BOOK OF THE WEEK: A collection of insightful short stories

2008-07-30 00:00

The Garden of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories by prolific South African writer, Christopher Hope. Cumulatively — with their casts of variously disturbed, damaged, dislocated and dispensable individuals — the stories, intelligent and finely crafted as they are, are deeply troubling, offering a bleak view of humanity, a view by no means SAfrocentric, since only four of the stories have South African locations.

The title story, “The Garden of Bad Dreams”, is set in Budapest, where a man, dubbed the Collector, is attempting to resurrect the Hungarian Dwarf Theatre which flourished in the 1930’s before the vertically challenged were perceived as subhuman and essentially eliminated by the Nazis and their successors, the Soviet “Liberators”. The Collector spends his time bent on locating midgets whom he intends to reintroduce as the performers they once were, before intolerant supermen arrived with their ideologies and statuary, the latter now safely herded and huddled into a theme park, the “garden of bad dreams.”

If the Collector, in this story, feels he has a mission, so too, in “St Francis in the Veld”, does the farmer, Tookie De Tromp, who becomes obsessive about supplying and maintaining toilet facilities for itinerant sheep-shearers. To a lesser extent, Nathan Swirsky, in “Veterans”, is of the opinion that World War 2 ex-servicemen in South Africa, whatever their hue, are entitled to wear remnants of their tunics and to engage in marching and saluting activities.

Two powerful pieces involve zoos. In the discomforting “Whose Zoo”, set in an unnamed city, the question of the value of life — both animal and human — is raised; and in “Gus”, an iconic gorilla in the Johannesburg zoo defies death and wins public adulation and the devotion of a former priest in a world where the worshipful are in short supply.

Insightful — and not without a teasing quality — Hope’s are stories one will want to return to.

Moira Lovell

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.