Friday, May 24, 2013

Interview. Joan Hambidge interviews Ron Irwin on Flat water Tuesday

Ron Irwin. Flat water Tuesday. Pan Macmillan South Africa, 2013. ISBN 9781250035981. 

Flat Water Tuesday is available in South Africa at all bookstores and releases worldwide on June 4. Joan Hambidge, a buddy and colleague of author Ron Irwin, asked him a few questions over a glass of whisky.

Congratulations on your wonderful debut, Flat water Tuesday, a riveting novel. The sport is not just about brute power. Or endurance. Or the ability to suffer. Rowing in a team forces you to respond to what other men do in the boat. To adhere to a strategy. To follow commands. To put your petty gripes and prejudices and fears aside” (65). Rowing is a metaphor for endurance. Are you personally interested in this sport?

I learned how to row at the West Side Rowing Club in Buffalo, New York when I was 15 and went on to boarding school in Connecticut, where I rowed for three years. I also rowed at university in two varsity teams. I have rowed as a sculler, in a four-man shell and in an eight-man shell. It is safe to say that there was a considerable time in my life when all that mattered was rowing. I was lucky enough to have had magnificent coaching and to have rowed with some truly talented oarsmen. It really wasn't until my last year in university when it occurred to me that there might be more to life than rowing, and I quit the sport so I could have free time to have fun, party … do normal college student things. But I also knew that I was not going to get much better as a rower. I had reached my personal best during the final races of my third year at university. Overall, I was a good rower, but not as good as the main character in my novel. I had friends at boarding school who were truly gifted athletes, and my knowledge of what they experienced informed the novel. My brother was the captain of his university team, and he was probably a stronger oar than I was. He was lucky enough to row in the English Henley in an eight named after my father, who supported our efforts wholeheartedly.

Rowing is a metaphor for endurance and commitment to a team. There is no sport I know of that asks so much of its participants. Rowers train year round. My university team forbade drinking during the racing season. Rowers pride themselves on going out on the water in truly atrocious weather. There were numerous times when I would come off the water with icicles hanging off my oar. It is a sport that rewards obsession. You don't need to be very coordinated to row and it doesn't take a long time to really excel at the sport if you start out in good shape – unlike, say, golf or tennis, which require years of work before you have any proficiency. But there is nothing like the feeling of a truly fast boat. I still have dreams about it. It feels like flying.

The book reflects on death and the impact of a suicide on friends (buddies) at an American school (Fenton). “Blue blood” and Ivy League references analyse class differences in America. Comment.

The important thing to remember about boarding school is that it is an intense experience where coming from wealth really doesn't matter, because everyone is wealthy. Kids at that age are far more concerned about sporting prowess and a certain kind of savoir-faire than class. But if you come into that environment from sheer poverty, like my main character does, it is intimidating. On the other hand, if you are good at rowing, you immediately join the most elite club in an already elite environment. A good oarsman is treated like a god at a top rowing school. There is nothing like it. Some other sports have a certain status in American boarding schools – like football or hockey – but most of my rowing friends looked down on those. The importance of rowing, which is an Olympic sport, can simply not be overestimated. The major race of the year is held in England (Henley), and the expense of sending a team overseas to row an $80 000 boat down a race course once or twice is astronomical. There is a reason why the top Ivy League Schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton – recruit top teams. Harvard has a waiting list of alumni who want to donate boats. The other schools probably have the same thing. It is an intensely clubby experience. In fact, the top rowing team at the boarding school in the novel (and at my real-life boarding school) is actually called the "club", not the "varsity". There was no other sports team on campus that had its own club. And all you needed to do to get in was to be willing to take a great deal of physical punishment. Family connections meant nothing. How much money you had, what you wore, how nice you were, who your friends were, these were are all irrelevant. I remember feeling really sorry for the son of some famous millionaire banker because we could all beat him on the ergometer (rowing machine). I think the kid owned a Porsche, but to my mind he was a truly sorry figure.

I always say that the sport is "tribal". And that tribal experience is what informs the parts in the novel about rowing.

Rob Carrey, the main storyteller, a filmmaker for National Geographic, travels to different countries. The backdrop of Africa (for instance Zambia) has an enormous impact on his experience of New York. The novel could be read as the insider returning as the outsider. You are an American living in South Africa and frequently returning to the States. Did your current position as an ex-American – albeit full-blooded Yank – influence this device?

