Blog Archives

The Story of Thuli Madonsela

No longer whispering to power by Thandeka Gqubule

madonsela

Back cover:
Thuli Madonsela  achieved in seven years as Public Protector what few accomplish in a lifetime; her legacy and contribution cannot be overstated. In her final days in office she compiled the explosive State of Capture report and, two years before that, Secure in Comfort, the report on (then) President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence. Praised and vilified in equal measure, Madonsela frequently found herself on centre stage in the increasingly fractious South African political scene.

Yet despite the intense media scrutiny, Madonsela remains something of an enigma. Who is the soft-spoken woman who stood up to state corruption? Where did she develop her views and resolve? Thandeka Gqubule, journalist and one of the SABC 8 fired and rehired by the broadcaster, attempts to answer these questions, and others, by exploring aspects of Madonsela’s life: her childhood years and family, her involvement in student politics, her time in prison, her contribution to the Constitution, and her life in law.

Madonsela once described her role as Public Protector as being akin to that of the traditional Venda spiritual female leader, the Makhadzi, who whispers truth to the ruler. When the sounds of the exchanges between the ruler and the Makhadzi grow loud, Madonsela said, that is when the whispering has failed.

Rating: 3/5

First published: 2017

While I read the story of Madonsela something kept bothering me. Perhaps it was the author’s choice of words. One thing I hate about the news is that they (politicians and journalists) always use particular words over and over again: not because it’s particularly necessary but maybe because politicians think that’s what their followers want to hear. Words like “community”, “issues”, “institutions”, etc. I could just gag from all the political speak.

Another thing that bothered me as that the author is too subjective. I can’t recall that she ever gave a full character sketch of Madonsela: it’s always positive, the descriptions felt excessively sweet. Yes, she is a hero, but no one is perfect. I wouldn’t have minded to read about some of her flaws.

Advertisements

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

In between trying to figure out my story this month, I also read and tried to understand Stephen Hawking’s book.

So, did I understand it? No, not really.

But I did learn some things. I learnt about space-time (4D space/events) and that black holes are formed when a star starts to shrink and the gravitational forces are so strong that not even light can escape it.

I always thought a black hole is this weird phenomena you usually find in cartoons where the cartoon can walk into another time dimension.

Now it turns out if you ever find yourself in space and come across a black hole (which you’ll probably only realize when it’s too late) you’re that joke in the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon says he’s screwed.

“A brief History of Time” is briefly about how scientists or theoretical psysicists (i.e. Stephen Hawking and Sheldon from the TV series) try to contemplate the universe through science and maths.

Just like how Sheldon tries to explain to Penny what Leonard does, Hawking starts at the very beginning (the Greeks and Aristotle) and works his way up to where they were when he wrote the book.

It’s very interesting to see how man’s thought processes developed through time and the different theories each one came up with.

Also, if it weren’t for Hawking’s brilliant examples, I wouldn’t even have understood this much (see above). And the joke on page 1 is hilarious.

Back cover: Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece [their words, not mine] which begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time.

First published: 1988

Rating: 3/5 (Mostly because I didn’t really understand what I was reading).

In an unrelated note, the thing which I found most surprising was this:

“In October 1981, I went to Moscow for a conference on quantum gravity… In the audience was a young Russian, Andrei Linde, from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow…” He came up with the idea of “the new inflationery model “A better model, called the chaotic inflationery model, was put forward by Linde in 1983.”

Now, for you it might seem like useless information, I mean who cares who this Linde guy is, but as a person who shares the same surname I find it fascinating that he knew Stephen Hawking and that Hawking actually mentions him in his book.

I would love to know his family history, because as far as I know is that our forefather Hans Jurgen Linder came to South Africa about 1753 and it was through the Dutch East Indian company (VOC) that our surname was changed to Linde without the letter ‘r’.

From what I gathered the inflationery model is a theory on how to explain how and why the universe is expanding.

briefhistorytime

 

Martin Rattler – R.M. Ballantyne

More than a year ago I’ve started the tradition of lending books to read to our security guard at work. His name is John and he loves to read – mostly about religion and education. He has even started a library back at home in Zimbabwe. We’ve collected books to give to him and he sends them along.

This is the first book he’s lending me to read.

There is no back cover on this book, so I’m going to have to rely on my memory. This book revolves around the main character called Martin Rattler. It kind of reminds me of Tom Sawyer – a very naughty youth who ends up going on an adventure and grows up along the way.

Most of it takes place in Brazil where we learn about the natives and the different animals in the forest.

I think what appealed to John about this book is that it is both about religion and education.

First published: 1858

Rating: 5/5

The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer

canterburytales

Note: I read David Wright’s modern prose rendering of The Canterbury Tales.

I’m confused. I read the book, but still can’t say what the actual plot is. Yes, it’s a bunch of people each telling a tale, but to what end?

Turns out each character was supposed to tell four stories each, but Chaucer only wrote 24 stories and some of those aren’t even complete.

