Nineveh, by Henrietta Rose-Innes
Henrietta Rose-Innes is a pleasure to read, inventive, intelligent and entertaining. She has a gift for precise, revelatory description that remakes familiar things in astonishing ways. In Nineveh, she has created a densely layered, totally absorbing tragicomedy for our anxious time and place.
Caterpillars? Easy, thinks Katya. Even these, thick-clustered, obscuring a tree from bole to crown and shivering their orange hairs. Caterpillars she can deal with. Still, it's a strange sight, this writhing tree: a tree in mortification. Particularly here, where the perfect lawn slopes down to the grand white house below, between clipped flowerbeds flecked with pink and blue. Off to the side, just in the corner of her vision, a gardener is trimming the edge of the lawn, his eyes on Katya and the boy and not on his scissoring blades. Rising behind the scene is the Constantiaberg. It's an autumn day, cool but bright. The mountains look their age, wrinkled and worn and shouted down by the boisterous sky. It's a lovely afternoon for a garden party. But at the centre of the picture is an abomination. This single tree sleeved with a rind of invertebrate matter, with plump, spiked bodies the colour of burnt sugar. It's possible to imagine that the whole tree has been eaten away, replaced by a crude facsimile made of caterpillar flesh. "Toby. Gloves," Katya says, snapping her fingers and holding them out stiffly. Her nephew rolls his eyes - particularly effective, with those large pale orbs, green with the whites visible clean around the irises - but leans down from his superior height to press a crumpled ball of latex into her palm. The gloves are important. Katya is not at all squeamish about coldblooded, squishy things, but some caterpillars have irritant spines. Thick gardening gloves are too unwieldy for this fine work, and Katya also prefers the feel of the latex: it deadens, but in tamping down the background stimuli, it also seems to isolate specific sensations. The gravelly landscape of bark, the warmth of skin without its friction. The gloves are part of the uniform, along with the steel-toed boots and lurid overalls. Her signature colour: poison-toad green, boomslang green. While they are working, the uniform separates her and Toby from the pastel colours of lawn and flowers. They are all business. Katya shakes out the gloves and works them onto her hands. "We need to get some talc. Didn't I ask you to get some talc?" Eye-roll. "Ja ja," he says, fiddling with his silver-blond hair, which is scraped back into a scraggy bun with a rubber band. He's been growing it ever since he left school a few months ago. He's always ripping off the elastic, or jamming it closer to his scalp by yanking at the strands, a sight which makes Katya's own hair prickle at the roots. Aunt and nephew both have their fringes pulled away from their faces in a practical way - although if you look closer this impression is diluted: the hairclips are sparkly, meant for little girls. Toby has supplied them and Katya wonders about their source. They are the kind of thing a teenage girl might wear, to be cute. One of several recent signs that her nephew might be in intimate contact with young ladies. What is he now, seventeen? Half her own age - a calculation that dismays her. What has she gained, in that doubled time? "Come, pull it together," she says. He smiles at her appeasingly. Toby's smile has a comic quality to it: his teeth are small and gappy, milk-toothy almost. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel: Nineveh, by Henrietta Rose-Innes.
Author: Henrietta Rose-Innes
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2011
ISBN 9781415201367 / ISBN 978-1-4152-0136-7
Softcover, 15 x 22 cm, 208 pages
Rose-Innes, Henrietta im Namibiana-Buchangebot
An out-of-control swarm of insects hampers the completion of Nineveh, a luxury estate outside Cape Town.
Südafrika fürs Handgepäck ist eine Sammlung von Auszügen aus Klassikern der südafrikanischen Literatur.
Homing is an anthology of thrilling short stories, set in Cape Town, the author's home town.