Leap year, by Etienne van Heerden
Etienne van Heerden's novel Leap year is a courageous, sophisticated engagement with that diseased Hydra, South Africa in transition.
Something woke me. It could not have been the night sounds of the port, they are so familiar they form a kind of silence: the sighing of boats at anchor as the incoming tide disturbs their rest; the nightly barking of dogs in the fishermen's quarter; the hiss of steam escaping from the power station at Third Leg; and, if you listen carefully: fins cleaving the ocean depths, comets whistling through the firmament of heaven, the gentle rustle of a rose opening in the garden ... And now I am back on that evening as it all begins: back with my sister Sarah, where she is standing alone on the stoep of the farmhouse, as she looks out over the veld awaiting the arrival of her guests. This evening is yet another splendid occasion on the Butler estate. 'Not for the faint-hearted' runs the family motto, and in city clubs, on tennis courts and in noiseless Mercedeses speeding over farm roads there is general and admiring agreement: 'A dinner party at Seamus and Sarah Butler's on Fata Morgana is not to be undertaken lightly'. Driving along the dusty road to the Butlers' farm, perhaps braking suddenly to avoid an unexpected lynx in the road, the dinner guests regard the moonlit veld with a measure of awe. After such a drive, the manor house with its wide verandas, open windows and flickering candles on the dinner table is a splendid sight. The outside lamps have been switched on early and strings of little lights illuminate the garden even beyond the gates, now thrown open for the expected guests. In the electric light, against the fading background of the dusk, the aloes and cycads look prehistoric. Perhaps I should add right here: In this part of the world one may never forget the impassive remoteness, the inscrutability of nature, the indifference in its giving and its taking. It is as though the God who conceived it all moves through the landscape like a majestic kudu bull, guileless, fattened and content after good rains, proudly carrying his magnificent horns. Sarah sighs and looks out across the veld. At this evening hour the landscape grows gentler, more expansive. But it is deceptive. This is the time when jackals creep out of their dens and genets from their nests; when the few leopards still left in the kloofs come down from their ravines; when night adders glide swiftly through the dust in search of mice. And people grow no gentler either as evening falls. Behind the house Sarah hears the slaughter-pulley being hauled up. The farm hands have just fetched a fat ewe from the slaughter pen, where Seamus keeps all the fall-goats destined for the table of the manor and the cooking pots of the farm hands. Standing there on the stoep with a sherry in her hand, tensing and relaxing her shoulders, Sarah finds it all rather grisly. There is an unexpected chill in the evening air. Even while the labourers are making their way along the worn footpath across the kikuyu lawn towards the slaughter pen, already the slaughter goats are bunching together and growing light-headed. When the men push the gate open and the hinges groan, all the goats keel over as if they know what is coming. Death comes swiftly. [...]
Leap year, by Etienne van Heerden.
Title: Leap year
Author: Etienne van Heerden
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
Cape Town, South Africa, 2011
ISBN 9780143026532 / ISBN 978-0-14-302653-2
Softcover, 15 x 23 cm, 369 pages
van Heerden, Etienne im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The novel Leap Year, first published in Afrikaans as Die stoetmeester, was originally published in 1997 and this English edition has been out of print many years.
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