Simply put, Lauri Kubuitsile’s short stories are fantastic and provide an entertaining variation in content and themes from a gifted story-teller.
Each of the stories quickly engaged me. While ostensibly "African” they, in fact, transcend the bounds of this harsh, dramatic continent and are in touch with the world's collective imagination through the deep humanity of the characters.
The hilarity of the sexual revolution sweeping through the Nokanyana village; the delight of a dream come true in stick-thin Jacob’s youthful love for the (very) large and dimpled Purple Dress Woman; the horror of an excited bride’s awful discovery on the eve of her wedding; the tale of how a shift in the dry wind caressing the paper bags into having unthought of dreams changes things; all these and many more of the stories were brought to vibrant life by the wonderful visual imagery and exquisite use of words.
Take this description, for example, “The cats, like moving dice, three whites with two black dots mixed between them, climbed carefully down from the bookshelves to get a closer look.” (from “Pulane’s Eyes” shortlisted for the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award judged by the double Booker Prize winning South Africa author J M Coetzee)
Or the poignancy of a quiet woman: “Her emotions were held close and given out in tiny packages which, much like the diamonds that had built her a house with a fountain, were held dear by those receiving them.” (from “The Lies We Can’t Hide,” winner of the 2007 BTA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Competition.)
Some stories had me snorting out loud with laughter (a classic line from “In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata,” shortlisted for the prestigious 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing: “Once Tebogo, their son, was born almost thirty-six years previously, RraTebogo had thought, as was the natural course of things, that foreplay should be abandoned in lieu of sleep”). Others had me silent with threatening tears (“I had hope that these people, the people who ran the blood of humanity’s first ancestors through their veins, would stand up and take their proper, proud role, instead of drowning yet another dispirited generation in a calabash of traditional beer.”)
This cluster of stories will bounce around your head long after you’ve read the last page. The pleasure comes in that you can connect with each story in a real and visceral way for they are compelling and, despite being set in a world that is far from the sophisticated cities of Western countries are easy to relate to because of their sheer humanity and the delicate skill of the author. Lauri Kubuitsile weaves her stories with the same magic as does the medicine woman who weaves her colourful mats in “Pulane’s Eyes” (my outright favourite of all these delightful tales.)
“In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata and Other Stories” is a great read and an excellent addition to any library.