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Written in honor of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Voice Over is a collection of poetry which serves as a final farewell to Breyten Breytenbach’s dear friend.  The series of poems found in Voice Over were created shortly after the death of Darwish, and they were written as the author traveled through Catalonia and Friesland.  What results is a moving collection of verse.

This small 41-page collection gives a powerful look at the language of Breyten Breytenbach, a writer and human rights activist from South Africa. He’s taken a lifelong stance against apartheid and was even imprisoned for seven years for high treason after sneaking back into his country illegally.  Such a turbulent and strongly humanitarian past is evident in the voice of his prose. 

 Winner of the Hertzog Prize for Poetry (1999 and 2008), Breytenbach has written numerous books and produces countless paintings and drawings which have been viewed worldwide. He is considered to be one of the greatest of the Afrikaans poets. Still very active in taking a stand, Breytenbach divides his time between the U.S., Europe, and Africa.  Definitely a writer worth looking into, this creative powerhouse will give you some real literature to sink your teeth into.  

Voice Over is published by Archipelago Books.

16. December 2008 · Comments Off on Other Lives by Andre Brink · Categories: Book Reviews, Goldfish Award Books, South African Literature · Tags: ,

Take an accomplished South African writer nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times, add a surprising Hitchcock-like plot with a message and stir.  What comes out will be a book you will never, ever forget.  Andre Brink’s Other Lives is one of the most creative novels I’ve read in a long time.  

Three separate stories merge, crisscross, and get you tangled as they weave through the pages.  Imagine a white South African man who, upon entering his studio, suddenly discovers it’s been transformed into a house.  In it are a black woman who calls him her husband and two little children thrilled to see their daddy.  He’s never seen these people before in his life. Or a white man who wakes up, looks in the mirror, and finds he’s no longer white.  Or a famous pianist who is in love with a singer who won’t allow him to get close to her.  Even after tragedy strikes.  You’ll be hanging onto the edge of your seat throughout the novel, pondering, rethinking what you thought you knew about bigotry and racism, no matter what your color.  

Other Lives is a fantastic novel on so many levels.  Don’t let your book club miss this one – it’s ripe with discussion material.  Once you read it, it will be kept on your “favorites” shelf waiting for the time you’ll pick it up and read it again – and you will.  This is a book that would make excellent study material for psychology, sociology, and South African culture courses.  The message refuses to get lost in the story line as Brink has a way of putting you in the characters’ heads. What would you do if you discovered you aren’t at all who you thought you were?  Want to find out?  Read Other Lives.  You won’t be able to end the book without discovering the answer to that question.

No surprises here – this book gets the carp(e) libris reviews Goldfish Award.  Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.

When I first started reading The Writing Circle by Rozena Maart (TSAR Publications), I immediately began wondering about the character Isabel. Why did she need someone to follow her home from work? Why did her house have large security gates around it, and why was someone supposed to watch for her at the window? Was she so important? But as I read further, I realized all the female characters were living the same way. No woman was leaving her house after dark without a male chaperon, and to do so meant admonishments from family and friends. Everyone had cell phones and checked in with each other constantly. Why? The answer was simple: They’re women living in Cape Town, South Africa.

With a little research online, I was to learn The Writing Circle was not a strange and dark fairy tale, but a story based on the scary truth: South Africa has one of the highest levels of reported rape in the world. And when you consider a large percentage of rapes are never even reported, you have an even bigger problem that cannot be ignored.

Rozena Maart handles her characters with compassion and sensitivity, revealing the fear they live with daily and the memories they have to face when their writing group friend, Isabel, is raped in the driveway as they await her arrival. Each chapter gives a character a chance to speak in her own voice, every voice unique and richly layered. Their stories and how they deal with their friend’s mental breakdown after the rape make this more than a book – it should be used as a tool to help loved ones of rape victims to understand the tragedy that continues to occur even after the rape has been committed.

The Writing Circle is a beautifully written, heartbreaking piece that will open your eyes to not only the issues of sexual assault, but to racism and biased viewpoints as well. Maart has written a novel with a greater purpose, one that will educate and enrich. If your book club is looking for a book to spark meaningful conversation and bring awareness to the group, no matter where you live, The Writing Circle will deliver that and more.