Varied stories on the theme of touch

2009-11-25 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Touch: Stories of Contact by South African Writers

Edited by Karina Magdalena Szczurek

Zebra Press

KARINA Magdalena Szczurek commissioned all but two of the stories specifically for this collection, a ­fundraiser for the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

She does not explain on what basis the authors were selected, saying in the preface only that they are written by 22 of “South Africa’s most renowned and most exciting emerging voices”. The writers “give nuances to the theme of touch, with all its complex emotional and physical connotations”.

Most of the stories revolve around relationships — between lovers, spouses, parents and children, and some involve more unusual relationships such as between a jailer and a prisoner, a house owner and a secret squatter, and a con artist and his victim.

Reading through an anthology of stories is similar to settling down with a box of assorted chocolates. Some are consumed in quick succession so the flavours get mixed together, and some stand out and are savoured slowly so that they are better appreciated.

Like chocolates, different stories appeal to different people. Among those that linger with me are Henrietta Rose-Innes’s poignant Promenade, about joggers who pass each other daily on the street, and Elleke Boehmer’s story about a child ­remembering how her mother, pining in “green and greasy ­Durban” for her native Holland, is connected to the music she loves by her husband assisted by the child, standing in the canna-lily patch holding radio antennae aloft to pick up broadcasts from Radio Nederland.

Ivan Vladislavic’s sad tale, Lullaby, about a traveller observing a mother and son at an island beach resort also stands out and … well, I find there are too many to mention.

Rather, I recommend that you dip into it or read it from cover to cover, and find out what appeals to your taste. There is plenty here to relish and to mull over.

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