Month: December 2016

Sindiwe Magona: Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle


The latest addition to my website is Sindiwe Magona‘s Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle. This is a feminist novel, set in a traditional South African village and follows the life of Shumi, who grows up in the village. Her mother dies giving birth to her and, as her father works in the gold mines in Johannesburg, she is initially brought up mainly by her maternal grandmother, spending time with her father only when he comes home for a few weeks every year. As Jojo, her father, grows increasingly concerned about his daughter’s upbringing, he cuts back his time at the mine and then gives it up altogether, focussing on crop growing and animal rearing. As Shumi grows up, she faces sexism more and more. While Jojo is happy for her to continue her education, his family see no point in a girl being educated. They are even more horrified when Jojo makes a will leaving his estate to Shumi, instead of to his closest male relative, as is the custom. Jojo also defends his sister, who is brutalised by her husband and expects her to accept it. Both as a wife and then as a widow, Shumi holds her own, while trying not to alienate the male power structure too much. It is a fine story and presumably at least partially autobiographical.

Austin Clarke: The Sun Dances at Easter


The latest addition to my website is Austin Clarke‘s The Sun Dances at Easter. This is a story set around a thousand years ago, involving Irish myths and legends and the relationship between pagan Ireland and early Christianity in that country. Orla, the heroine, cannot get pregnant and is advised to visit the Well of St Naal. She sets off with her maid and, has a series of adventures en route, including meeting a young man, Enda, who had trained to be a priest but was now somewhat disillusioned. The couple nearly have a fling, Enda tells her a couple of stories which illustrate the conflict between pagan and Christian Ireland and she finds the well. It is by no means great literature but a thoroughly enjoyable tale, if you like Irish myth and legends. The book is long since out of print.

Michal Ajvaz: Druhé Město (The Other City)


The latest addition to my website is Michal Ajvaz‘s Druhé Město (The Other City). This is a full-blown fantasy tale, telling of the unnamed narrator who discovers that there is another city in Prague, one that lives underground or comes out at night, where the laws of science and everything else that we know have been subverted. His journey start with a book he finds in an antiquarian bookshop, which is written is strange script, and leads him on a journey which involves talking fish, meetings where it is compulsory to bring a weasel, a fight with giant shark, a strange green tram which travels through the suburbs and into the woods, leaving its tracks, and a high priest who is killed by a tiger. All too often we are lost but that does not matter, as our hero is sure to find some different part of the other city to take us to, where nothing much makes sense. It is a wonderfully enjoyable book, if you are prepared to take it for what it is and perhaps it will help you recognise the other city in your home town.

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