Strange Pilgrimages by Achmat Dangor
Picador Africa; 1st Edition edition (2013)
Soft Cover, 170 pages
From the award-winning pen of Achmat Dangor comes a subtle and multi-layered collection of short stories that showcases an unusual and illuminating take on ‘the struggle years’, and how the past impacts on us in a variety of ways. The journeys, which are the subject matter of the stories, operate on both a literal and metaphorical level. The reader is introduced to various characters in a variety of situations; the link between them is that each undertakes a ‘pilgrimage’ into the past and shows the impact this has on their lives. Central to much of this are ‘the struggle years’. This has seen some sent into exile, but few ever forget their ‘South Africanness’, for the pull of ‘nostalgia’ is an ever-present force. Some question the value of what they did during those years, others see it in a rather ambivalent light, while others want to forget, want to move on, want to be relieved of the ‘baggage’ of their past. For many of them, sex becomes the means of escape from the shackles of memory. This is not just another encomium to the ‘struggle’ years; instead, what makes this book stand out is the author’s unusual and illuminating take on that period of our history. It is not viewed, then, in a way we’ve become accustomed to, but from a different perspective. Additionally, each story is decidedly ‘relevant’ and, most importantly, all make for easy and engrossing reading.