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.

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.

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