Friday, September 23, 2011

Note to Self: Learn Afrikaans... Yesterday.



My second event at the Open Book Festival, done and done.

Here's the thing: most of the events require a ticket purchased in advance, with, you know, money. So I decided to go to every free event that fit in my schedule, and be more judicious about the paid ones. That means it's kind of a big deal that I shelled out R 30 ($5 USD--DON'T JUDGE) to see an event with Andre P. Brink, Etienne van Heerden and Ingrid Winterbach at the Fugard Studio.

Maybe the title (Die Begin en Einde van die Roman) should have given this away, but I soon found out the event was entirely in Afrikaans. WHOOPS. (I'm pretty sure the title means, The Beginning and the End of the... ? Yeah. I was in trouble.)

Only being able to understand a stray word here and there gave me plenty of time to ask myself, "What am I doing here?"

Well, this is what I have to say for myself: The first time I studied in Cape Town, I lived in Obz and loved to haunt the local library. I thought it would be fun to try to read through their entire fiction collection in alphabetical order. It didn't seem that big. But then again, I was only around for five months. I wasn't very successful; I only made it to Coetzee. But I read every Andre Brink book in that collection.

PJ speaks Afrikaans, and I did spend those two months living in Bellville. I've picked up a little, but not much that would help me in an academic discussion about writing in the modern world. Afrikaans has been called "Kitchen Dutch" (and that's derogatory and not really true, but bear with me), and I feel like I know Kitchen Afrikaans. Make that Taxi Afrikaans. Granted, I'm not even fluent in slang. I'd give myself a C-Minus for Taxi Afrikaans.

Although I have to say, there were not one but TWO jokes about how closely the Afrikaans word for "poetry" is like the word for a not-so-nice way to describe the female anatomy. So score one for the Taxi Afrikaans.

Be that as it may, I do feel I could decipher some of the general themes of the conversation on stage, such as:
  • How do the authors choose which genre to write in? Which is preferable, fiction or poetry? Or have you created a new genre for yourself?
  • Is the novel as we know it dead? Or is it being reinvented/reborn? (I distinctly heard "Don Quixote" and "Cervantes" mentioned. Something something invent it as you go along?)
  • How do the authors begin a novel? How do they choose a first line, and where does it come from?

Those are some interesting general topics. I wish I could have been in on the answers.

It was sad to miss out on a joke--I laughed along with the crowd when I could. I had this awful paranoia that I'd somehow be outed as an impostor Amerikaner who was faking that laugh! Didn't happen, though. (Obviously.)

The most frustrating part about recognizing bits and pieces was when someone said, "die antwoord is..." That means, "the answer is..." But then I couldn't understand what came next. WHAT? WHAT IS THE ANSWER! I guess I'll never know.

Ah well, on to the next event...

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