Monday, 21 April 2008


A perfect storm of work, load shedding, natural disasters and life-stuff-in-general means that I'm still burning the candle at both ends in a way that I last did when I was too young and stupid to know better. Of course, that means I haven't been getting through my reading, so I'm afraid there's no book review again this week.
I promise faithfully I'll catch up next week when we're all lolling around enjoying the imminent swathe of public holidays but, under the current circumstances, I thought you wouldn't mind sharing a laugh about the written word with me instead.
A friend recently sent me some clips from a web site that keeps a record of mangled English. I laughed so much that I just had to share some of these gems with SAbookworm readers. After all, we could all do with a bit of levity right now, couldn't we?
I do this, by the way, freely admitting to my own mangled usage of languages I don't speak well.
I once, for instance, truly offended a generous host in Rome by demurely declining a strange-looking dish, saying that I didn't eat dog (the word for "meat" in Italian is "carne", and the word for "dog" is "cane" - easily confused, in my defence). I also have to frequently check up on the meanings of Zulu words with a friend before trying to use them, so that I don't make a complete idiot of myself - or inadvertently end up in the middle of a taxi war.
Anyway, here are some of my favourite examples of well-mangled English:

Like, way better than just ordinary lovely, dude ...

Good to know ...

Yes, please go and die somewhere else.

If you insist.

If only we could do this with all dorks.

Why strange? Horsebeans sound so good ...

OK, I'm laughing so much now that I have to go off and have a drink of that bottled water in cans. For more of the same, click through to

Saturday, 19 April 2008


SAbookworm would like to wish all of its Jewish readers a peaceful and happy Pesach.
Pesach or Passover is observed by Jews and Samaritans, and commemorates the Biblical Exodus from slavery in Egypt. It is a six-day holiday, this year beginning at sunset today (19 April) and lasting through to 26 or 27 April, depending on where in the world it is being celebrated. It is the most commonly celebrated holiday in the Jewish calendar, and begins with a seder or family meal at which the events of the Exodus are commemorated in a particular order (the word "seder" is derived from the Hebrew word meaning "order").
Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves the removal of chametz (leavened grains) from Jewish homes. This is done to commemorate the fact that the Jews left Egypt so quickly that they did not have time to let the bread they were to take with them rise. Symbolically, it also represents the removal of "puffiness" (arrogance and pride) from the soul.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


Due to on-going work commitments, I'm unfortunately again not able to do a full review this week, but the storm will have passed by next week, when I'll be reviewing For the Sake of Silence by Michael Cawood Green.
This substantial fictionalised account of the founding of the controversial Mariannhill monastery in the late 1800's is part of a significant shift taking place in contemporary South African literature. Fourteen years into democracy, and despite the new demons at the heart of our freedom, writers are finding themselves at liberty to explore the space beyond the narrowly political. For, after all, the political and the personal can never be separated, and the age of ideology is rapidly fading into history.
The book explores the events leading up to the establishment of the monastery, and the conflict that arose when a significant gap developed between the strict observance of the Benedictine Rule and the increasing involvement of some monks in missionary work in Natal and East Griqualand.
Here is the complexity that lies beneath our history - one of many such accounts surely waiting to be told - and both we and our heritage are richer for it.
And, for a look at another literary development taking place, click through to Time magazine's recent article, South Africa's Crime Wave - in Bookstores, which is about how our current experience of violent crime is finding its way into popular literature:,8599,1727386,00.html

Sunday, 6 April 2008


Due to work commitments, I'm unfortunately unable to write a full Bookworm Review this week. However, in light of current events in Zimbabwe, I did want to briefly write about one of the great classics of contemporary literature, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera.
As Kundera puts it in the book, first published in 1979, the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. This is the theme he explores through seven separate narratives that consider the nature of forgetting in history, politics and life in general. It is a theme as relevant today as it was then.
Perhaps, as we all anxiously await the final outcome of the Zimbabwean elections, and watch our neighbour teetering dangerously close to the scenario that played out after the recent Kenyan elections, this work is a cautionary tale for all of us. For there is one cycle in history that we seem to forget very easily, but against which we should fight for memory to prevail - the cycle in which the oppressed becomes the oppressor.
It was the Germany humiliated and burdened with war reparations after World War One, for example, that unleashed the horror of World War Two on the world. It was the Afrikaner people, equally crushed by British Imperialism, that conceived the institutionalised racism and terror that was apartheid, and it was the survivors of the Holocaust who wrought the machine of state oppression that is today's Israel.
We are watching this cycle play itself out in Zimbabwe as surely as the sun rises each day and, it seems more and more certain, we are also watching it play itself out in our own country. In these new struggles of people against power, let us not forget ...

To browse this and other books written by Milan Kundera, click here:
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Wednesday, 2 April 2008


The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) invite all SAbookworm readers to the launch of The Meanings of Timbuktu, a volume of 24 original essays about the famed Library of Timbuktu in Mali, edited by Shamil Jeppie and Souleymane Bachir Diagne.
Coupled with photographs of the region and examples of the manuscripts discussed, this collection provides insight into a field that has been sorely under-researched, but is fundamental to an understanding of African intellectual and scholarly development.
There was a time when eminent thinkers, including Friedrich Hegel and Immanuel Kant, dismissed any form of philosophical or intellectual contribution from the continent of Africa. In more recent years, popular opinion has held that Africa's heritage has been preserved primarily through oral tradition. But as researchers and historians are discovering, Africa has a rich legacy of written history. And much of it has been preserved in libraries and private collections in Timbuktu and surrounding West Africa.
Dr Jeppie, who teaches African and Middle Eastern history at the University of Cape Town, will speak on the topic, "The current state of research on the manuscript collections of Timbuktu". Professor Isabel Hofmeyer of Wits University will add further insight to the discussion.
When? 8 April
Where? D-Les 106, University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus
Time? 16:30 for 17:00