Books on the Bay was successfully launched on Friday with a sold-out event featuring Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee, writer Antjie Krog, and Angolan novelist José Eduardo Agualusa. On a sweltering February evening, the crowds packed the St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church to hear the authors read from their work.
First up was Antjie Krog, introduced by Karin Cronje, who described Krog in her writing as “almost brutal in her brilliance, her intensity”. Krog read six poems from her latest collection, Pillage (Plunder in Afrikaans; English translation by Karen Press). Cronje introduced the collection as “a searing account of who we are, of how we experience. … It captures the pulsing being-ness of humans”.
Ranging in theme from the political to the intensely personal, the poems found Krog as unflinching in her meditation on Fees Must Fall as on aging.
God knows we’ve lived this country into a disorderly domain.
Not even poems can weave something together again.
Second at the lectern was José Eduardo Agualusa, introduced by David Attwell, who likened his writing to “rain that falls on dry roots”. Agualusa read briefly in Portuguese from his International Dublin Literary Award-winning novel Teoria Geral do Esquecimento (2012) before his wife, Mozambican journalist and director Yara Costa, continued with the English-language translation, A General Theory of Oblivion.
The final reading of the evening was by J. M. Coetzee, who was introduced by Darryl David. Coetzee read from an unpublished short memoir about his Standard 5 teacher, Mr Gouws. In the piece, Coetzee reflected poignantly on the racial, ethnic, economic, and grammatical complexities of an Afrikaans-speaking man having been tasked with teaching English to English-speaking boys in early-1950s Worcester.
The three organisers closed the formal part of the event by presenting Coetzee and Krog with the inaugural Books on the Bay ‘O Captain, My Captain’ lifetime achievement awards.
The readings were followed by book signings and a convivial drinks reception, with wine provided by Mooiplaas Wine Estate and music by the Simon’s Town High School Band. The festive atmosphere had the crowds staying on well after the sun had set.
The organisers wish to thank the following for their invaluable support in making the event such a success:
- The Simon’s Town Civic Association
- The donors who gave us start-up funding
- Personal Trust
- STADCO, the Simon’s Town Amenities Development Co.
- Louis Roos of Mooiplaas
- Our anchor sponsor, Standard Bank
- Rev. Rodney Uren, MaryAnne Kindo and the Parish Council of St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church
- The Simon’s Town High School Band
- Adel de Villiers, Lynne Adelbert, and Robin Thomas, who did the magnificent flowers
- Chesney Thomas, our events coordinator, and his team of volunteers
- The University of the Western Cape, for their support with sound and camerawork