14 stops to transformation

STATIONS by Nick Mulgrew
(David Philip)

Slipped into the middle of these collected stories is one that is a fragment, a succinct and poetic evocation of the aftermath and heritage of colonialism.

A shard from it reads thus: “This museum holds things, you said, that we shouldn’t remember. Things not worth remembering. The decades have no hold on the amethyst …”

Who can decide what we should remember? And with what relief we briefly consider the amethyst, while other matters are slowly processed.

Mulgrew clearly intends to contribute to transformation; his stories are direct and current. The title on the spine of the book designates them as “fourteen stories [crossed out] stops on a slow road to purgatory”. They range from the bliss and break-ups of love among the born-frees (Mulgrew is 26) to afterlife wanderings among the shades of settler ancestors, with sharp satire in between.

Love stories Athlone Towers, Turning and Stars are tenderly observed but steel at the core; Mulgrew shows relationships that won’t work. Most painful and poignant of these is Ponta da Ouro, in which a mother and son spend a first Christmas post-divorce in Mozambique, without husband and father. Here, as in Stars, Mulgrew invokes traditional routines and rituals such as going to Christmas Mass or a cleansing swim at dawn as a way of seeking solace. At the same time, he seems to doubt their efficacy.

A story in the unforgettable category is Gala Day, in which two children bunk school and go into the cane fields – love and death circle each other.

Mulgrew moves along from pain to satire: in Biblioteek vir die Blindes he lampoons white complacency and self-righteousness in a woman’s one-sided phone conversation in a coffee shop. This story makes the skin crawl.

A terrific counterpoint, but no less unsettling, is Restaurant, in which Mulgrew invokes Eleanor Roosevelt – “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” – read with delicious and inflammatory irony on a Huletts sugar sachet by Med fusion eatery entrepreneur Thembile in KwaZulu-Natal. Discouraged, she puts an end to this stillborn rainbow-nation endeavour.

In Mr Diaz we see a combination of braai talk, black economic empowerment and the bitter fruits of trying to hang on to privilege in another discomforting or hilariously funny story, depending on whether white tears make you laugh or not.

From satire back to colonialism and the 14 stations to purgatory that descendants of settlers and beneficiaries of the colonial order have to make to learn and progress. It’s a difficult path, referring to Christ’s last walk carrying his cross before his crucifixion. The complex inferences take some teasing out and Mulgrew is both compassionate and mocking.

The protagonist in the last story, in which the 14 stations are again invoked, is a mountain climber in the Cape Town area. He has fallen to his death. Or should we say #Fallen?

Having “passed through” himself, he is able to see those on the other side. The statues of colonial heroes such as Cecil Rhodes and Louis Botha are not gone (and not #Fallen), but are unable to die and suffer eternal torment in memory, singing hymns, especially an Afrikaans version of Amazing Grace.

Mulgrew is a founding publisher at uHlanga, which recently produced Thabo Jijana’s Failing Maths and My Other Crimes, the winner of the 2016 Ingrid Jonker Prize for poetry.

uHlanga has published Mulgrew’s collection of poems, the myth of this is that we’re all in this together.

And amethyst apparently signifies “intense spiritual growth”.

Advertisting

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Isabel dos Santos did not loot Angola alone

Once again, Western auditing and consulting firms shamelessly facilitated corruption on an international scale

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...
Advertising

Press Releases

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.