Certainly. I have been lucky enough to do a great deal of travelling, and of course I have lived in South Africa for over 20 years. But I still think of the USA – and more specifically, Buffalo, New York – as home and travel back often. Over the years I have come to realise just how different my experience was, rowing in high school and at university. Especially since I teach at a university! The sport was intense, but why was I so obsessed with it? I think that if I were to be 18 again, I probably would have a lot more fun in college than I did back then. When I went to university my first order of business was to try out for the rowing team. I enjoyed my classes, but rowing was really just as important. Possibly more important. I had two or three girlfriends dump me because they got tired of the fact that I was getting up at the crack of dawn every day to row and couldn't go to the various parties with them because I needed to be in bed sleeping. And my weekends were given over to racing or training. And all my friends were rowers. It was crazy. What was I thinking? I really should have partied more. Seriously.

But I also should say that I write from personal experience. In my fiction I am trying to grapple with problems that remain unresolved. Rowing was a pursuit that was very important to me, but of course I never was quite as good as I wanted to be, and I discovered as I got older that many of my friends who were excellent rowers had a very hard time adjusting to adult life outside of the boat. In fact, one of my rowing friends from university days did jump off a bridge. I got the call from a former teammate while I was at home in Buffalo after having been in South Africa for two or three years. It was quite a shock. He was a super-successful guy, a great oar … one of those people that seems to have it all. So I put that into the novel. Every year I go back to the United States I am more and more a tourist. In one sense, I am also a tourist to my own history. But aren't we all?

The impact of youth traumas – for instance the death of the main character’s sister and the family’s response to the tragedy – is carefully analysed. The book is a reflection on youth. Did Rob Carrey have to return to his youth (as Alice Miller would suggest) to understand his current position and difficult relationship with his partner?

I think that what happens to you in your teen youth stays with you. Rowing is a wonderful pursuit, but it does create a person who can be extremely callous to the suffering of other people. It also creates somebody who is rather intense. My university coach used to say that he never knew a top rower who wasn't a prick. It's a sad thing to say, but it takes a certain kind of arrogance to be a really good oarsmen. You need to really believe that you are better not only than everybody else in the boat, but also than another boat full of guys who were just as big and committed. You need to be under the impression that you deserve to win all the time. You need to look down on people who give in to weakness. You need to be extremely harsh on yourself as well. You need to force yourself to get up every single morning to train and force yourself to get better all the time. Most of the guys I knew who were really good did this partly because they couldn't stand the thought of somebody else beating them. It wasn't about the beauty of the sport, or teamwork. It was about being the best in making it look easy.

The main character has grown up, however. And while much of the novel is about rowing, its heart is about the love between Rob and Carolyn. Rob knows that he is losing her and he desperately wants to hold on to her. From the main character's perspective as an adult, rowing has lost its meaning. The most important thing in the world is holding on to this very special woman. And yet, due to his own thoughtlessness, their relationship has become fractured. Part of it is that he simply needs to say he's sorry. But that's difficult for many men. Rob is one of them. Part of understanding what happens in the novel between these two adults is understanding what happens to Rob and his past. You need to learn as you get older that being tough also means knowing when you are wrong in learning how to sympathise with somebody else's feelings, even when she's being impossible. But of course this is the story of men and women since the beginning of time. More than that, when you become an adult you realise there are things in life that are far worse than losing a race. Like saying goodbye to the love of your life.

Flat Water Tuesday © Chrizane van Zyl

The impact of alcohol and the effect on Rob’s judgment is also a leitmotif in the novel. The fight in the hotel in Zambia and Rob’s view of himself as a “wicked loser” (184), for instance.

You are right – the main character is quite a drinker. So is his girlfriend, Carolyn. I think I wanted to explore the fact that drinking creates an alternative reality that you might say parallels the alternative reality of sports. Drinking in Flat Water Tuesday is often a means of either numbing the pain or breaking down barriers. There is no question that Rob is somebody who struggles to express his feelings, and who struggles with tragedy. Drinking is a means of escaping from his feelings and indeed his worries. But people who drink to escape often find themselves in situations that are far worse than they started out with. Rob's situation in Zambia is a case in point. Upon getting bad news from Carolyn, he immediately goes to the bar and gets extremely drunk and then beaten up by the security guards in his hotel. I think many men have had similar episodes, where they begin drinking knowing that they are going to get absolutely blotto because sobriety is so shitty at the moment. When Rob goes back to Carolyn, one of his major mistakes is allowing himself to wallow in his pain, and to drink alone. It means that he makes a crucial error while he is taking care of her, and this has disastrous ramifications. But could it also be that we sometimes drink to manage love? I think for many people the incredible power of the feeling of being in love needs to be dulled. I think there is a reason why wine and love go together. For some people the feeling is so extreme, so intense, that alcohol is the best way to handle it. Drinking makes it all far more humorous. And it reminds us that we are, after all, animals driven by biology and chemicals and not always by the endless, tiring demands of our emotions. Does it sound bad to say that I've never loved a woman who didn't appreciate a good bottle of wine?

