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Richard de Nooy

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BookWalk #4 | The Release | Eric Miyeni

Just a reminder that these “book walks” offer me a means to celebrate the writing of fellow authors, without drawing any critical conclusions. Hopefully, they also offer potential readers insight into the plot, themes and style of the novel.

You hate me. I can see it in the pain on your lips as you smile your “thank you” and take my money. (p. 10) | Jeremy Hlungwani has reached the end of his tether and someone has to pay.

Meshach was calm. Cold as ice. Looking at him, you would never guess the speed at which the oversupply of adrenalin coursing through his veins was driving his pounding heart. (p. 23) | Jeremy has friends who remind him how pleasant it can be to let go and allow the demons run your life.

Dead because they were seen talking to the wrong man’s girlfriend. Dead because they thought robbing a bank was a one-time thing. Dead because they went to a shebeen where nobody knew who they were. Dead because they drove a car somebody wanted but couldn’t afford to buy. (p. 41) | Most of Jeremy’s other friends are leading even less successful lives than Meshach.

They all laughed in a brave attempt to turn the grim reality into some sort of happy memory. Jeremy could not tell which he hated more: this pretence or the actual torture. (p. 61) | Boarding schools are designed to be enjoyed by sociopaths only. Jeremy’s schooldays add a couple of bricks to his bagful of traumas.

Fear was Gembani’s weapon of choice. He would anything to instil it. He was so strong he could do a handstand with his back against the wall and do a hundred push-ups that way. (p. 71) We all have our own Gembanis to fight and forget. But sometimes a cure can be more terrifying than the problem itself.

It’s as though the last time they had had sex was not seventeen years ago. Despite her ecstasy, Jeremy feels like he is walking on fire without faith and burning his feet all the way to the end, too stubborn to jump off. (p. 88) | Jeremy’s trip down memory lane is more like a stumbling run along a narrow footpath at the edge of steep cliff. Halfway, he meets former lover S’mangele and there seems no way around her, except under, in and over her.

So white people suffered, like the fat policeman and Jesus Christ on the cross and farmer Littlemetalplate. (p. 105) | Despite the obvious pitfalls and drawbacks, Jeremy aspires to lead a “white life” in defiance of his deluded father’s warning: “Know your place and you’ll go far. Act above your station and you will be chopped down.” (Note: the book consists of three sections: Black Life, White Life and Life.)

He had been unable to see this back in 1976. His father’s voice, screaming, “Agitators, agitators, agitators”, had clouded his view of this reality, which was finally coming into focus for him. (p. 122) | University offers Jeremy a whole new perspective on his past, his present and his future. But that perspective looks like it may just leave him floating in the middle of nowhere, disenchanted with both black and white life.

“When he started getting bumped on the dance floor, it was an unmistakable signal for him to leave because it felt like an energy rising from hell.” (p. 165) Jeremy’s coping strategies earn him a “big-shot job and a life in the suburbs”, but by then he is towing a trailer full of trauma and ammunition behind his luxury car.

“The bullet releases like a long overdue sigh of relief.” (p. 174)

(Eric Miyeni’s The Release is published by Umuzi.)

The Release

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