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Review of The Dream House by Craig Higginson PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 April 2016 12:57

Review by Beverley Jane Cornelius

“This is a strange land we live in,” Looksmart says to Patricia in Craig Higginson’s novel, The Dream House.  The small farm in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands that they inhabit — a microcosm of the strange land in which they live — is particularly strange, especially on the night that Patricia and Looksmart reunite.

It is Patricia’s last night on the farm.  She has sold the land after decades of breeding ponies there and now, as an old woman, plans to relocate and to spend the remaining years of her life watching the ships in Durban’s bay from the verandah of the family home where her father used to drink his gin and tonic.  But on this final misty night, as she attempts to quietly pack up her memories, together with her belongings, Looksmart returns to unsettle everything Patricia thinks she remembers.

Patricia and Looksmart haven’t seen each other for twenty five years or more, not since he completed the private boarding school education that Patricia funded, and, although they have often thought of each over the years, the reunion is nothing that either would have expected.

Like the mist that is so prevalent in the KZN Midlands, the narrative reveals and hides, in turn, different aspects of their story.  The events of the night unfold from the perspective of five characters — Patricia, Richard, Beauty, Bheki, and Looksmart — who, also, each recount past events that gradually reveal the links and entanglements of their lives.

The novel has five parts and it is in this neat and overlapping narrative structure that Higginson’s ability as a playwright shines through.  The sections, or ‘acts’, are each rounded off so dramatically and skillfully that I imagined I could hear the stage curtain swish closed; while the authentic and plausible dialogue draws the focus in so tightly that it is as if a spotlight is shining on the characters.  Reading The Dream House, I was reminded of Chekhov’s play ‘The Cherry Orchard’.  I detected parallels in its depiction of Patricia as a woman reluctantly giving up a family farm in the midst of greater socio-political changes, and of all the characters grappling with their changing roles within society and their relationships with one other.

The dramatic qualities of the text are subtle, however, and serve as support for the interiority that the novel, as a literary form, allows, and which Higginson exploits with his multi-voiced approach.  These qualities, together with the poetic imagery and verisimilitude used to describe the surroundings, produce a novel that evokes an intense emotional response and raises questions about the wisdom of exploring the past.  Should we ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ or is it better to shoot them, as Patricia does, and bury them deep in the earth?  Can a trauma, experienced in the past, ever be resolved in the present?

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Prof. Lindy Stiebel to Pull Rickshaw Across KZN to Raise Awareness for KZN Literary Tourism PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 April 2016 08:01


KZN Literary Tourism is excited to announce that project head, Lindy Stiebel, will be pulling a rickshaw across KwaZulu-Natal in an effort to raise awareness for literary tourism in the province. The trip will see Stiebel take on all eight of the trails run by the project in a single day. She will begin in the Midlands, travel through to the South Coast, Grey Street, Inanda, Cato Manor and conclude her journey in the North Coast.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on going the extra mile in promoting local authors and their works”, acknowledged Stiebel, while weightlifting at Virgin Active Berea. “Now we shall be doing it literally”.

Those who wish to support the endeavour can contribute to the project in a financial capacity. According to Stiebel donations will fund necessities required by the project such as office stationery, coffee machines and a new indoor Jacuzzi.

“We have been working under deplorable conditions since the cappuccino setting on our office coffee machine stopped working”, says her research assistant Rasvanth Chunylall. “We’ve also had to skimp on the caviar during our monthly meetings”.

Stiebel’s Rickshaw Trip™ will begin at 11 am. Queries and messages of support can be directed to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Review of A Native of Nowhere: the story of Nat Nakasa by Ryan Brown PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 March 2016 11:25

Review by Mandla Matsha

Nat Nakasa, and the Drum magazine with which he became associated, have without doubt marked the South African imaginary.  It is therefore with a sense of anticipation that I embarked on reading A Native of Nowhere, written by American journalist and editor Ryan Brown. Opening with Nakasa’s untimely death in 1965, only aged 27, Ryan’s biography of Nakasa aims to tell “the story of how a quiet, serious African boy growing up in the sleepy coastal city of Durban in the 1940s became part of the generation of outspoken black South African journalists in the 1950s and 1960s who challenged state-sponsored segregation in that way that only writers can, simply by keeping a detailed record of its existence”(xi). While the general aim is commendable to some extent, it also carries and reinforces several assumptions. Amongst others, Durban was – far from being a “sleepy coastal city” – a center of resistance, having been graced by several illustrious African leaders, including John Dube and Albert Luthuli, to name but a few.

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