Writing and healing

2008-10-08 00:00

When I saw the cover of this book I expected to find stories highlighting broken masculinity and the reconciliation of the criminals to the victims of their crimes. I expected to read about how these men have been coming to terms with their jail sentences and prison life. However, once I began reading my illusions were shattered.

Fifteen Men is an interesting compilation of short stories, poetry and drawings from a circle of writers who are all prisoners at Groot Drakenstein Correctional Facility in Franschhoek. The circle of writers worked together under the creative leadership of Margie Orford who is a novelist, journalist and film maker.

The book includes an array of short anecdotes which are lively and colourful in their description and offer the reader a variety of fresh, new undiscovered writing styles. The writing is clear and simple and the messages are not that profound, but authentic. It offers a taste of the diversity that exists in South Africa with the common factor being that these men live together in prison.

Not much attention is paid to providing information about the crimes these men have committed but the focus is on them as writers. The men write stories highlighting past or imaginary events and deal with topics of loss, love, hope, hate and the battle of the spirit to remain alive under all circumstances.

These writers, all behind bars, were provided with a platform for creative expression and therefore the focus is away from the reason they are behind bars and more on the passion these men share for words.

For me this compilation reminded me of the healing power of words and the necessity for expression no matter who you are or what you have done. I recommend it to anyone who loves and appreciates the written word coupled with human experience.

Qurasha Rajkumar

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