The Edge of Things (Dye Hard Press, 2011) consists of 24 South African short stories selected by Arja Salafranca. The contributors are Jayne Bauling, Arja Salafranca, Liesl Jobson, Gillian Schutte, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Jenna Mervis, Jennifer Lean, Fred de Vries, Margie Orford, Aryan Kaganof, Bernard Levinson, Hamilton Wende, Pravasan Pillay, Beatrice Lamwaka, Hans Pienaar, Rosemund Handler, Tiah Beautement, Angelina N Sithebe, Jeanne Hromnik, David wa Maahlamela, Perd Booysen, Gail Dendy, Silke Heiss and Dan Wylie.
Arja Salafranca’s debut collection of short stories, The Thin Line, was published by Modjaji Books in 2010. She has published two collections of poetry, A life Stripped of Illusions, and The Fire in Which we Burn. Her poetry is also collected in Isis X (Botsotso). She received the 2010 Dalro Award for poetry and has twice received the Sanlam Award, for fiction and poetry. She edits the Life supplement in The Sunday Independent and is studying toward an MA in Creative Writing at Wits University.
“The Edge of Things is an eclectic collection of short stories traversing a vast distance emotionally and intellectually. For example, Arja Salafranca’s moving story about a woman forced to live in a restrictive apparatus in ‘Iron Lung’ is a million miles away stylistically from Aryan Kaganof’s tale of decadence and debauchery on a night out in Durban in ‘Same Difference’. … Liesl Jobson’s ‘You Pay for The View: Twenty Tips for Super Pics’ is a series of verbal snapshots of pivotal moments of a mother trying to find a connection with her children. It is written with poignancy and deep longing. ‘Doubt’ by Gillian Schutte is an examination of how passion can seep out of a marriage once the chase is over and when feelings of irrelevance grow due to being part of a couple.”
– Janet Van Eeden, LitNet
“There are 24 pieces here, some of which qualify as short stories, others more like prose poems and descriptions of emotional experiences. Relationships are central, aloneness integral and fictional reality flexible. The collection displays a variety of writing styles. It includes pieces by some of South Africa’s well-known writers, but also some gems from lesser knowns, including Beatrice Lamwaka’s prize-worthy ‘Trophy’ and Dan Wylie’s tour-de-force, ‘Solitude’.”
– Cape Times
You Pay For The View: Twenty Tips For Super Pics
3. Kill the flash
1998 – Bryanston, Sandton, Alexandra
Behind the lens I was possessed. I stood between the cars on Jan Smuts Avenue at sunset for a feature on traffic for the weekly community paper where I’d landed my first job. I composed drivers’ faces that squinted in the low light, homeward bound.
To catch the taillights, red as the sky, I turned my back to the drivers for their silhouette, impervious to danger. When the circus came to town, the elephant enclosure caught my eye. I unclipped the flash and edged in slowly to avoid startling the beast. The deep creases in its skin, the bright circle of its eye drew me in. A group of children gathered at the gate, keen for adventure. The elephant looked primal, flapped its ears, but I had super powers. The right shot would make front page. I worked the angle, pulling in closer. Disengaging eventually from the viewfinder to put in a new roll of film I snapped from my trance. The children had followed me in. We were all too close.
She is walking on the side path of her married life – as she has been doing for a few years now. She has created this well-worn path out of necessity because the central path is cluttered up with ‘ifs’ and ‘whys’ and ‘maybes’. After years of clearing up others’ paths she is just too tired to bend down and pick up her own doubts. Besides there are very few empty spaces left to pack them. This circumvented pathway has led her to many possible encounters – mainly with men in white shoes. So far she has sidestepped them all – only slightly grateful for the amorous glint in the eyes of the wearers.
One day she collides with a tall man in tasteful black leathers. She, prudent by habit, looks into the horizon, for she has in her memory bank the knowledge that the heave she feels in her bosom could only mean trouble. In such circumstances any response could cause a hasty and astonished retreat, and this hardly seems right to her because if someone appears on her pathway, it is unfair that a natural chemistry should compel her to feel like the intruder. She sidesteps the man in the knowledge that it is already too late to steel herself against the onslaught of previously repressed passions and that this is sure to establish a penitentiary of emotional incoherence rather than her usual free will and forthrightness.
Telephoning The Enemy
Pretoria, January, 1983
Victim number two: Johnny had to go all the way to Pretoria North to fetch his big box of slides because none of us had a photograph of Suzy. Now people hang around the dining room table and look at the slides of her, which Johnny took when she was on holiday with us. Most slides did not come out good, something about melting in the sun, but you can still see that she was a sexy woman, long tanned legs without any varicose veins, not a single one, although she was 36 already.
That’s why Johnny took so many slides of her. That’s why she didn’t last: she was too sexy. Her lover did not pitch up here. He never will, the pig. When the bomb exploded, he went off like he saw the green flag on Kyalami, instead of trying to help people.
I mean, can you believe this guy! It was him who got her to play hide and seek and always meet him on the other side of the block so that the people at work would not see them together. She would never have walked past the bomb otherwise.
Angelina N Sithebe
Two months later Jean received an unsigned email: I was terrified. I felt I was on an express train to an unknown destination. Before you were a shadow, now you have a face. I still dream about you.
Jean’s answer was brief: I long for you more. Where and when? What changed?
Sanele replied: I thought we might not have even three hundred and fifty hours to live; we don’t have the luxury of waiting three hundred and fifty years while we equalise the past to at least try to discover each other. Tell me where the contaminated beach is.
It took another two weeks before they made it to the bungalow in Vilankulo in Mozambique. ‘Is this the place of your dreams?’
Jean asked as he led her on the beach.
Sanele nodded. ‘I’m Judas.’
‘You’ll deceive nobody except us.’
‘I’ll disgrace all black people and future generations for four centuries of conquest and oppression.’
‘You can’t reverse history.’
Bus From Cape Town
David wa Maahlamela
When I told my friend I had made love to a stranger, with tons of arrogance he was like: ‘Yeah dude, I also did that before.’ ‘Inside the bus,’ I added. ‘Was it standing?’ ‘No, it was on the road’. I started seeing a storm of questions blustering from his face, his eyes gleaming enthusiasm. ‘Were there passengers inside?’ ‘Of course, yes!’ I replied. ‘Tell me you’re joking. How did you do it? How did it happen? Where? I mean …’ He curiously confused me with questions. I didn’t even know which one to answer first. ‘Hooooh, relax broer. I will explain everything.’
He moved his chair closer to mine and sat directly opposite to me, with eyes that said: ‘Go on. I’m all ears.’ Even though Aryan Kaganof says that writing about a nasty event is a lot less nasty than the event itself, with my friend I knew I had to try and tell it as it was.
To be honest, writers do not write everything about themselves. There’s a certain locked shelf which is always untouched, hence they know exactly the impression they are intending to give their readers. My birthday holiday to Cape Town ended up being filed in this do-not-touch shelf, but after seeing how thrilled and fascinated my friend was when I was sharing with him about this adventurous trip, I thought … why don’t I hide this little secret of mine in a book despite how earthly saints will judge me? After all, blessed are those who admit their sins, right?
The Edge of Things is available from Exclusive Books countrywide,
retail price R185.
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