Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mafeking Road

Herman Charles Bosman’s collection of short stories Mafeking Road has a tone of authenticity that is hard to find in contemporary short fiction.  

First there is the authorial voice: Bosman knows the world he writes about, the Boer community at around the turn of the twentieth century, with precision.  As such, he is able to provide compelling details about his character, their setting and time.  Even the extensive use of Afrikaans words in the text is not a distraction.  We realize that Bosman is translating a world from one language to the another.  His authorial voice is our faithful guide.

Knowing his world so well, Bosman is able to successfully lampoon it without either sounding overly mean or degrading to his subjects.  He captures the simple, crude manners of the Transvaal Boers with a harsh reality, but his grounding in the subject matter, his absolute knowledge, allows him to do this.  He is not an outsider ridiculing from some high perch.  He is within this world, and can comfortably take jabs at it.

Bosman uses dry humor, wit, and pungent observation to make Makefing Road one of the finest short story collections I have read.  The tales in this collection move with a vivacity and life which most contemporary writers can only fake.

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