October: A Novel
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With this pitch-perfect story, the “writer of rare brilliance” (The Scotsman) Zoë Wicomb—who received one of the first Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes for lifetime achievement—stands to claim her rightful place as one of the preeminent contemporary voices in international fiction.
pittance they’ll get from the bank will slide straight down Jake’s throat. It’s a disgrace. Whatever will people think of them coming down in the world like this? There is a colony of RDP houses on the horizon stretching eastward from the town’s rubbish dump as far as the eye can see. Only the Gifberge rise beyond it. What amazes Mercia about RDP housing, or rather about the architects of these dwellings, is that in a country where land is plentiful, houses are virtually butted against each
need of comfort? The impossible flashed before her: an older, fictional brother who would touch the top of her head with four fingers, stroke her nape with his thumb, and take her home. Jake’s letter was no doubt written in the early hours, in a struggle with insomnia, with a hangover perhaps, when things get distorted. In which case it was kinder to ignore it. A nuisance that in this day and age Jake did not have e-mail, not since he returned to Kliprand. For all the hastiness of his scribble,
nothing in the world to worry about. Mummy will sort it all out. A little boy can’t help being sick, the greedy lion cubs too have been sick, and that’s because like the hungry caterpillar they’ve eaten too much—one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, and he recited along between sobs: one cherry pie, one sausage, until the voice became inaudible as his face, Mercia imagined, was squashed into the woman’s bosom. Sweetheart, my sweetheart, sang the maternal voice,
let into your own heart, that you allowed its crabbing into your organs. Why else had Antoinette said nothing of her pain? Why had she not allowed him to gather Jantjie Bêrend that grew in abundance all around, the cancer bush that would certainly have cured her? Never again would he put his faith in a woman. Mercia woke to the clatter of Craig opening the wooden shutters. Sad October light flooded in, licking the corners of the room. Pulling the duvet over her head, she buried her face in the
remembered the Afrikaans word. So you’d rather have the good old pub, hey! Let’s remember that Scottish pub food is disgusting. And whoever’s heard of sandwiches without butter? That’s what you get these days. In the icy sunlight they set out through the city, on to the open road where the hills rose in the distance, the Dumgoyne a sharply outlined lump clad in tweedy autumnal color. They argued about the window. Craig said it had to be open, to savor the loveliness of the autumnal day, of the