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The Book of Happenstanceby Ingrid Winterbach
Synopses & Reviews
A remarkable novel by one of the most important Afrikaans writers of our time. The Afrikaans edition, Die boek van toeval en toeverlaat, has already won three major literary awards. Two of the novel's most important themes are loss and concealment: A woman goes to Durban to assist in an Afrikaans language preservation project. Then her cottage is burgled and her beautiful collection of shells is missing. Her determined search for her shells becomes interwoven with her work and the people she gets to know, especially her new friend, Sof. And in the process she also reflects on her life - her childhood, her family, her lovers before her marriage, her ex-husband, her current lover.
"Winterbach (The Elusive Moth) executes an intelligent literary mystery in this account of Helena Verbloem, a Cape Town lexicographer who has been hired to assist expert Theo Verwey in compiling a dictionary of old Afrikaans. Helena has 'not led an admirable life,' and the divorced mother of a grown daughter values above all else her collection of conch shells, which were stolen from her flat some months before. Winterbach plays with chronology, moving between the sudden death of Verwey in his office one evening, to the theft of the narrator's shells and the subsequent police investigation. As the stories play out, strange incidents occur: Constable Modisane has found some of the shells, but the alleged thief has hanged himself, and Modisane is soon transferred to another province; a man Helena met briefly 27 years before begins making menacing phone calls; her co-workers behave strangely; and her relationship with Verwey intensifies. Has the narrator elicited her own bad luck, or is this 'the fickle hand of Mrs Fortuna'? Winterbach's characters are rich, her story foreboding and tense, and her prose remarkably lean. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
While creating a dictionary of Afrikaans words that have fallen out of use, Helena gets involved in investigating a robbery.
Helena Verbloem helps create a dictionary of Afrikaans words that have fallen out of use. Her apartment is burglarized, and her collection of precious shells is stolen. Meeting with indifference from the local police, she decides investigate the crime on her own. While doing so, she reflects on her life and falls in love with her married boss.
About the Author
Ingrid Winterbach is an artist and novelist whose work has won the M-Net Prize, Old Mutual Literary Prize, the University of Johannesburg Prize for Creative Writing, and the W.A. Hofmeyr Prize. She's also received the Hertzog Prize, an honor she shares with Breyten Breytenbach and Etienne Leroux.
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