History is the home address

I’ve been getting a surprising amount of referals looking for Sarah Johnson’s Personae. Of course, being far, far from an A-list blog, my hits are so low it could just be one person (or perhaps the author herself 🙂 ) looking for information. Unfortunately I haven’t read the work yet, but I plan to soon. My weekends, even though they’re 4 days long these days, fly by, aided by sleepless nights thanks to Dorje, who’s 13 months today.

However, I have just read History is the Home Address, by Mongane Wally Serote. I was slightly distracted reading it, (you know, where you read the same sentence three times and still don’t take it in – I was about to blame Dorje again but let’s not pass the buck), but I was rather disappointed. To me, the Serote of the 70’s, the passionate writer lyrically pouring out the agonies of apartheid, has been replaced by a praise-poet for Thabo Mbeki.

From the first page:
why are they asking if he is fit to rule

who are they to ask that

Not a great start. Now a member of government, I find the silencing of his own rebellious voice, that he denies other’s right to ask, disturbing. Little annoys me more than ungracious white whining, but Serote’s attitude seems to be that criticism is off-limits. I remember being equally disturbed by his complaints about “the wailing” of the Mail and Guardian (if memory serves me, this was from Third World Express), but this trend seems even more pronounced in his newest work. Perhaps I should have written his silencing of himself – it is likely to be that most human folly of only criticising from afar, but denying this service to those closest to him, who would most benefit. There are moments in the poem where some of his old voice shines through, but generally I find the new Serote muted. Here’s a review that puts it much better.

Perhaps its time for the rise of new writers – Sarah Johnson, my expectations are growing! With Cape Town being such a small city (I realised a friend of mine was at school with Kim McClenaghan), author of the Revisitings, which I read last month, perhaps I already know her, or a friend of hers.

Finally, to the person/people who keep looking for information on Sarah Johnson, come back soon, I plan to read it this weekend.


  1. How was Sarah’s book? I might enquire from her on the weekend where I can get a copy. I tend to never read books my friends write for some odd reason. Most likely because they meantion that they are doing a book launch and I completely forget about it!

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