October: A Novel
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With this pitch-perfect story, the “writer of rare brilliance” (The Scotsman) Zoë Wicomb—who received one of the first Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes for lifetime achievement—stands to claim her rightful place as one of the preeminent contemporary voices in international fiction.
word. And there where it was cast, in the foundries of Falkirk, a sudden burst of sunlight accompanied the rain, so that the water dripping from trees glittered like Christmas streamers as the train pulled out of the station. Jakkals en Wolf gaan trou. That’s what they said at home when rain and sunlight commingled. An unlikely marriage between jackal and wolf, right out of Die Jongspan. When the train arrived at Queen Street station, Mercia was unable to leave her seat. Her heart seemed to
explained to his pa, one cannot make anything of life as a plowboy. Granted, these commandments were given to Moses on tablets of stone, but if you thought about it, thought about the fact that Moses had led his people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, then Pa would see that God intended for people to move on and to free themselves from oppression. His pa, who believed that the earth should be tilled by those born to it, was not convinced. Besides, it was vainglorious of the
cheap relations with a master. Antoinette too, having been a Malherbe, was of good stock. If theirs had come to be an Afrikaans name, well the Malherbes knew better, knew that it was fighting Huguenot blood that coursed through their veins, infusing them with wholesome Calvinism. When, as a teenager, Mercia tried to correct her father about sly Slamse, pointing out that the slave blood of Cape Malays was also part of their heritage, he dismissed it as foolish ANC propaganda. Nicholas did not
Willemse auntie scolding from the doorway. There was often an old woman sitting in the doorway, elbows on parted knees and chin propped in her palms, surveying the world. The full thorn at the end of the lane that features in Sylvie’s photographs was the only other tree in the area. Mercia, the child, assumed that it had been planted by the auntie who worked in town. That was what any association with town brought—something different, something desirable like the dappled shade of the thorn tree
think of it. But for all her years, she is a child. The concupiscence of the parent—let alone this, this business—it is not for the ears and the eyes of a child. Sylvie was a child. For all Mercia’s atheism, it is the word SIN that lodges itself in her thoughts. He, Nicholas, her father, has sinned against the girl whilst his God turned a blind eye. And the iniquity of the father will be visited upon the children until the third and fourth generation. Dear little Nicky’s burden—and rage engulfs