Mithra to Marie-Thérèse’s Moon-Goddess. In life he was a cruel one. When Marie-Thérèse became pregnant in 1935, Olga left him, although she refused him a divorce. He began a new affair, with his model, Dora Maar. Marie-Thérèse and Dora finally met in the studio when Picasso was painting “Guernica.” Marie-Thérèse demanded he choose between them and Picasso told the two women to fight it out, which they did. According to a subsequent lover, Françoise Gilot, this was one of Picasso’s “choicest memories.”

The Real Life of Laurence Olivier

by Roger Lewis, Arrow Books, 1997

It is Olivier’s duty to make everything appropriate to his characters look real.Not so much a matter of being real, as he’d be at pains to point out, as long as the acting seems real: ‘Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is … I remember going to see the Actors’ Studio [in New York] and … the Method actors are entirely preoccupied with feeling real to themselves instead of creating the illusion of reality [for the benefit of the audience]’. There’s the famous story of Dustin Hoffman huffing and puffing, getting himself into a state, sleeping in his clothes, knocking himself out, appearing on the set red-eyed and in a pickle, so that his own frame of mind would coincide with Babe Levy’s, his part in Marathon Man. Olivier glanced at his co-star, an unshaven wreck, and said benevolently, ‘Why don’t you try acting, dear boy, it’s far easier.’ Mood, for Olivier, is in the details, not the emotions. In Rebecca. scooping the marmalade; in Pride and Prejudice, the dance steps; in Carrie, counting the bank notes and handling the keys; in Long Day’s Journey into Night, the way Tyrone is meanly measuring out a glass of Scotch: with Olivier, the trick of it resides in his practicality – how a cravat was tied; how the make-up was applied; how to get a revolving stage to function noiselessly; how things were done, or functioned, or were explained away.