Monday, September 26, 2005

Postcards from South Africa by Rayda Jacobs

Genre: Fiction

Rating: ****

Written by a South African Malay, these short stories pick on the small triumphs and tribulations that are often unique to a South African. The stories that are semi-autobiographical are those most evocative for me of the Cape-Malay life. The atmosphere, family life and little sayings are brilliantly described. Scattered throughout the book are the stories of Sabah, a semi-autobiographical character of Rayda Jacobs. These stories describe snapshots in her life as she grows up in Apartheid South Africa, eventually emigrates and then returns in a post-Apartheid era. I must admit that I did not find this book as enjoyable as her other work “Confessions of a Gambler” but maybe that is because I could identify more with that story being muslim myself and knowing the culture.

These stories would undoubted shed more light on non South Africans as it gives a very personal account of what it was like to grow up in those times. I did not think so, but a friend who also read the book did not like it for its pessimism. She felt that the author focussed on all the negative aspects of South Africa. But I like the view shown, it is different, and it is real. It is a noble cause to try always to be positive but is it not as noble to educate outsiders of what we really feel?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck

Status: In progress

Its been a while since I've updated this blog which is not all that surprising considering my tendency to get bored with things very quickly, but now that its actually listed on someone else's blog (and hence might actually be read) I've decided I'd better update it a bit! I've also decided to start writing about the books that I'm currently still reading.

Anyways, to get to the actual book we're talking about here. Its one of those books I picked up on a book sale because it looked mildly interesting and I was not disappointed. Its about a guy who is seeking spiritual meaning in life by experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. He calls it a "Chemical Adventure". He travels the world in search of a drug that will give him deeper meaning and its fascinating to learn of the history behind many of these drugs. The title is from the practices of the Bwiti tribe of Gabon. After feeding an initiate the iboga root (which causes hallucinations for hours), they knock them on the head with a stick to "break open their head" and increase the visions.

Thus far I've learnt about the history of the magic mushroom as well. The aspect about this book that can get a bit much is the language. The author is clearly an intellectual and often writes in the flowery language that some intelligentsia are prone to. It can get a bit tedious. Overall, though, its an interesting read and I'm probably enjoying it more for the fact that its different from what I would usually read.