You are a former student of JM Coetzee, who praises the book on the dust cover. Any comments on the impact of creative writing courses and mentoring another writer? I think you wrote Flat Water Tuesday over a period of ten years ...?

Studying under JM Coetzee was, of course, a major privilege, and I think that he provided what is certainly the best thing a mentor can provide: a good example. He was (and probably still is) immensely hardworking and self-effacing. He took great pains with his writing and forced me to do the same; and more than that, he made it clear to me that being a writer was a very serious business. This was important for me to learn, because I think when I was younger I thought of being a writer as a kind of an outgrowth of travelling the world and basically having lots of fun. JM Coetzee showed me that it was just as difficult to be a good writer as it is to be a good lawyer or a good doctor and it takes just about the same amount of commitment to the career. He also was an immensely professional person: he never missed the meeting and ensured that my academic and creative work were up to par. When I began working in the University of Cape Town Creative Writing Department I tried to bring that same kind of seriousness to my own work. But of course, I don't have the kind of gravitas that JM Coetzee has. Instead, I try to approach student work like an editor would. I look for certain mistakes that seem to come from students again and again. I have overseen over a dozen MA degrees in creative writing and also helped over two dozen people find publication. In so doing I have picked up many errors that irritate acquisition editors and publishing houses. I also find that I am not as disciplined as I think I should be, and really hate editing, even though I force myself to do it.

The story of Flat Water Tuesday's creation is fairly interesting. I started the novel back in 1992 and found an American agent to represent it a couple of years later. But the original version was only about boarding school. It did not have the adult love story which is so crucial to what it is now. The writing was also pretty crude. It was rejected by every single publisher who saw it, and when I rewrote it in 1995 the revised version got the same treatment. I think I kept making the same kind of editorial errors, and I needed to learn more about the art of fiction before I returned to the novel. Teaching was certainly a wonderful means of learning how to edit myself. I was also ridiculously stubborn. It never occurred to me to write a novel about another subject. That would have seemed like giving up. And then two years ago my friend at the University of Cape Town, Stephen Watson, died quite unexpectedly and quite tragically. Near the end, he told a close friend of his that he was glad he had “left a paper trail”, meaning that he was very glad he had left so much good poetry behind and a collection of wonderful essays. It was at that point I realised that I owed myself one more crack at Flat Water Tuesday. I wanted a paper trail. So I literally became my own student. I opened up my old manuscript and read it as if it were a student’s work and discovered that most of it had to be deleted. I sat down over a few weeks and simply pared down the novel to a few chapters and then started from scratch. I didn't tell anyone I was doing this; I simply went to work. I knew, however, that I wanted the love story to be the central element of the novel. And I wanted to weave that story into the rowing narrative. This is what made the book completely different from what it had been. Rowing became a metaphor for the loss that these two characters, Rob and Carolyn, were facing together. When I finally did finish the novel I knew I had told the story that I had always wanted to tell. When I sent the manuscript to my editor in New York, Kathleen Gilligan at St Martin's Press, it was immediately accepted. I have told dozens of students to believe in their work and not take no for an answer, I think I had to tell myself that as well.

[Hierdie onderhoud word met vriendelike vergunning van Litnet geplaas.]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ron Irwin - Flat Water Tuesday (2013)

Ron Irwin. Flat Water Tuesday. St. Martin’s Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1250035981.

Resensent: Joan Hambidge

Rob Carrey, ’n dokumentêre fliekmaker vir National Geographic, vlieg terug New York toe om sake tussen hom en sy geliefde, Carolyn, te herstel. Hy word egter gekonfronteer met die selfdood van ’n jeugvriend aan Fenton, ’n private skool in Connecticut. Hulle was roeimaats in die God Four-span.

Hierdie debuut vertel nie net die verhaal van roeiers aan ’n skool nie. Dit is die oppervlakverhaal, maar soos die roeiers voortbeweeg, word die roman ’n analise van trauma. Nie alleen die selfdood van die skoolmaat word beskryf nie, maar ook die verdrinking van die hoofkarakter, Rob, se suster, sy verhouding met sy geliefde as volwassene in New York en die traumatiese ervaring van ’n miskraam en dan, die slopende einde van ’n verhouding. (Was die verteller nalatig oor haar bloeding of bloot net oningelig?)

Hoofstukke wissel tussen hede en verre verlede om die impak van die pynlike selfdood te probeer bepaal. Carolyn redigeer ’n dokumentêr oor haaie – ’n duidelike vinjet van die troebel waters waarin die karakters hulle bevind.

