14 October 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Bosman's books and bushveld stories

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the death of author Herman Charles Bosman, possibly the finest short story writer South Africa has produced.

There are numerous short biographies of Bosman online and, longer ones in print. The basic facts are that he was born in Kuilsrivier in 1905, schooled in Johannesburg, studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and taught in the Great Marico district. In 1926 he was sentenced to death after his stepbrother died in a shooting incident. It was later mitigated to a prison sentence. He was released in 1930 and went to live in Johannesburg and later in England. With the outbreak of the World War II, he returned to South Africa and worked as poet, writer and journalist. He died of a heart attack in 1951.

In 1947 his collection of his short stories, Mafeking Road and Other Stories, was published.

This year sees the publishing of The Complete Voorkamer Stories, edited by Craig MacKenzie, and produced in collaboration with photographer David Goldblatt - this is a great interview on the new publication.  The Voorkamer stories first appeared in The Forum in 1950-1951 as a weekly column. This volume contains all the Voorkamer stories in the order in which they originally appeared, unabridged and uncensored.

In these stories, the local farmers gather in Jurie Steyn’s voorkamer, which doubles as the Drogevlei post office, to share the news of the day, comment on world events and tell stories about pretty girls, ghosts and hypocondriacs. For a taste, you can read ‘Homecoming’  from The Complete Voorkamer Stories, edited by Craig MacKenzie (Human & Rousseau).

In Bosman’s story Mafikeng Road, narrator Oom Schalk Lourens advises,  “For it is not the story that counts. What matters is the way you tell it.”  In the context of the story, this statement is ironic (this is a wonderful paper on irony in Herman Charles Bosman’s “Oom Schalk Lourens” series). Out of context though, the words sum up what’s most special about Bosman’s work - he knew how to tell a great story. And it’s in this tradition that the annual Bosman weekend again takes place in Groot Marico, to celebrate Bosman’s art through re-tellings and re-interpretations of his work.

One of the highlights of this year’s programme will be Andrew Loubscher and Matt Lewis making their debut at the Bosman weekend with their show ” Mafikeng Road”, which one an Ovation Award at the 2011 National Arts Festival. Also look out for Friday night’s performance by David Butler in “Teacher in the Bushveld’ directed by Nicky Rebello - a must for Bosman lovers. In addition, there will be lectures, workshops,  art exhibitions and music on offer, as well as culinary fare that the organisers promise “will be authentic Marico bosveld” cuisine, served in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Contact Santa on info@marico.co.za or +27 (0)73 908 6677 or +27 (0)14 503 0085 or email bosman@marico.co.za for more information.

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