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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

#BookWalk | Terra Incognita – New Short Speculative Stories from Africa

terra incognita coverTo celebrate today’s launch of Short Story Day Africa’s latest anthology Terra Incognita (18.00 at The Book Lounge in Cape Town), I revisited the stories that I had previously judged together with Samuel Kolawole (Writers’ Studio, Ibadan) and Jared Shurin (Jurassic London). Fortunately, I had already marked splendid passages in some of the stories, and it wasn’t difficult to lift striking excerpts from all the others. Hopefully, they’ll tempt you to order a copy of this superb anthology, featuring work by some of Africa’s finest experienced and emerging voices. Last year’s SSDA anthology, Feast, Famine & Potluck, included the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing – My Father’s Head by Okwiri Oduor – so you can rest assured that you’ll be treated to some quality reading, although I urge you to so during daylight hours, to avoid being haunted by the many spirits and powerful images that populate this anthology.

“During her lunch hour Joanna had gone to The Emporium, searching for an outfit that would make her look like the girls she spied on in Mister Pickwick’s: thinnish, hungover, imperfect girls who would skinny-dip in waterfalls with your boyfriend or produce large-eyed love-children with French seamen.”
From Diane Awerbuck’s winning story Leatherman

“Jacob Lunga could feel the granite throat constricting every time he blinked the blood from his eyes. He was bent double and rushing into that darkness as fast as he could – drawn on by the retreating light.”
From Caverns Measureless to Man by Toby Bennett

“I love coffins. But seeing a coffin with a corpse in it arouses in me the feeling that only poetry can evoke. It is the hunger for this feeling that makes me turn to reading every obituary I see. I would take down the date and venue of the funeral of the deceased.”
From I Am Sitting Here Looking at a Graveyard by Pwaangulongii Benrawangya

“She’d been concerned that, only the night before, she’d begun to hear things: a carthorse, for instance, lumbering through the private driveway of the block of flats where she lived. But of course there was no carthorse in Killarney, no leather strapping, no nose-bag, no metal or wooden side shafts.”
From Marion’s Mirror by Gail Dendy

“He looked ordinary, but I knew he was a god. I confirmed it the day he showed me the egg-shaped thing. It stood on two bird-like legs that were as tall as a man, and it had a pair of wings that were so large he must have skinned twenty cows to make them.”
From How My Father Became a God by Dilman Dila

“I never had any great faith in traditional medicine. I believed in science and antibiotics and clean, cool, sanitary hospital rooms.”
From In the Water by Kerstin Hall

“Everyone in Flora agreed that it was a terrible thing, a terrible thing to happen to a young girl, and she’d been so pretty before that, they said, but Elsie knew it wasn’t disease that took her teeth.”
From Mouse Teeth by Cat Hellisen

“My head is sore and thick just now, my throat rough. I don’t know where anything is, only that I’ve been dead – a long time now, I think, looking at him. But I remember nothing about it. I feel cheated.”
From Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch by Mishka Hoosen,

“I looked to my hands. There was no trace of chalk. My nails were bitten as they ever were, but I was clean. I had no bruises, no bones protruding from my skin. My skin had never looked so soft.”
From Stations by Nick Mulgrew,

“There is a veil that separates this world from the world of the spirits. It is invisible to all but a few who know where to look. In the oldest parts of this world, the veil is worn thin in places, like a skin stretched taut over the mouth of a drum, and traces of what might be described as magic dance in the rays of sunlight.”
From Editöngö by Mary Okon Ononokpono,

“I never had much of an idea what I was going to do beyond leaving this town, but Vi was going to become a mad scientist and would cook up the cure for cancer in some basement lab, and CJ would be Nigeria’s first foreign-born astronaut, hopping from star to star.”
From CJ by Chinelo Onwualu

“So it was little wonder that Ojahdili soon ran out of men to defeat in a wrestling bout and stumbled upon the idea of travelling to the spirit world, for was it not common knowledge that no man had been known to defeat the spirits?
From There is Something That Ogbu-Ojah Didn’t Tell Us by Jekwu Ozoemene

“He is waiting for you, not just anywhere, no, he is seated on YOUR chair on the veranda. You have named him Jonny, despite your intentions of shooting him down. He is the leader of the pack, he is fearless, he deserves a name.”
From Ape Shit by Sylvia Schlettwein

“Hugh sat at the kitchen table wearing his helmet, in a special chair of his own design. It had a seatbelt harness not at all dissimilar to that found in a racing car. Miss Swan strapped him in and returned to the stove to warm some soup.”
From What if You Slept? by Jason Mykl Snyman

“Giving cyborgs memories will enable them to process responses to situations organically. The only problem is that synthetic memory creation is rather a lengthy and unstable process, which hasn’t been perfected yet, but exciting breakthroughs in neuroscience are helping to sidestep that issue.”
From Esomnesia by Phillip Steyn

“I hear a voice that does not flow over the air. It is as if I am repeating the words myself, an echo of something heard only in my mind. It is crisp and cold, a winter voice, a dark voice, like ice on a deep lake.
From The Lacuna by Brendan Ward,

“Ever since the great event which had occurred over 200 years ago, when the people of earth fled underground, the main problem that had befallen society was one that was completely unanticipated by the scientists of the day; mass boredom.”
From The Carthagion by Sarah Jane Woodward

“Minutes rushed past his open window and they dragged with them trees and houses and people, and still Bowuk Jana held his breath. He was amazed that he could do this, it was way past a minute, past two minutes, past three minutes, and now he held his breath out of fascination for his ability to do so, the dead dog long forgotten by now.”
From The Corpse by Sese Yane

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