Die roman begin met ’n brief van John Perry, wie se dood die verhaal bepaal. Hy skryf dit vanuit ’n rehabilitasiesentrum en die invloed van drank op gedrag word besonder goed geanaliseer in hierdie roman. Trouens, ek ken min romans waarin die uitwerking van alkohol so waarheidsgetrou weergegee word. ’n Kroeggeveg in Afrika wys presies wat kan gebeur. Dit word eweneens ’n oomblik van rasseverskille.

Die roman wentel om ’n paar sentrale episodes, bykans pynlike bakens. Die eerste een is die selfdood van die jeugvriend; die tweede een die dood van ’n suster; die derde een die vader se dronkbestuur-episode; die vierde een ’n dronk-episode van Rob wanneer hy homself as ’n verloorder sien (“a wicked loser”, bl. 184); die vyfde Connor se ongeluk en dan ten slotte, Carolyn se miskraam. John Perry se dood word goed voorberei in die roman wanneer hy as jong mens op ’n brug staan en spoeg (bl. 160). Terloops, maar met enorme impak, word die ervaring van die suster se begrafnis vertel: inderdaad ’n hou in die maag. Die een broer kan die ander se pyn nie verduur nie. Die roman is dan ook ’n ondersoek na hoe ons weghardloop van pyn, maar dit ons tog ten slotte inhaal.

Die roman gee eweneens ’n besondere blik op die bevoorregte lewe van Amerikaners binne die sogenaamde “blue blood” of Ivy League-bestaan. Ruth Anderson is ’n Yale-opgeleide coxswain en daar is karakters soos John Wadsworth, die “preppy laywer-to-be”, en Colin Payne uit ’n bevoorregte Massachusetts. Dis dan ook Ruth die leier, ’n helder getekende karakter, wat die selfdood aankondig van die klasmaat in ’n tyd waarin Rob se verhouding aan die opbreek is. Sy konstateer reeds vroeg in die roman dat sy kan sien wat aan die gebeur is, terwyl die roeiers daarop konsentreer om vooruit te beweeg.

“The sport is not just about brute power. Or endurance. Or the ability to suffer. Rowing in a team forces you to respond to what other men do in the boat. To adhere to a strategy. To follow commands. To put your petty gripes and prejudices and fears aside.” (bl. 65)

Die roman gee ’n raak beskrywing van New York in al sy geledinge en die eerste toneel waar Carrey en Connor handgemeen raak, word besonder goed beskryf. Die skrywer se dialoog is eweneens oortuigend en jy ruik die sweet en bloed van die karakters. Die ruimtes stink na Lysol. Boonop is dit ’n analise van Amerikaanse klasseverskille: Fenton teenoor Niccalsetti; “tools” teenoor “dorkage” (bl. 94). Outsiderskap op skool (Jumbo haat sy bynaam) en hoe kinders mekaar afknou en “score”, word waarheidsgetrou beskryf. Soos ook die skoolreünie waarin daar ’n kritiese blik gegee word op die Fenton-skool.

Maak jou reg vir een van die beste romans van hierdie jaar. Dit is ’n pakkende roman sonder enige redigeer- of taalfoute.

Die Bob Dylan-motto som dit alles op: ”Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain.”

Die roman word tereg aangeprys deur J.M. Coetzee op die buiteblad en Ron Irwin is ’n voormalige student van Coetzee. Irwin het ’n ryk geskakeerde roman geskryf waarin al die vlakke verbind word en al die simboliese toespelings by ’n tweede en derde lees netjies op mekaar inspeel. Die volgehoue beelde wat met roei te make het, word netjies verbind.

Die slot is kompleks en laat verskillende interpretasies toe.

[Hierdie resensie word met vriendelike vergunning van Beeld geplaas.]

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jeanette Ferreira & Suzette Kotzé-Myburgh (Reds) - Nuwe Stories (2013)

Jeanette Ferreira & Suzette Kotzé-Myburgh (Reds). Nuwe Stories. Human & Rousseau, 2013. ISBN 9780798156448.

