Home and away

2008-09-10 00:00

ZoË Wicomb, currently Professor of English at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, was born and brought up in Namaqualand. Her début collection of interlinked stories, You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, first aired by Virago Press in 1987, has recently been republished in South Africa by Umuzi, along with a new collection, The One That Got Away, which features a further 12 more recent short stories.

In Wicomb’s new collection, The One That Got Away, the stories are more obviously discrete entities, though the first three have tenuous links and a couple honeymooning in Glasgow are the subject of two pieces. Zoë Wicomb herself might well be described as “the one who got away”, seeking self-exile and self-expression. However, the title story of this collection focuses on a Scottish mystery novel which is disconcertingly discovered in a Cape Town library, among books on gold mining. It has “got away” from its home library, Dennistoun, in Glasgow, and is eventually returned to its original shelf by an inventive prankster, who carries out the injunction on the novel’s lending sheet: “A book must be returned to the library from which it was borrowed.”

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