Showing posts from June, 2012

Quotes for Friday from Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy

An incompetent traitor is no danger. It is rather the capable men who must be watched. [197] It is an affair of a romantic idiot; but even a romantic idiot can be a deadly when an unromantic rebel uses him as a tool. [198] [I] would remind you that there is a difference between boldness and blindness. [209] Gratitude is best and most effective when it does not evaporate itself in empty phrases. [259] The thanks of a weak one are of but little value. [259] The mistiness of the distance hides the truth [312] But if you're going to pretend you're nineteen, Arcadia, what will you do when you're twenty-five and all the boys think you're thirty? [407] [H]e used to say that only a lie that wasn't ashamed of itself could possibly succeed. [415] He also said that nothing had to be true, but everything had to sound  true. [415/6] The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise. [419] ____________ Read the review

178-180: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation Trilogy (Del Rey) contains three of the four foundation stories by the prolific writer - who wrote and published under every one of the major Dewey classification system, Isaac Asimov. The three stories are:  Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire  (1952) and Second Foundation (1953) .  These stories were the first hard-core science fiction I've ever read and because it deals not with aliens but with technology and conquering - two things that rule the world today - I could easily follow the plot. Asimov's writing is definitely not the best of prose I've ever read but his ideas are top notch. His description of equipment and the technology behind them is amazing and my limited knowledge of technology shows me that most have been realised. The story is about the history of a the galactic empire and how one man Hari Seldon - a brilliant psycho-historian - worked out the probabilities and pathway of saving a generation that is destroying itself. In Toda

A Look at the Caine Prize Shortlist

The   shortlisted stories   had none of the poverty-porn that has plagued the Caine Prize for African Writing. Generally, the stories were interesting and varied, but can they be assumed to be the best coming from the continent? Well, that's a discussion that should be raged by those who have read wide. As it is, some are some are not.  Melissa Myambo's story  La Salle de Depart  is about acculturation, family expectations, alienation, home - the typical emigre's story with a touch of ingenuity. A young man who has spent all his life abroad comes home to meet his sister who also wants him to take his son abroad, to provide him with the necessary step the boy needs to make it. However, this young man wants nothing of the familial entrapment associated with living abroad.  Constance Myburgh's story Hunger Emmanuel  is a whodunit of a kind. It uses the no-way-ahead type of detectives to investigate the death of a prostitute except that here the investigator is

177. SHORT STORY: Love on Trial by S. O. Kenani

Love on Trial  is the last of the Caine Prize Short I am reviewing. The story was published in the For Honour and other stories anthology by the author. Love on Trial  extracts from a real incident that took place in Malawi. It is about the arrest and sentencing of two Malawian homosexuals to fourteen years in prison; an incident that got the whole world shouting and cutting aid to the country which led to their pardon.  In this story, Charles is a third year law school at the university. He has been stumbled upon by the village drunk, Mr Kanchingwe, when he was having an affair with his lover in a school lavatory. Charles was seen and had to face the villagers whilst his lover bolted not to be seen or heard of in the story again. Mr Kanchigwe has become something of a cult-hero for having stumbled upon the two and so, for a tot of the local gin, Kanchigwe will give some details of what he saw. For, the details more tots have to be provided for him and his growing crowd of frie

176. Writing Free by Irene Staunton (Editor)

Title: Writing Free Editor: Irene Staunton Genre: Short Story Anthology Publisher: Weaver Press Pages: 138 Year: 2011 Country: Zimbabwe Writing Free is a collection of fifteen short stories by fifteen Zimbabweans both at home and abroad. The objective of the anthology was '... to approach a topic differently, to turn a perspective inside out. ...' What came out of this project is a successful and bold anthology that completely redefines and expands the width and depth of Zimbabwean literature; one of the best anthologies I have read of all time. Regardless of the usual flagpoles that has become pervasive in Zimbabwean literature, making the country assumes a character-role in most stories, regardless of these flagpoles such as hyperinflation, land reclamation, apartheid, economic depression, politics and finger-pointing, maltreatment of the citizenry by government, several authors took bolder steps to create stories which not only are experimental in nature

175. SHORT STORY: Bombay's Republic by Rotimi Babatunde

Bombay's Republic  looks at war and its aftermath, especially the psychological effect of a war fought for an unknown cause in an unknown land. Bombay, the main protagonist, has returned from Burma where he had fought at the 'Forgotten' front of the Second World War. But Bombay had not returned quietly and innocently and wholly as he had left. He has come back to his village in Nigeria as a man transformed, with scars all over his body and also with silence. Upon his arrival he has made it a point not to tell any of the news-seeking folks the ordeal he went through in the war and how prejudice against him helped saved his life. He has refused to tell these adult folks how tiger-leeches stuck and sucked out his blood as they waded through rivers; how his comrades were caught in traps that snapped off their heads and carved through their bellies. He has not told anyone any of these including several acts of bravery that earned him three medals of honour including the presti

174. SHORT STORY: Urban Zoning by Billy Kahora

Urban Zoning by Billy Kahora is a story that is difficult to place, that is categorise. Not that categorisation is needed to understand a story nor that it is necessary in and of itself. But Kahora has written a story so simple that it becomes complex in a way that is not easily attainable. The story, to me, is different and unique in the sense that it takes one man, tells of his idiosyncracies in an almost surreal manner; or should I say mental, for Billy's protagonist achieves notoriety beyond the realms of the physical. The title itself is proof. In this story, 'Zoning' has nothing to do with apartheid or any form of physical separatism or quarantine; yet, it does. His - that is, Kandle's (the main character's) separatism is from the reality of this harsh world, its troubles and its gloom and doom, through alcohol. Kandle is a man of unique character: though he drinks and gets drunk he is able to control himself from going over the edge; he is a controlle