Resensent: Joan Hambidge

I. ’n Nuwe wêreld-sonder-grense

Afrikaans is geseënd met uitmuntende kortverhaalskrywers. ’n Mens dink aan Jaarringe (1966) van Henriette Grové, Duiwel-in-die-bos (1968) van Chris Barnard, Volmink (1981) van Hennie Aucamp. Van ons “mooistes” en “bestes” is deur Abraham H de Vries, self ’n voorste kortverhaalskrywer, in ’n kortverhaalboek byeengebring. In die tagtigerjare het Etienne van Heerden, Koos Prinsloo, Alexander Strachan, Victor Munnik, en ander die grensoorlog oopgeskryf en die sogenaamde postmodernisme ingelui en grense verskuif. Jare later kom Johann de Lange met sy gesprek met Aucamp en Prinsloo in Vreemder as fiksie (1996) en daarna met sy opbreek van die “ek” in dwelmverhale in Tweede natuur (2000). Digters is dikwels uitstekende kortkuns-beoefenaars, soos Petra Müller en George Weideman bewys het. En H.J. Pieterse se kortverhaalbundel Omdat ons alles (1998) is eweneens voortreflik.

Veral Prinsloo se verhale – ’n mens dink hier aan Slagplaas (1992) – het die owerhede op meer as een vlak ongemaklik gehad. In die tagtigerjare is die manlike subjek (gay, straight, weerloos, weerbaar) beskryf en ’n Wêreld sonder grense sou ’n metafoor word vir hierdie generasie.

Daar is puik kortverhale in Afrikaans: Ina Rousseau se “Onthou jy nog vir Helena Lem?” (Soutsjokolade, 1979), wat ’n openbaring word van hoe ’n opmerking ’n verhouding kan kelder en hoe herinnering sy eie pad loop. Nanette van Rooyen se “Tollie Hans”, wat wat in 1999 Human & Rousseau en De Kat se Vonkfiksie-kompetisie gewen het, is ’n klassiek. Dit is sekerlik die mees gedronge verhaal oor aflegging, pyn, verwonding van ’n vrou in haar liefde verlaat.

Die kortverhaal en kort-kortverhaal is in Afrikaans deur vele beoefen. Trouens, dit is Hennie Aucamp wat in sy Die blote storie daarop wys dat die kortverhaal nie ’n vingeroefening vir die roman is nie. Dit is ’n gerekende genre. Guy de Maupassant versus O Henry se verskillende aanslae – die een wat wentel om die storie en sy ontknoping; die ander wat werk met die knalslot. En dan is daar Borges, wat verhale-binne-in-verhale skep.
Wie kon ooit PJ Haasbroek se Roofvis (1975) ewenaar? Of saampraat met John Miles of Welma Odendaal? Of verder terug in die tyd dink ’n mens aan Van Melle en Elise Muller.
’n Goeie kortverhaal is op sy beste soos ’n goeie gedig: dit suggereer en agterna klap die implikasie jou in die maag. Nou onlangs het André le Roux weer uit die coulisse getree met sy eiesoortige, minimalistiese styl.

’n Mens kan maar net weer Haasbroek lees vir sy metaforiek, of Strachan, Grové of Barnard loof vir hul eenheidsbundel waar elke verhaal inspeel op ’n ander storie en sodoende die bundel met dieper implikasie laai.

’n Spaars oorsig wat enige persoon wat sy/haar hand wag aan ’n kortverhaal tot nederigheid behoort te stem.

Aucamp se Vuurslag (1990) oor die kort-kortverhaal is ’n briljante leesboek.

A short story is a work of short, narrative prose that is usually centered around one single event. It is limited in scope and has an introduction, body and conclusion. Although a short story has much in common with a novel, it is written with much greater precision.

Aldus Carol Dwankowski in "How to Analyze a Short Story", Internasjonal Engelsk - NDLA (9 Maart 2013 geraadpleeg).
Beter kan ek dit nie formuleer nie.

En dis juis hierdie presisie wat die kortverhaalskrywer onderskei van die skrywer van ander verhaalvorme.

’n Goeie kortverhaal is dan ook een wat jy met jou saamdra, amper soos ’n gedig, omdat elke aspek inspeel op ’n ander, en met ’n herlees sien ’n mens dikwels hoe die skrywer klippies in die pad gelaat het sodat jy nie moet verdwaal nie.

II. Die blote storie en die “naked I”

As ’n pendant vir die Nuwe stemme-reeks in die digkuns wat vir goeie verrassings gesorg het, is daar ’n reeks vir jong kortverhaalskrywers geskep.

In hierdie dae, waar ons vergas word met die verkeerde spelling van Barbra Streisand se naam en Elisabeth Eybers se naam met ’n z geskryf word by ’n uitgewershuis, is die eerste vraag: Is die keurders deurwinterde lesers wat kennis geneem het van die tradisie?

Die beste 21 verhale vir Human & Rousseau se Nuwe stories-kortverhaalwedstryd vir skrywers onder dertig. Ons verneem op die agterblad dat ons hier die pols kan voel van ’n nuwe generasie skrywers, met skrywers soos Nina Botes, Carolyn Meads, Bibi Slippers, Alettie van den Heever en Willim Welsyn, wie se name al op ander plekke opgeduik het.