Backcover:
Chaucer’s masterpiece is one of the most astonishing productions of the Middle Ages. Completely original in concept and method, its range and variety have never been surpassed within the confines of a single work. Believing that much has been lost (and not only the poetry) in the many verse translations that have been attempted, David Wright has produced this brilliant rendering of The Canterbury Tales in contemporary English prose in order that the general reader and the student may gain a more immediate awareness of their freshness and of the skill, humour, irony and pathos of Chaucer’s narrative art.

What I liked:
There is in fact a wide variety of stories, but only one tale that still lingers with me. It’s the story told by the “Sergeant-in-law”. It’s a tale of a woman, taken away from her homeland and almost lost everything.

Even though some of the stories are very vulgar and women are portrayed as two-timing hussies, there is also truth in these pages:

“The Lord on high chose to live a life of voluntary poverty… Poverty is honourable when it’s cheerfully accepted… He who covets is a poor man, because he wants what he cannot get; but he who has nothing and covets nothing is rich… Though it may seem hard to bear, poverty is a kind of riches, one which no one will try to take away from you.” (p.189, The wife of Bath’s tale)

“Eternal God, that through Thy providence guidest the world with such control, it is said that Thou hast made nothing in vain. But, Lord, these fiendish, black, forbidding rocks that seem rather the work of a foul chaos than any fair creation of a God so perfect, wise and unchangeable – why hast Thou made so irrational a creation? For neither man nor bird nor beast is benefited by them in any quarter of the world; they do no good that I know of, nothing but harm…” (p.268, The Franklin’s tale).

“The guilty suppose themselves the subject of every conversation.” (p.293, The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue).

And comedy:
The host’s reaction to Chaucer’s tale; and
The Franklin talking about one of the characters in his story: “I shall leave the unhappy creature lying there in this desperate torment and distress of mind; he can live or die as he chooses, for all I care” (p.271)

First published: 1476. This book/rendition was published in 1965.

Rating: 3/5

Homer “The Odyssey”

odyssey

I enjoyed The Odyssey more than The Iliad. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what was going to happen and perhaps also because there aren’t as many fighting and death scenes in this book.

I was a little disappointed in the ending though. It felt rushed. One moment they’re fighting and the next they’re making peace… The End! Huh?

Anyway, so the book is based on the character Odysseus, one of the brave warriors who went to fight the Trojan war in The Iliad. It tells of his journey of the aftermath when he tried to return home, but was prevented by several characters.

First published: This book was published in 1946 but was written in the 8th century BC.

Rating: 4/5

 

Homer “The Iliad”

Homer Iliad

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found the translations of Homer’s “The Iliad”and “The Odyssey” at a bargain price at our church bazaar. The saleslady was very disappointed that she didn’t laid hands on it first. Score!

If you’ve ever seen the movie Troy, it was based on the book “The Iliad”. You know that classic line of the movie: “Helen of Troy, the face who launched a 1000 ships”? Well, it starts where Helen’s husband, Menelaus, and the Achaeans reach Troy and prepare themselves for a fight. Helen ran away with one of King Priam’s sons, Paris. These two are the real reason “The Iliad” is called a tragedy, because if someone just took some responsibility and reprimanded Paris, none of the destruction and death would have happened. Then again, there wouldn’t be much of a story.

We also meet Achilles, the famed fighter who the Trojans all fear. In “The Iliad” Achilles is in disagreement with the Achaeans’ King, Agamemnon. Achilles refuses to help the Achaeans and a lot of bloodshed follows.

Odysseus, the main character of “The Odyssey”, also features.

Two things that really annoyed me:

Most of “The Iliad” involves the fighting which can become very tedious. See, with everyone being killed, Homer has to tell us their name and history. It’s never ending. If that isn’t bad enough each side has this long speech before they start fighting each other. It makes the story somewhat unbelievable: how can you in all that chaos and noise not die of a stray spear?

Secondly, why does Paris feel no remorse when his brother is killed because of his actions? It’s like his character disappeared, we don’t hear or see his reaction to the tragic news.

First published: This book was published in 1950 but Homer wrote the two epic poems during the 8th or 7th century BC.

Rating: 3/5

Interesting facts:

  • According to Homer, the Lesbians are from the country Lesbos.
  • What is an Iliad? The city of Troy was also known as Ilios or Ilium thus “Iliad” is the epic poem or song of Ilium.

 

Dearly Depotted – Kate Collins

Dearly depotted

 

It’s funny, I read this book years ago but when I saw they made a film adaptation I couldn’t remember what happens in the story. I read it again and none of it felt familiar. Such a shame, because it’s really a fun story.

Back cover:
It looks like Abby Knight’s cousin Jillian is heading for the altar again, and guess which bridesmaid is doing the flowers? Yes, it’s Abby – law school dropout, owner of Bloomers, and ex-fiancée to the best man! Abby has her hands full at the wedding, doing triple duty as florist, bridesmaid, and grandma-sitter, all while wearing a floral print that makes her look like a clown. But the real trouble starts when the groom’s ninety-year-old grandma disappears. While hunting for her, Abby discovers the body of Jack Snyder, one of the guests, behind the minister’s platform in the gazebo. When her assistant’s new boyfriend becomes a suspect, Abby decides she’d better find out who killed Jack in the pulpit.

