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Reviews

KZN Literary Tourism reviews contemporary South African fiction and poetry.  Reviews are done by academics and members of our KZN literary community (contact us if you would like to review for us).  View reviews as articles or list.



Review: Left Over PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 November 2013 18:37

By Kobus Moolman

Review by Alan Muller

Something left over might often carry connotations of being unused, unnecessary, unwanted; remnants after the best bits have been taken.  Kobus Moolman’s sixth and newest collection, Left Over, carries none of these connotations and is likely to become the first choice of many poets scholars and gereal readers alike.  Launched on 6th June at the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown, the collection precedes Moolman’s receipt of the 2013 Solomon Plaatje European Union award for his poem “Daily Duty”.

A reader would do well to avoid any narrow distinctions by labelling this collection as one of ‘poetry’.  While some of the pieces may adopt the conventional narrow column one may commonly associate with ‘poetry’, many others take form of prose poetry, lists or – as fellow UKZN poet Sally-Ann Murray describes – the “flashest of flash fiction”.  By consisting of mostly unnamed pieces that blur genre, this is a collection that resists being read in convenient bite-sized chunks and allows its sense of emerge most clearly when considered as a whole.  Left Over feels like a continuation of Anatomy (2008) and Light and After (2010) in its dealing with feelings of entrapment often associated with the physicality of the body.  The collection expands on this idea by expressing the emotions of an unnamed narrator who is trapped inside an ailing body over which he seems to have little control.

While a number of the pieces deal with physicality, some address the nature and complexity of memory.  The structure of “Fourteen Things No Longer There” reveals the fragmentary and often non-linear nature of thought and memory while exhibiting the speaker’s perhaps subconscious preoccupation with the body and its potential damage.    The epigraph, “Memory is a darkroom for the development of fictions”, by Michael Hamburger not only reflects the collection’s examination of memory and its potential for creativity but also serves as warning to the reader regarding its fictitious nature.  While it is easy (and often tempting) to read texts as autobiographical, it is important to avoid conflating the voices of author and speaker in the context of Left Over.

Moolman’s voice as poet continues to grow in the manner of Light and After as his foreshortened poetry exhibits an efficiency that covers extensive ground and exerts immense pressure with the least possible verbal input.  While the title suggests that there should be something extra, Moolman’s new collection concludes without any feeling of having words left over.  Kobus Moolman’s Left Over, published by Dye Hard Press, is available from most bookstores at a recommended price of R125.  Alternatively, it can be ordered directly from the publisher.




Review: Left Over PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 19 October 2013 13:37

By Kobus Moolman
Review by: Sbongiseni Dladla


Last night’s food that we eat today is called ‘left overs’. This clever title, which relates to the way the past influences what we have to deal with today, belongs to Kobus Moolman’s latest poetry collection. Award winning writer, storyteller, senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Moolman recently took time out to launch his latest collection of poems Left Over (Dye Hard Press) at Ike’s Bookstore in Morningside, Durban. He has published five previous collections of poetry, as well as several plays. Kobus Moolman has also edited an anthology of poetry, prose and art by South African writers living with disabilities. This book is a follow up to his previous anthology Light and After which saw Moolman being nominated at the South African Literary Awards (SALA). Left Over tackles issues that deal with the modern day community and individuals.

In the collection, Moolman includes a poem ‘Fourteen Things No Longer There’ in which he ponders impermanence. The poem shows that there are things in life that we take for granted but which, in fact, are fleeting:

Time is running out
There is no time for long sentences.
No time for long stories anymore.

It is just fragments now.
Hurried phrases.
Snatches of words that dash across the white light.
Words that dare not to think.
That have no time anymore to think or prepare.
That have just be themselves.
Even if they aren’t ready.

This is his story.
His last story.




Review: One hand washes the other PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 19 October 2013 13:22

By: Christopher Nicholson
Review by: Sarah Frost


I found this novel quite engaging, although at times a little didactic. My main criticism would be that the author, Chris Nicholson, uses his themes and characters to ‘preach’ a moral philosophy about South African history and politics that makes his text overly rational (academic even), while distancing the readers from a sense of emotional authenticity. Consider for instance his concluding paragraph in which one of the characters, Father Zungu, claims: ‘the glory of ubuntu was a love of humanity … Free will was an inalienable right and would always be present. Virtue was not to be seen in isolation but had to be a means to an end, the end being happiness for all. Reason had to govern every aspect of our lives’. I feel the author could have made his plot, and character development bring his value system, albeit an admirable one, to life, rather than announcing it so ponderously.

This being said, however, I judge the novel as basically a successful one, evincing hard work and dedication on Nicholson’s part, even if at times the writing is a little stiff, rehearsed, and at times implausible.

His themes are fascinating. Throughout the book author plays the idea of traditional African religion off against Western religion. His intricate descriptions of Zulu belief reveal a deep knowledge of this culture. Thandi Dladla, his protagonist, interacts with a sangoma, who advises her on how to find out more about the mysterious death of her father, a University professor who fought the Apartheid regime. Even the Catholic headmaster of the staunchly Christian Elmwood School where Thandi teaches, Father Zungu, bows to this same sangoma’s authority in some matters. Wanting his soccer team to win against its main opponents very badly, he orders a potion from the sangoma and gives it to his team to drink. ‘There was also a practical side to Father Zungu that evaluated the consequences of his gamble with black magic. What harm could come of it? If the concoctions worked then he would be the benefactor of its mysterious powers. If it failed then he would have to rely on Thandi Dladla and her theory’. Then there is Pumaphe Gumede, the villain of the story, who believes both in God and African traditional religion, deciding to attack Thandi who has blocked him in his political ambitions in the past, by referring to a quote from the Bible ‘his eyes lit up when he looked at the book of Exodus Chapter 22 Verse 18. Now that was the sort of advice that made real sense … ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’.

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