Jeanette Ferreira en Suzette Kotzé-Myburgh is die samestellers. Beide laat hul dan ook uit oor die bydraes soos die “unieke register”. Twintig verhale uit 69 het die paal gehaal. Uiteindelik moes die uitgewer 21 opneem; die gehalte was dan so goed.

Die veranderde sosiale werklikheid word uitgewys: die nuwe tegnologie, die ander politiek en watter invloed dit op die verhale gehad het.

Soos met die Nuwe stemme-reeks in die digkuns, het ook hierdie skrywers werkswinkels meegemaak. Verhale is dus “geslyp” en “afgerond” in hierdie besprekingsessies. (Die invloed van kreatiewe kursusse is waarskynlik nog nie genoegsaam verdiskonteer in ons letterkunde nie en hoe alles vinniger en gouer afgewerk word onder die leiding van ’n mentor of fasiliteerder. Daar bestaan ook deesdae iets soos manuskripontwikkeling, waar ’n ervare redakteur of skrywer foute kan uitstryk voordat die boek voorgelê word.)

III. Enkele kanttekeninge

         Alettie van den Heever
Die verhale aktiveer die ervaringsveld van die jong mens: soos by Willim Welsyn (“Agter die tennishuisie”) is daar die jong verteller wat aan die woord is en juis deur die oënskynlike onskuld diep kan raaksien. Daar is ook die refrein van ontheemding en die ervaring van drugs, die internet, McDonald’s, en so meer. Die verhouding met die ouers word onder die loep geneem.

“Onder die brug” van Christina van Deventer – met sy Faulkner-toespelings – ondersoek die lewe na die dood op ’n verrassende manier.

“Oog, lopend” van Alettie van den Heever is ’n besonderse verhaal waarin die motief van die oog besonder goed uitgewerk word. Dit is ’n verhaal wat nie al sy sleutels prysgee nie en die leser dwing om terug te keer na simbole en subtiele implikasies. ’n Mens verwag nog baie van hierdie jong skrywer.

Die patologie – onder andere verkragting – word uitgebou in die verhaal “’n Ongelooflike hartseer” van Lezandra Thiart. Dit is ’n skokkende, dog aangrypende verhaal wat sterk resoneer met werklike gevalle soos die Eksteen-verdagte op Stellenbosch wat na bewering  ’n jong meisie verkrag, ontvoer en in die Weskus-duin begrawe het. Op ’n vernuftige wyse word die Leigh-Ann Matthews-gebeure ook in die leser se gemoed geaktiveer.

’n Verhaal wat al die kodes van die post-postmoderne tyd inkorporeer, is “524 keer” van Carolyn Meads, ’n uiters boeiende en ontstellende verhaal oor Facebook en video-posting. Die karakter se ervaring van hoe haar privaatheid binnegedring is, speel al die implikasies uit van hoe die moderne mens enersyds verslaaf is aan hierdie media en andersyds uitgelewer is aan die verskuiwing van grense wanneer ’n private video op die internet beland. Inderdaad ’n “Alice through the looking glass” – ’n slim vertelling. Uiters besonders juis omdat ’n mens as leser hier iets sien van die lewe en angst van jongmense.

                                                                                        Trish Goosen
“Die ryloopmoordenaar” deur Trish Goosen speel met die leser se verbeelding. Wat is feit, wat is fiksie? Die verhaal begin met ’n sin wat jou uitnooi: “Kom ek vertel jou die storie wat my lewe vir altyd verander het”, en eindig met ’n sirkelgang-slot. Met elke lees raak jy as leser dus betrokke in ’n nuwe sirkel van interpretasies.

Armand Fourie maak die pap lekker dik aan in “Kampuskriminologie” met ’n selfoon wat gil soos Psycho. Die mate waarin ons uitgelewer is aan gevare en die algemene toestand van paranoia waaronder ons leef. Die vrees dat ’n vriendin vermoor is, neem die leser deur al ons herinneringe aan moord en doodslag.

In die verteller se binnespraak: “En tog is sý nooit direk aangeraak deur geweld nie, nie sy of haar familie nie, dink Marieke. Al haar vrese is slegs tweedehands …” (83)

Tog met ’n positiewe slot.