First published: 2005

Rating: 3/5

 

Sookie Stackhouse series

If you don’t know who Sookie Stackhouse is… have you ever heard of the HBO TV-series True Blood ? 

Do I have your attention now? Good. Because True Blood is based on the Sookie Stackhouse series written by Charlaine Harris. Sookie Stackhouse is also the main character of both, btw.

For the past few months, this was my guilty pleasure.

I’m not going to go into everything that happens in every book. It would take too long as there are 13 books in the main series and then a few short stories for extras.

What I am going to point out though are the differences in the book and TV series. For example: the books aren’t nearly so violent and racy as HBO portrayed it.

In the books, more are said about the werepanthers whereas in the TV-series we are introduced to them, but then it sorta just dies down. In fact, there aren’t just werewolves and werepanthers… And they also make an announcement to the world. Sookie also doesn’t date Alcide.

We also learn more about Sookie’s fairy relatives.

In the book series, Lafayette dies in the first book, Tara gets a happy ending and Pam and Sookie are actually friends!

The only thing I didn’t like, is that baby vamp Jessica doesn’t exist in the books!

jessicacrying

  1. Dead until Dark
  2. Living dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the world
  5. Dead as a doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. Altogether Dead
  8. From Dead to worse
  9. Dead and gone
  10. Dead in the family
  11. Dead reckoning
  12. Dead locked
  13. Dead ever after*

I love the way Charlaine Harris took the word “Dead” and made it a theme for every book title. (I once did that with a short story using the phrase “hide and seek”).

I dreaded reading the last book. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. How am I going to face the world? With what am I going to fill the void?

Do you know that feeling when you enjoy something so much you don’t want it to end? When you live and breathe with the characters that the story actually becomes real?

I literally couldn’t put it down. There were some nights my hands actually grew numb for holding onto the Kindle for dear life.

So, what’s the verdict?

Rating: Guilty

Sookiestackhouse

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

It felt like forever trying to finish this book. But I daresay it’s my own fault. The only time I give myself to read is just before I go to bed every night.

With these classics I find it harder to keep an attention span. Have you ever noticed how these writers never can seem to get to the point? Blah, blah, blah I would read two pages and end up falling asleep and the next night I would do it all over again. Except, that I couldn’t remember what I read the previous night!

And no, I did not watch the film first so I didn’t really have a clue what the book was going to be about.

What I did like: This book has some wonderful ideas of which I’m not going to go into right now seeing as I do not want to spoil anything except… I wonder if the website Yahoo got it’s name from the book?

I’m not really sure why though, but this book kind of reminded me of “The Phantom Tollbooth”.

Back cover:
When a kindly ship’s surgeon, Lemuel Gulliver, sets on several voyages from England, he has no idea of the fantastic adventures – and misadventures – he will have. Violent storms, shipwrecks, mutiny and pirate attacks lead him to remote places populated by strange and amazing beings.

During his travels, Gulliver discovers that these incredible creatures are very different from anyone he has met before. He soon wonders whether he’ll fit in or feel at home in any of these astonishing places.

Join Gulliver in Lilliput, where he finds himself held captive by a race of miniature people; in Brobdingnag, a country populated by giants; in the little island of Glubbdubdrib, where historic figures like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar talk to him; and in an unknown land that’s ruled by the Houyhnhnms, a breed of superior horses who find humanlike creatures repulsive.

By turns funny and frightening, Gulliver’s Travels will introduce you to some of the most outlandish and memorable creatures ever invented.

First published: 1726

Rating: 4/5

The Shack – William P. Young

I think the first time I’ve read this book was in 2009. One of my friends lent it to me.

Last year, I noticed a copy for sale at our local library. I bought it and lent it to the guard at work. He loves to read and he loved this book.

I then decided to reread it, because I could only remember snippets of the story.

Unfortunately, not everyone will like this story. My grandfather hated it, because he couldn’t accept that God may take on the form of a black woman.

I’ve also noticed they’ve turned it into a movie. Wonder how that turned out?

Backcover:

Mackenzie Allen Philip’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his ‘Great Sadness’, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant ‘The Shack’ wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

What I liked about the book: The book is essentially about forgiveness. God, in the story, wants to save Mack from himself, from his bitterness. He wants to release him from his burden, his ‘Great Sadness’.

It teaches us that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget or that you have to trust that person again. ‘Forgiveness does not establish a relationship’ (p.225).

Forgiveness is also a journey, it’s not instant and you may need God’s help to forgive.

What I didn’t like: When I first read it, I believed it was based on true story. When you read the story, you really want it to be real. But when I found out it was just fiction, I was disappointed.

First published: 2007

Rating: 5/5