Uit: Dog Heart. A Memoir
“It is early summer when we drive over to Bonnievale for the annual cheese and wine festival. Bright sheets of sunlight on the hills, flowers along the road bunching their colours, the jacaranda trees stained a pale purple. Then fields of shade like bruised mouths when loose-fitting clouds race before the sun and light’s throat suddenly grows deep.
On our way the four of us—Adam and his red-haired lady friend Mercy (who doesn’t know that she is coloured), my wife Lotus and I—visit the Van Loveren wine farm, upriver, towards Ashton, to taste their cabernet sauvignon. We tongue the elixir around our mouths, then load several boxes in the boot of the car. One of the Retief brothers, estate owners, comes and goes with cap tilted over a crooked smile and trousers hanging on for dear life and decency just below the bulging belly, to keep pouring from a full bottle.
A fragrant garden shades the back of the wine cellars. Jeanne Retief, the materfamilias, says: Yes, but who tamed the land? Who dug the irrigation channel and brought vines to this soil? Now the government paints us as intruders, but did they who were here before us ever plant a single tree? She knows. For fifty years or more she has been looking after every bush and shrub greening this unexpected paradise. She marked each major event by planting a sapling and bestowing upon it an appropriate name. Her eyes are two ancient tortoises hiding under the weathered stone of her face. Verwoerd, there (she points), soughing with birds; the fir is called Republic, it grew fast; King George needs a lot of water, a thirsty bugger; D. F. Malan was a shaggy palm tree, but he got blown over in the big wind; a rather rakish young Mandela, he will still grow in stature, of that you may be sure. The clouds need company.
In the main street we stop before cousin Aletta’s shop where lady’s drawers and buttons and spools of thread and millinery and daintily printed bales of cloth can be seen through the glass front. The road surface has not been upgraded in fifty years. This is the town where I was born, those were the humpbacked hills riding the skyline in sombre procession, like old songs, and further back the same mountain range is still blocking off the interior. The badlands beyond the escarped blue horizon is known as Moordenaarskaroo, a dry inner heart where murderers and robbers and escaped slaves and runaway soldiers could find refuge. To be devoured by sun. The Breërivier: wide and soft and afloat with silvery clouds. The road which snakes along the green banks to slither through the agglomeration is called Boesmanspad. White settlers pen off a first farm near the river crossing—Boesmansdrift. Later comes the project to build a village.”
Heerlijk! al dat geëssentieel,
als een oester zonder schelp,
fris en zacht van smaak, om op te
slokken, om op te bijten en op te slokken.
Of nog beter, een brein zonder
schedel. Ik weet nog hoe iemand
tijdens onze snijles er een
van driehoog liet neerkomen op
een orgelman in Pine Street.
Vertaald door Huub Beurskens
Zie voor de schrijvers van de 16e september ook mijn blog van 16 september 2021 en ook mijn blog van 16 september 2020 en eveneens mijn blog van 16 september 2019 en ook mijn blog van 16 september 2018.