A colourful South African tale

2011-11-09 00:00

PLANET Savage is published under the imprint of the Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF), which receives some funding from the Multi-Agency Grants Initiative. The aim is to encourage writing and reading in South Africa, and to offer new voices a chance of publication.

One problem here is that there are plenty of people writing, with varying degrees of success and ability, but not so many readers. With Tuelo Gabonewe, the JLF has identified a writer who should speak to the experience of many, and does so in a lively and engaging way. The action of the book is set over one summer holiday in Tlhabana, North West Province, and the narrator is nine-year-old Leungo.

He is a bright child, and fond of his parents, though they regularly disappoint him. He excels at school, and they don’t seem bothered. His mother is okay, but he reckons she could be a bit more enthusiastic about him, and his father’s main aim in life is to sit and drink with his mates.

Leungo would like a bit more action from both of them. But then his father takes him off to his ­rural home to meet his grand­parents. Father can’t get away fast enough, and Leungo soon sees why. He does try to like his grandmother and grandfather, and cousins, but it’s an uphill battle. And what is an urban kid to do in the sticks, anyway?

Leungo’s experiences in the rural village are the best part of the book — funny, lively and no doubt ringing true for many urbanised South Africans coming face to alarming face with their roots. In the earlier part, there are patches when not much happens, and while the descriptions of people and of Leungo’s feelings are entertaining, they are sometimes too knowing for a nine-year old. But Gabonewe and JLF are on to something here — good luck to both of them.

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