The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas

the purple violet of Oshaantu cover with purple splodge

a nutshell: set in rural Namibia, this is a story of friendship between two neighbours with very different husbands – one kind, one abusive

a line: “Child, don’t wait until it is too late … I have seen women who have died in this thing called marriage”

an image: I loved the scene of the women’s okakungungu (working festival / group cultivation) where they sang songs of ancestors and called on their great-grandmothers as they ploughed Kauna’s land before the rains, then sat drinking and chatting in a spirit of sisterhood under the marula (wild plum) tree

a thought: though the society is eminently patriarchal, wives are the backbone of the village and several women are seen to stand up to domineering men – such as when an elderly woman publicly shamed Shange, asking what he feels when he beat his wife who could not beat him back

a fact: through the exuberant descriptions of dishes throughout the book, I learned that dried caterpillars are a Namibian delicacy

want to read The Purple Violet of Oshaantu? visit here

The Black Lake by Hella Haasse (tr. Ina Rilke)

the black lake cover with dark butterflies symmetrical and against a backdrop of leaves

a nutshell: published in 1948, The Black Lake (or Oeroeg) was a staple novel for generations of Dutch schoolchildren – it’s the story of a doomed friendship between the son of a Dutch plantation owner and the son of an Indonesian servant

a line: “Here for the first time we were at a point where we each faced the other in all truthfulness. He levelled his gun”

an image: the scene in which the narrator blurts out his fraught questions around the idea of Oeroeg being “any less” than himself is one that eloquently summarises the absurdity of seeing difference as quantitative

a thought: there were several moments that moved me deeply in this short novel, but particularly the last few pages – I was so wrapped up in the narrative that I overran my lunch break!

a fact: born in 1918 in Batavia (now Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Haasse is often referred to as having been ‘the Grand Old Lady’ of Dutch literature – and has an asteroid named after her!

want to read The Black Lake? visit here

Maru by Bessie Head

a nutshell: an orphan of the Sān people (also known as “Bushmen”) is raised by a white wealthy woman then left to fend for herself as a well-educated teacher in a Botswana village, where she encounters racial hatred, oppressive love & genuine friendship

a line: “No. She was not good. She was rich. She kept on throwing things away. I used to feel myself catching them, and that is how I learned.”

an image: the scenes with the two goats, the Queen of Sheba and the Windscreen-Wiper, and their sophistication (and “goat language”) is excellent light relief from the complications of human society

a thought: a lot of the book’s wisdom comes from Dikeledi, a progressive royal, who talks of having grown up surrounded by something she called “sham”, which made people believe they were more important than the normal image of humankind

a fact: the author was born in South Africa in 1937 but took up permanent exile in Botswana & gained citizenship in ’79 after 15 years as a refugee

 

want to read Maru? visit here