Jy blaai in die argief vir 2011 Januarie.

#29 Finding “the words to say it” – Estelle Neethling

Januarie 6, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

Literary history has shown that writers come to their profession via diverse walks of life. Mine was a case of edging inexorably towards it along strange byways. I finally found my “voice” late in life, in my fifties.

According to some opinions a human being’s true passion is usually the thing you are most excited about before the onset of adolescence. If this were true, I might have become an artist. I was always drawing as a child and could while away many an hour with a pencil and paper. The passion waned, probably because there was no available art tuition in the small Free State town where I grew up. But lack of encouragement was the main reason. I couldn’t, for instance, find anyone to sit for me long enough when I became older and wanted to draw “live”. My late father, bless him, was the only one willing to indulge me. But only for a few short spells. After ten minutes or so he would become bored and wander off.

My other great love was the written word, but, by default and mainly because of economic necessity, I landed up in the legal world.

My “apprenticeship” in preparation for the world of letters was ad hoc and ongoing. It was served through reading, listening and attempting to write publishable material in my spare time. Fortunately the legal arena, despite being a cold, calculating place, is peopled by attorneys and especially advocates who are generally excellent at expressing themselves – in speech and in writing. Some even chided each other by quoting obscure, but ironic, verse as part of legal positions taken!

So, fate was kind and conspired to “keep me in the loop” while I was earning my daily bread. After yet another failed attempt at having an article published in the 1980s when I was in my thirties, I sighed a sigh of frustration in the far reaches of the night and promised myself: one day you will have something worthwhile to write about. Few things could equal the thrill of seeing my first article in Die Burger’s Saturday supplement many moons ago.

While life – weird and most often not so wonderful in my case! – interfered with my dreams, I became aware of literary highlights that kept the fire going for me. From time to time I read passages where the pen seemed to lift off and the spirit of the writer took over, rendering the words invincible in my memory and part of my internal life. I have read such passages, and practically stopped breathing.

One of those moments “happened” in the concluding pages of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when one sees Anna’s state of desperation through the eyes of the onlookers on the railway platform just before she throws herself in front of a train steaming into the station. I’ve since observed this technique practised by other writers, but never with such mastery. I read and reread it and the atmosphere of her desolation is still with me today.

Another was Flaubert’s description of the doctor’s hands in Madame Bovary. Vivid as if I were there watching the doctor at work, decades ago.

Then there is Isaac Bashevis Singer’s line in Shadows on the Hudson where his main character derides a friend because of his inability or unwillingness to appreciate the beauty of the moon on a particular night. His indignation became mine.

The writing techniques of the classic writers seem to me to have been ousted by the functional, simpler words, the more succinct sentences of today. Brevity has become almost a goal unto itself. And yet, those timeless luminaries were the ones who inspired me most.

These gems are rare, but are also to be found in music and in other forms of art. There are a few exquisite notes in the slow movement of Boccherini’s cello concerto, performed by the late Jacqueline du Pré, when I could swear I hear the breath of her life.

I have heard, only occasionally, a singer perform a passage where it seems to me the connection between the artist’s own emotion and that of the composer seem to align perfectly, as if they have become one.

I’ve asked myself at such times: Is this when art becomes truth, or when truth becomes art?

There appear to be aspects of pure passion, intent, talent, humility and soul that come together when art reaches its zenith. Ego – an important component, within reason, in the artist’s makeup – seems to vanish from the equation at such times.

Recently when I sat between two rocks on the beach, surrounded by the blue of the sky and the water, with no other human being in sight, I imagined being left isolated on this earth. It isn’t difficult for a childless woman to think such thoughts because, as opposed to a mother with children, my “line” ends with me. I thought, how small we are, and yet how huge our capacity for thought and creation.

Would my voice trail off and my story end if there were no other people around me? Probably so, because behind each “creation” is a person wishing to be heard, wanting others or another to feel what he or she is feeling.


#28 On collaborative writing: Googledocs, Googlebuzz, Googlechat – Anton Krueger and Pravasan Pillay talk about collaborative writing in New Media

Januarie 4, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

Since I’ve been playing at writing, I’ve been waiting with breath duly bated for the emergence of my Voice. Yes, I’ve been patiently awaiting the arrival of my own distinctive tone by means of which to describe my particularly unique concerns to the world at large; but this year it struck me: I don’t have one. I’ve subsequently become drawn to the idea of collaborative writing; piggy-backing on the voices of others, or contributing to the invention of brand new personas.

If you have a gmail account, it’s now possible to create a googledoc, which is then owned by more than one person. It’s very different from sending a Word document back and forth, because anybody who owns the document can jump in at any time and two or more people can work simultaneously in real time on the same text. This opens up a whole world of collaborative possibilities.

