Alistair Morgan's Icebergs was shortlisted for the 10th Caine Prize for African Writing, in 2009. The story was published in The Paris Review No. 183 in 2007.
Dennis Moorcraft has moved to his plush retirement home on the coast of Cape Town after several years of work in Johannesburg. He has lost his wife to cancer and his children are abroad and the daughter who continued to live in their Johannesburg home had refused to vacate that place to join his father in Cape Town; coming only to visit. Consequently, the father is alone in the huge apartment after his wife made him promise not to give out their dream home for another person to occupy.
One late night, the FOR SALE on the house next to his came down. Mr. Moorcraft now has a neighbour. An enigmatic neighbour whose comings and goings were as sublime as the man himself. However the two individuals met and after several shots of alcohol started talking. Interests were shared and Moorcraft got to know that Bradshaw loves painting. Moorcraft told him of her artist daughter, Melissa, who comes to visit once in a while, promising to introduce her to him when she visits.
It was during one of Melissa's Cape Town visits and her father's introduction that the two: Melissa and Bradshaw, a man old enough to be his father, struck a relationship to the chagrin of Moorcraft. But Bradshaw has his secrets and when they started coming up, through several media outlets, the concern Dennis Moorcraft could no longer sit whilst his daughter is taken advantage of. But the daughter has decided and the relationship between father and daughter is already a strained one.
"I'm just worried, Melissa. Can you understand that? Can you understand someone else's feelings for once?"
"Please. Melissa. Why don't you come over and we can talk about this properly?"
Melissa would become embroiled in political mudslinging that threatens her very life and of which survival meant giving up everything she had and those she had laboured for, the least of the two being her father, to live incognito.
This short story is a beautiful story and one I would have voted for to win the 2009 award. It packs a lot of emotions and intrigue within its few pages and shows how much more there is to Africa than the archetypal stereotypes cemented in most writers' and readers' minds. It exudes hope for African stories and even though there is political corruption lurking somewhere within its pages, it does not takeover the story. The main events surrounds the relationship between a single lonely father who still cares about his children, want the best for them but still have to decide where childhood ends and adulthood begins and her daughter set in her ways with unshakable thoughts and decisions. Should one leave ones child into the jaws of doom even when the child insist that he or she is no longer a child and his or her decision must therefore be respected? Could you sit idle, hands folded between your thighs, when you know that a particular decision would lead your love one into trouble even if that person insist on being left alone? At one point or the other we have been in both situations, and that is the beauty of the story and of life. Children always think they know what is best for them, parents always think that having acquired experience they know the effect of certain decisions and also they know the ways of the world. This is supported by a proverb in Twi which when translated is it is adulthood that no one has reached before and not childhood. This is a superb story and has all the ingredients of a short story.
Brief Bio: Alistair Morgan was born in South Africa in 1971. He is the first non-American to win the Paris Review's George Plimpton Prize. His debut novel, Sleeper's Wake, was published in 2009 to much acclaim. He lives in Cape Town. (continue reading). His short stories: Departure and Icebergs have appeared in The Paris Review. Icebergs was selected for the O. Henry Awards anthology for 2008 and Departure was also selected for the National Magazine Awards. You can read it at The Paris Review's Site or get the pdf at the Caine Prize for African Writing Site.
ImageNations' Rating: 5.5/6.0
Other Caine Prize 2009 Shortlist: The End of Skill by Mamle Kabu