Bloedsteen

deur Irna van Zyl, Penguin, 2020

Storm se ma, Rowena, val sonder gil of geluid netjies in die gaping tussen die laaste wa en die tiende perron. Die perron waar die bogrondse trein van Twyford af gewoonlik inkom. Reg langs die brons standbeeldjie van Paddington-beer skuins op sy tas, groot hoed en al. Rowena val met ʼn slag reguit langs die spoor, parallel onder die trein in. Haar arms, verstommend genoeg, styf langs haar lyf. Haar bene goddank ook lankuit gestrek. In haar sjiekste someruitrusting. Gegroom vir ʼn uitgelese Engelse gehoor van kundige modemense. Rooibont rok van ligte somerstof, kitten heels, sonbruin bene en met ʼn stylvolle trench coat oor haar arm. Daarby ʼn bypassende beige handsak en aktetas van sagte leer oor haar skouer. In haar val verbeel sy haar sy onthou ʼn jong man skuins agter haar, sy hand amper om haar lyf, asof ook hy steun soek in die drukte voor die oop deur van die trein. Haar hand op die lang blink handvatsel om haar op en in te hys. Die toeter wat die laaste waarskuwing blaas.

A Madman’s Manuscript

from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, Penguin Popular Classics, first published 1836/7

Yes! A madman’s! How that word would have struck to my heart many years ago! How it would have roused the terror that used to come upon me sometimes, sending the blood hissing and tingling through my veins till the cold dew of fear stood in large drops upon my skin, and my knees knocked together with fright! I like it now, though. It’s a fine name. Show me the monarch whose angry frown was ever feared like the glare of a madman’s eye – whose cord and ax were ever sure as a madman’s gripe. Ho! Ho! It’s a grand thing to be mad! To be peeped at like a wild lion through the iron bars – to gnash one’s teeth and howl, through the long still night, to the merry ring of a heavy chain – and to roll the twine among the straw, transported with such brave music. Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it’s a rare place!

Alleen onder die maan

deur Willem Krog, Jonathan Ball Uitgewers, 2020

Robotte het die meeste fisieke werk oorgeneem en daarom het die meerderheid mense se werk iets met rekenaars te make. In Suid-Afrika is daar wel nog meer werk wat fisiek gedoen moet word as byvoorbeeld in Europa waar feitlik alles geoutomatiseer is.

Love in the Time of Cholera

by Gabriel Garcia Merquez, Penguin, 1989

They had just made love on Pentecost Sunday when the bells began to toll at four o’clock. Florintino Ariza had to overcome the wild beating of his heart. In his youth, the ritual of the tolling bells had been included in the price of the funeral and was denied only to the indigent. But after our last war, just at the turn of the century, the Conservative regime consolidated its colonial customs, and funeral rites became so expensive that only the wealthiest could pay for them. When Archbishop Dante de Luna died, bells all over the province rolled unceasingly for nine days and nine nights, and the public suffering was so great that his successor reserved the tolling of bells for the funeral services of the most illustrious of the dead. Therefore, when Florentino Ariza heard the Cathedral bells at four o’cock in the afternoon on a Pentecost Sunday, he felt as if he had been visited by a ghost from his lost youth. He never imagined they were the bells he had so longed to hear for so many years, ever since the Sunday when he saw Fermina Daza in her sixth month of pregnancy as she was leaving high Mass.

In ʼn land sonder voëls

deur Harry Kalmer, Penguin Fiksie, 2019

Jy was reg. Die dood van die voëls het oornag begin. Binne maande was daar meer as 800 van Noord-Amerika se sowat 900 spesies uitgewis, is daar berig. In die Amasonegebied het glo slegs sowat 300 van nagenoeg 1 500 spesies oorleef.  Swerms het uit die lug geval. Mense op die grond is beseer. Strande was oortrek met dooie meeue en malgasse. In die Antarktiese See het dooie pikkewyne soos drywende eilande met hul wit pense na bo gedobber. Stadskoonmakers in hul oorpakke en nywerheidsmaskers het met reusebesems duiwe en mossies in hope bymekaargevee en verbrand.

The Pickwick Papers

by Charles Dickens, Penguin Popular Classics, 1994

Mr. Tupman looked around him. The wine, which had exacted its somniferous influence over Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle, had stolen upon the senses of Mr. Pickwick. That gentleman had gradually passed through the various stages that precede the lethargy produced by dinner, and its consequences. He had undergone the ordinary transitions from the height of conviviality to the depth of misery and from the depth of misery to the height of conviviality. Like a gas-lamp in the street, with a wind in the pipe, he had exhibited for a moment an unnatural brilliancy; then sunk so low as to be scarcely discernible; after a short interval he had burst out again to enlighten for a moment, then flickered with an uncertain, staggering sort of light, and then gone out altogether. His head was sunk upon his bosom, and perpetual snoring with a partial choke occasionally were the only audible indications of the great man’s presence.

Memory Wall

stories by Anthony Doerr, HarperCollins, 2017

Then she sees. In the window looms a demon. Nostrils, a jaw, a face chalked white with dry skin, and two yellow canine incisors, each as long as her forearms, extend from a scaly pink gum. It exhales through its wet, reptilian nose; twin ovals of vapour cloud the window. Saliva hangs from its lower jaw in pendulous bobs. The light veers past; the beast ducks lower. Its pleated throat convulses; it peers at her with one eye, spider-webbed with filigrees of blood vessels, whole tiny river systems trundling blood deeper and deeper into the yellow of its eyeball, unknowable, terrible, wet – it is a demon dredged up from some black corner of memory, even from across the gallery, she can see into the crypt of its eye, huge and unblinking, and she can smell it, too: the creature smells like swamp, of mire and ooze, and a thought, a scrap, a line from a book, rises from her as from some abscess of memory and she wakes with a sentence on her lips: They are coming. They are coming and they don’t mean well.

Quichotte

by Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Cape, 2019

Sancho Smile. That’s my name. Got that. But there’s a whole lot else I’m kind of blank about. I don’t even know if I’m even really here, to tell the truth. For one thing I’m black-and-white in a full-colour universe. I look at my face in the mirror and it looks like not a face but a photograph of a face. How do I feel about that? Second class. Minor league. That’s how. Also, I don’t seem to be visible right now to anyone except him. My ‘father’. Only he sees me. I know I’m not perceived, because when we go into the Subway in Moorcroft, Wyoming, where I was born, and he asks me if I want something, a soda, a sandwich, people look at him. That look people use on crazy people. Like he’s talking to himself, and I want to yell out, See me, I’m standing right here. But to other people I’m apparently impossible to sense. I’m what’s the word. Imperceptible.

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.