173. The Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano's Last Evenings on Earth  (1997; translation (by Chris Andrews), 2006, NDP; 219) is a collection of 19 short stories. The stories are set in various countries including Mexico, Spain and the United States and sometimes, briefly, Chile. They are stories about Chileans in exile. Though the stories are varied on different themes, the issue of incapability, of the impotence to affect the status quo runs through all. In all of these stories, Bolano carried through to the reader the frustrations, agitations, mental breakdown and restlessness of individuals who, through political instability, have been thrown into different countries. The stories were all set during the overthrow of Salvador Allende by Augusto Pinochet and the arrests and killings that followed. Most of these fourteen short stories are about writers struggling to survive in the exiled countries, those at the twilight of their careers and life. Another unique feature of the collection is the use of le

172. SHORT STORY: Hunter Emmanuel by Constance Myburgh

Constance Myburgh's Hunter Emmanuel is a noir story of sorts. The story was somewhat hard to follow especially due to the technique - or approach - adopted by the author where she mixed dreams and the surreal with reality in a way that doesn't really work. Not that one cannot identify where the dreams end and where reality begins but the parts worked like two immiscible liquids, with one sitting on top of the other. As a story capable of evoking lip-curling grisly imagery, it works; however, it fails on the front of a whodunit. That's how the parts failed to work. Yet, it is possible that the author had nothing of these in her mind. There is no murder per se that requires investigations; but a woman's leg has been severed at the hip level and, fortunately, she has survived and recuperating in the hospital. The severed leg has been tied to the branch of a pine, in a pine forest that is undergoing harvesting. The discoverer of the leg, like in most film-noir or

171. SHORT STORY: La Salle de Départ by Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

The announcement of the 2012 Caine Prize shortlisted stories promised African fiction that is ' beyond the more stereotypical narratives '. It promised to offer alternatives to the famous, widely known, tales of Africa. If these are the motives, and the two stories I've read are anything to go by, then they are on course. La Salle de Départ by Melissa Tandiwe Myambo is a story about family responsibility, acculturation and home. As most immigrants stories are about. It also fits into that generalised stories where the emigre moves to America, lose his innocence, assimilates the alien culture, comes back home and becomes a caricature of hybrid proportions. Those stories where travel becomes the right of passage into adulthood and where alien characters, sometimes through formal education, at other times through street-education, are adopted and 'mis'-used. In other situations, pathos is played upon and here the story will show how the emigre's incapability

Quotes for Friday from Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter

There are always sources of desolation that aren't taken into account because no one knows what they will be. [15] Strong emotion - faith? - has different ways of being manifested among the different disciples within which people order their behaviour. [33] The blackman is not fighting for equality with whites. Blackness is the blackman refusing to believe the whiteman's way of life is best for blacks. [163] The main reason why we're still where we are is blacks haven't united as blacks because we're told all the time to do it is to be racist. [163] -Our liberation cannot be divorced from black consciousness because we cannot be conscious of ourselves and at the same time remain slaves - [164] When the body is no longer an attraction, an expression of desire, to bare your breasts and belly is simple; you lay like dogs or cats grateful for the sun. [239] -But there's no indemnity. You can't be afraid to do good in case evil results. [296] -It

170. Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer

Title: Burger's Daughter Author: Nadine Gordimer Genre: Fiction/Race/Struggle Publisher: Penguin Pages: 361 Year of First Publication: 1979 Country: South Africa Read for the Top 100 Books Reading Challenge and the Africa Reading Challenge Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter is not an easy read. The author, probably mirrored the lives of the people: natives and the whites who were against the apartheid system at the time, in her prose. For reading this seemingly melancholic novel, the reader would feel the desolation, the destruction, the emotional torture, the emasculation of ideas and of works, the impotency of one filled with verve without a vent or valve. The reader would go through several tortuous moments, reflecting the lives of a people who would not bend to division, destruction and death no matter how well it is shrouded and how white the shroud is. And these feeling of pain, emanating from the book, does not result from the use of verbose

May in Review, Projections for June

My entire May was taken up by travel. Consequently, I did very little reading. One would ask 'why can't you read more if you are away from home.' The answer is precisely that: 'away from home'. From May 3 to 19, I was in Kampala (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya). These are two new cities (countries) I've visited. As my regular readers would know, my earlier job took me round Ghana and I did well - as judged by myself, lol - to update you with the fun aspect of my travels. My current job takes me to some countries in Africa (and sometimes beyond). So I was in Kenya and Uganda and I couldn't come back home and have nothing to say about these countries; hence, reading was sacrificed for roaming and exploration. In Uganda, I was invited by Beatrice Lamwaka, author of the Caine-Prize nominated short story Butterfly Dreams  to attend a poetry performance by the Kenyan poet, Sitawa Namwalie. This turn out to be one of the best poetry performance I've ever seen. T

169. Atonement by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's Atonement*  (2001, Anchor Books; 351) carries several themes. In addition of it being a story of childhood, forgiveness and love, it is also a book about writing. The story follows the Tallises from before the war (WWII) to the later part of the Twentieth Century. In particular, it follows Briony and Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner as they come against each other which will later change the lives of those involved. Robbie Turner's mother works for the Tallises. Jack Tallis, an absentee father and husband, has taken it upon himself to pay for Robbie's education. Robbie's age-mates is Cecilia and after Cambridge, the former having performed better than the latter to the subtle disgust of Emily Tallis - their mother - had decided to pursue further education in medicine. However, there is an unacknowledged affinity manifesting itself in some sort of sexual tension but one of which the man knows and acknowledges his status in the household, as one of a s