               Wilken Calitz
’n Verhaal wat tot my gespreek het, is die skitterende “Fratres” van Wilken Calitz. Konflik tussen broers, via Anna Karenina, word op ’n oortuigende wyse verwoord. Nie alleen skep die interteks spanning nie, maar dit gaan hier om wat ons lees en dink ander nié gelees het nie. Nabokov se beroemde lesing oor hierdie roman word ’n eggo: Anna Karenina is vernietig deur die verkeerde boeke wat sy gelees het. ’n Diepsinnige ontleding van broedertwis, wrokkigheid, wraak, liefdesontrou – met ’n knalslot.

PL Brand se “Gewapende kerkgangers” ondersoek die verhouding tussen vader en seun. Die pa, met geen familie nie, lei ’n dubbele lewe en die seun word daarby betrek. Sterk Freudiaanse ondertone stu hierdie kragtoer voort: dit word ’n ontleding van die verhouding tussen vader en seun en hoe mense betrek word by ondergrondse aksies. Dit is eweneens ’n subtiele ontleding van ons geweldskultuur met ’n siniese verteller: “Op twaalf het ek die girls begin charm. Op veertien het ek my maagdelikheid verloor” (45). Die verhaal getuig van insig in familiestrukture en onthegting. Freud, eat your heart out.

Hierdie verhaal resoneer met Marni Bonthuys se “Familiemoord”, ’n verhaal wat moord, selfdoding, die paranoia van die nuwe Suid-Afrika knap ondersoek en aktiveer – met ’n vibrerende slot oor die monsters wat kinders begin raaksien. Daar is geen buite-teks nie, het Derrida geskryf, en hierdie teks speel so sterk in op ons belewenis van die huidige onrus dat die verhaal nuwe dimensies bykry. Dieselfde geld die openingsverhaal, “Centre stage is lewendig” van Charl Bezuidenhout met ’n deur wat oopswaai in ’n pynlike slot.

“Tweede natuur” van Nina Botes is ’n intellektuele ontleding van vrou-wees: die vroulike subjek, ’n intellektueel, se vrese rondom swangerskap en ma-wees word in ’n vreemde ruimte (België) geplaas. Die hoofkarakter keer terug na Suid-Afrika en al die opposisies tussen manlik/vroulik, swangerskap/aborsie, intellektueel/nonintellektueel word in hierdie puik verhaal uitgewerk wat ’n mens terug neem na Cixous se studies oor vroulikheid. Slim verwysings na Simone de Beavoir, Freud, Frida Kahlo gee skakering aan die teks – ’n klein kragtoer. Botes is ook ’n teoretikus, en haar verhaal lewer bewys van haar kennis van die kortverhaal wat ons in artikels sien:

• Botes Nina en N Cochrane. 2011. Generiese merkers in die kortverhaalsiklus. Deel 1: teoretiese uitgangspunte. LitNet Akademies (Geesteswetenskappe), 8(2):112-51. ISSN 1995-5928. 
• Botes Nina en N Cochrane. 2011. Generiese merkers in die kortverhaalsiklus. Deel 2: 'n toepassing op Die dag toe ek my hare losgemaak het van Willemien Brümmer. LitNet Akademies (Geesteswetenskappe), 8(2):152-87. ISSN 1995-5928.

’n Jong, maar sterk intellektuele stem wat al die diskoerse rondom vrouwees aktiveer: vanaf die Middeleeuse Holy Maidenhood tot jongste reaksies: Fear of flying, Agaat, en so meer.

IV. Is slotte dan sleutels?

Die slot van ’n kortverhaal is, soos die begin, van uiterse belang. Met elke herlees sal die slot jou weer op ’n nuwe wyse laat kyk na die begin van die verhaal.

           Bibi Slippers
Bibi Slippers werk in “Ikoon” met so ’n spel tussen begin en einde, volgepak met verwysings wat die verhaal met elke lees komplekser maak. Die kode van die kamera is belangrik in hierdie verhaal: “Sy kreun toe haar oë oopsluiter en die kamer stadig in fokus trek” (147). Foto’s en hoe ’n bepaalde oomblik in die tyd gestol word, dryf hierdie verhaal vorentoe. Net soos die skryfproses.

Alida Ehloff se “Wentzel” se slot nooi jou in en het waarskynlik een van die ongelooflikste en mees bisarre eindes – wat ek nie hier kan verklap nie! Wat ’n wonderlike verbeelding!
Donovan Greeff se “Noem my Kassandra” aktiveer ook paranoia en reeds die mitologies-gelade titel laat ’n mens dieper kyk na sien en onsienlike: “Angs hang dik in die lug soos ’n giftige gas. ’n Bedompige bedugtheid wat my uiteindelik na buite dryf” (105). Die “Hulle” wat hier bedreig, laat ons lees tot die onafwendbare slot. Die skrywer het ook ’n besondere kennis van hoe ’n kortverhaal werk en hierdie insig gee ’n bykans metafiksionele wending aan die verhaal. Die toespelings op Openbaring maak die verhaal kragtig.

