(The ink in the well)
I am now almost half-way through the last part of the novel with this re-write. Issues are swirling, completing, dying out, resolving. Except of course for S’bu. Cos he’s a poet I guess. He’s working on a new book. Or trying to. There is a whole lot of stuff he can’t reconcile.
By this stage of the book, a lot of strings are weaving together and long-range ideas being resolved. But not S’bu. Or maybe it is?
“There are no templates left. The social engineering of apartheid gave way to aspirational free-rein which has given way to a kind of emotional free-fall where everyone is left to rediscover their common humanity as and where they can. This is the emerging story that he was trying to write. But this is not the lens he has been seeing it through. This is about identity of self, rather than people. An awareness of how we all are, and how that impacts others, rather than about the notion of US and possibly them. S’bu moves away from the window to sit at the desk again. He picks the book up again and turns it over in his hands. His poems, his stories. Each one clear and distinct in his mind. This new work is also in need of the clear distinction. And he thinks of each individual he has met, described or researched and sees that, in the mess of an emerging society under stress from a failed global economy, individual people stand out like Lions in their desire to make a difference, to help out and to make things better. Individuals with a strong sense of right and wrong, of what they will and will not do. This is his new Polemic, something his training and ideology have not really left room for before.
The actual actions of a few individuals within a society. This is what people are taking to heart. Not in unionised, organised ways with structures and guidelines. Maybe South Africans have become suspicious of this. Sure these things exist, but for most urban city dwellers it has become more important, it seems, to BE a certain way.
S’bu picks up his notes, sketches and half-written works and starts to order them slightly differently. There is a notion that hovers at the periphery of his thoughts: The All Being I. It is no longer 1984 and Big Bother. It is no longer even 1994 and Freedom. It is more like 2014 and The Big I. Sometimes this is a terrible, egotistical thing, but others it is a defined, conscious thing that strives for the perfect ‘I’ because that serves every other ‘I’ around it. S’bu has long thought of Johannesburg as a crucible in which characters are either forged or broken. Now he sees that part of that testing is to burn out the notions of the past in search of a new way of being. The western world is falling apart under its own weight as its people slowly begin to realise that they have been lied to and oppressed while living in plenty, exploited and stolen from even as they delighted in their prisons. Eastern block communism is long since dead. And out here in the middle, in Africa, we are trying to invent something that pulls on both, is neither and is nowhere near finished. We are in growth pangs, birth pangs, uncomfortable, unknown, trying to decide who we are. Not as a nation, but one by one, searching for something.”
From the novel “Johannesburg”
©2013 David Chislett