In the last year, I collaborated on a children’s play with Ashraf Jamal’s eleven-year-old daughter Sahar. I’ve also begun a number of other collaborative projects with different people, including a novel, a screenplay, a children’s story and a TV series. What’s extraordinary for me is how different each of these pieces of writing is – stylistically, thematically, and in every way conceivable – and yet in each text the writing appears to have been authored by a single, substantial entity. It’s as though a third writer has been created; as though Jurgen Habermas’s communicative “Third Space” has been objectified into a thinking, feeling being with its own concerns distinct from either of the individuals who’ve contributed towards its creation. 

During the last year my main collaboration has been with my friend Pravasan Pillay in Stockholm. We’ve been working on a series of comedy monologues / shaggy-dog stories, which are going to be published in 2011 under the title of Shaggy. Five of the stories have already been serialised in that wonderful art mag from Pretoria, A Look Away (http://www.alookaway.co.za). A selection of the stories were also performed as monologues at the National Arts Festival.1

So anyway, here’s a public conversation between myself and Prava which took place a few days after gmail launched their “buzz” function earlier this year. This function allows one to host a public conversation which can be seen by anybody else with gmail accounts linked to their own. It’s sort of like the “Status updates” in Facebook. As the astute reader will soon discern, in this conversation Prava and I grapple with the nature of the collaborative artefact and the plenitude of values excessively extrapolated within abbreviations of the public sphere; dovetailing claims for an innate authenticity with the demands of freedom and interdependence.


[1] Shika Budhoo of Artsmart described the show as:  
A comedy and social commentary piece that runs like a pair of freshly laddered stockings … once you’re in it, there’s no going back! … The show is an all-round success in presentation and script. A funny and entertaining piece of theatre, that is well performed and constantly keeps the cogs of the mind turning and churning.


11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – Buzz – Public
what the fuck is this shit?!
Anton Krueger – that’s not a very nice thing to say to the c.i.a. 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – is this what the youngsters call the facebook? 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – you got sucked right in … all those years of steadily ignoring invites to facebook and you fell right into the middle of the quagmire … gmail has found your social side. 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – not you too gmail … not you too … 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – this is gonna hit the one thing which always made gmail such a beaut – its speed … you can feel the whole programme already labouring under the weight of its social obligations and networking responsibilities …  Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – its the great gatsby all over again … poor gmail … poor old sport. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – you realise we’re having a public conversation here? well, between all the ppl following you and me … any of them could just jump in here at any time and leave a comment … so not another word about the you know what … 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – fuck. i was just about to talk about the you know what … thanks for alerting me. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – k … good job … let’s just take it easy and maybe things will blow over and nobody will ever find out … i doubt anybody will read this anyway, so it’s probably ok … 11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay ok, let’s just stay calm here. 11 Feb

Anton Krueger – i’ve just realised the danger of abbreviations … when writing to the executive of a publication targeted at “upmarket residential estates” who wants to promote yr book, it’s probably best not to flourish off one’s mail with the shorthand: “c u nxt week”. lesson learnt.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – i hope you pack that lesson away and learn from it. life is one big lesson, don’t you find?11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – but, again, where and when is this c u n t week happening? some kind of fest huh? just mail me the dates … i know some sickos who’ll probably want to go. so lame, i know. yeah, but just send me those dates otherwise they’ll never get off my back … yeah, so i’ll just wait for that mail. anytime is good. send it now if you’re not doing anything.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – is waiting … for a mail … no rush … got lots of other stuff to do … still it’d be nice if came, so i could just strike it off my list.11 Feb
Anton Krueger – in the meantime, here’s sthing we need to work into a shaggy story concerning the rise in murders of karaoke singers in the philippines who sing sinatra:
11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – dude, don’t talk about shaggy in a public forum. way to go, krueger, way to go.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – this is why we can’t have nice things. 11 Feb
Anton Krueger – well, after knockin’ ellipses as “the hippie punctuation mark” you should be surprised i’m talking to you at all … public forum or no. … (you know how much i love my … ellipses) … Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – i use hippie as a term of endearment.11 Feb
Anton Krueger – what’s yr sentiment on the highly underutilized em-dash? always had a fondness for them em’s … .Edit11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – i find them to be commitment phobic.11 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – so when’s this ridiculous c u n t week? so laughable, hey? i mean haven’t we gone past the objectification of the fairer sex yet? hello? it’s 2010! you should send me those dates and maybe i can get a picket going or something. i’ll probably have to register for the whole c u n t week. you know, so i can get in there good, and just when they least expect it – BAM – unfurl my banner – “Free Vaginas Now!”11 Feb
Anton Krueger – speaking of which, have you seen that play, “the vagina monologues”?  … what a gyp, man … i checked it last night and there wasn’t a single talking vagina in the whole production … 12 Feb
Pravasan Pillay – i think that speaks volumes on our current predicament. volumes. 12 Feb