V. Titels

Die titel van ’n verhaal moet die leser alreeds geïnteresseerd maak vir die gegewe. “Maar is bloed dikker as bloed?” van Janice Keogh en Henali Kuit se “Alles kom tot niks” presteer dit. Bloed is immers dikker as water en die verwringing laat ’n mens twee keer kyk, net soos “Alles kom tot niks” ’n soort nihilisme aktiveer wat die aandag trek. In eersgenoemde verhaal soek Andrea, die verslaggewer, na ’n storie vir die koerant. Maar sy kry uiteindelik meer as net ’n koerantstorie. Die afloop is ’n besonderse wending. In laasgenoemde verhaal word die implikasies van tatoe-kuns onder die loep geneem. En geloof. Dit is ’n ontleding van die impak van ’n herwonne geloofservaring en die betekenis van drome.

Madré Roothman se “Die ontmoeting” is inderdaad ’n ontmoeting waarop nóg Chantelle nóg die leser gereken het! Klein kodes oor identiteit – soos ’n graad in sielkunde – rig die leser om die ontmoeting se implikasies te begryp.

Carla van Eck begryp die implikasies van ’n sterk titel en laat die slot dan ook afwentel na die titel “Vir die eerste keer net Bea”. ’n Mens kan nie anders as om op te merk hoe ontnugter vele van die karakters in die verhale is nie. Die verhale registreer inderdaad iets van ons tydsgees: geweld, identiteitsonsekerheid, ’n soeke na geborgenheid (hetsy in geloof of in dwelms), en so meer. Maar veral die kwessie van identiteit, die vraagstuk na “wie is ek?”, word dan in vele verhale geaktiveer. Die binnespraak van die jong kind – so voortreflik hanteer deur Truman Capote en Carson McCullers – word presies weergegee. 

Die verhaal is geloofwaardig en die leser identifiseer met die lotgeval van hierdie jong kind.
Carla van Eck kry dan ook twee spreekbeurte. Die tweede verhaal, “Swem en ander drugs”, is ’n ontleding van die Freudiaanse familie-romanse. Ook hier kry die skrywer dit reg om die gemoed van ’n jong mens weer te gee. Die akute onsekerheid, die taalgebruik, die siniese blik op ouer mense, en so meer. Die titel resoneer met “Lady Jonker” se gedigte en lewenslot.

Die onpoëtiese titel “Plan B” is ook in die kol. Constant van Graan se slot het ’n lekker kinkel in die kabel!

Vir verdere nadenke oor titels:
Choosing the Right Name for Your Story.  (10 Maart 2013 geraadpleeg).     

VI. Is daar ’n “sense of an ending” (Frank Kermode)?

In ’n bloemlesing van hierdie aard speel verhale ook op mekaar in en verraai ’n tydsgees. Soos “Familiemoord”, “Kampuskriminologie”, “Die ryloopmoordenaar”. Dan praat “524 keer” weer met “Ikoon”. So gelees, wen verhale aan betekenis.

Dalk kort party verhale nog tekstuur, maar die bestes vergoed hiervoor.

Daar is agterin ’n klein biografie van elke skrywer.

Dit is ’n bloemlesing dié wat tot jong lesers sal spreek. Dit is dan ook die teikenmark. Die boek is besonder goed afgewerk. Geluk aan die twee redakteurs.

Die jong skrywers van die tagtigerjare het die grensoorlog in Afrikaans oopgeskryf. Skrywers vertolk dikwels ’n politieke klimaat op ’n eerlike wyse. En dit is wat hierdie bundel ook doen. ’n Mens kry as leser ’n gevoel van hoe jong mense die moderne wêreld ervaar. ’n Nuwe wêreld-sonder-grense …

Die voorblad kon bepaald meer opwindend gewees het.

Lees hierdie boek gerus. Dit sit vol pakkende, knap verhale. Ek gaan beslis weer terug na enkele verhale in hierdie bundel. Daar is beslis nie te veel geluk hier te vinde nie (Alice Munro ) – dis eerder stekelrige ervarings wat alles voortstu (Jane Bennett ). (Kyk na die addendum).

Dit sou interessant wees om te sien wie van hierdie kortverhaalskrywers uiteindelik ’n solobundel gaan publiseer.

En vir die slotakkoord verwys ek lesers na Ian McEwan: 



[Hierdie resensie word met vriendelike vergunning van LitNet Akademies geplaas.]