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Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Aug 18, Sandy rated it it was amazing. No, this is not the Linda Lovelace biography. Oops, sorry Rather, "Swallow" is yet another fine piece of adventure fantasy from the so-called "father of lost-race fiction," H.
In addition to some 14 novels depicting the adventures of hunter Allan Quatermain, Haggard penned some dozen or so other books that were set in the wilds of Africa. It is a somewhat unique book in th No, this is not the Linda Lovelace biography.
- Swallow: A Tale of the Great Trek by H. Rider Haggard.
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It is a somewhat unique book in the Haggard canon, being narrated, as it is, by an old Boer woman, the Vrouw Botmar, who is anything but sympathetic to the cause of British imperialism. She tells her story of the Great Trek of , and all the many incidents surrounding it. And what a tale this is indeed! Truth to tell, it is primarily a love story. It seems that Vrouw Botmar's daughter, Suzanne, had been kidnapped on her wedding day by Swart Piet, as insane and cunningly nasty a villain as any that Haggard ever dreamed up. A half breed who consorts with native witch doctors, Piet is as dark a character as his name suggests.
Suzanne's husband, the English castaway Ralph Kenzie, spends years trying to recover his lost bride, who is known to the natives as the eponymous Swallow. Fortunately for young Suzanne, she is accompanied through much of her travails by yet another of Haggard's remarkable female characters, Sihamba Ngenyanga, a diminutive witch doctoress who owes her life to Suzanne and has sworn lifelong fidelity to her.
The two women wind up seeking refuge at Sihamba's old native village, perched atop a mountain near what I infer to be modern-day northern Lesotho. A good thing, too, when the Zulus go on the warpath and besiege the town Haggard doesn't seem to have any agenda in "Swallow" other than telling a thrilling tale of action and romance, with some mystical elements thrown into the mix and some historical backdrop to add authenticity, and God bless him for it.
No deep ideas are propounded in this novel, but what a pageturner it is! Meeson's Will," a shipwreck plays a large part in the development of the story here, delivering, as it does, Ralph Kenzie to the Botmar family. Here, the separated Ralph and Suzanne are capable of communicating through their dreams, which they do, to their salvation, in more than one instance during the course of the book. The tale also features one of the most heroic horses that I have ever read of, a nameless roan that saves the day on at least three occasions, and whose ultimate fate actually had me getting a little misty eyed.
Besides being a marvelously moving and entertaining tale, "Swallow" also turns out to be something of a lesson in history, teaching us about a period of southern Africa that I daresay many modern readers are unfamiliar with. We also learn something of Boer life, as well. Who, for example, knew that a poultice of cabbage leaves is good for a horse's swollen legs?
Anyway, this really is a book with a little something for everyone, and was very well received when it first appeared in print. Hastily he places a few loose sheets of paper-"the incomplete manuscript of a story" titled "The hankering was too great"-next to these 'found' objects 82 and thus provides a codicil where all talk of killing animals has been left out Prinsloo Senior takes up a linear narrative again and presses ahead seamlessly to "tame" the frontier by ridding it of animal "pests" considered vermin by the colonial authorities.
Prinsloo Junior's longing is of a different nature-a desire perhaps for acceptance of his otherness and an ironic commentary on his grandfather's desire to conquer. A fourth recounts the actual journey to his parents' home with his grandmother where she asks him to see to it that the memoir gets published. The fifth section, closely interlocking with all the sections mentioned above, recounts his efforts at typing up the manuscript noted above and then laying it aside after radical editing.
The entire story ends with the narrator still in front of the jonkmanskas in the second-hand shop musing about the possibility of using the second drawer for underpants, socks and handkerchiefs and perhaps some shaving equipment. When the shop owner berates him for touching the piece of furniture he quickly climbs into the cupboard below and closes the doors.
He takes possession of it by closing the cupboard doors upon himself and figuratively speaking joins the objects in one of the drawers above. For the moment, he climbs into the closet rather than out of the closet and it is only in later short stories that his homosexuality is implicitly discussed with his father. He cannot escape his past entirely, but he can attempt to redress some of that past by editing and rewriting it-hence the placement of his own incomplete manuscript alongside the memoir as an alternative text which can be read as a critique of settler colonialism.
While the narrator's past cannot be escaped its very incompleteness provides an invitation to other readers, critics and perhaps family members to add to it or write a new story completely. Just before he climbs into the cupboard he notices that it smells of motwortel, a Cymbopogon grass species that holds whiffs of turpentine and is also known as turpentine grass. Like turpentine, the narrator's manuscript can act as a form of solvent to the past and as a compass point to a future. Scheepers continues: "the story of the grandfather is therefore not an authentic story, but exists by virtue of the story into which it has been absorbed" Olivier is also of the opinion that "increasingly the narrator's presentation of the memoir is neither neutral nor innocent, but an act of control wherein the grandfather is unmasked" as a person of "well-nigh unlimited self- confidence, a macho self-image and the conqueror's perspective over the Patricia Hampl, a scholar who writes about the relationship between memory and imagination, recalls her discomposure when she realises that a first draft she wrote about a specific childhood memory had actually been, upon reflection and research, wholly inaccurate.
She is thus forced to ponder the "lies" and inventions of that first draft and concludes, "I came to see what I was up to: I was getting what I wanted.
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Finally" Prinsloo, by placing his "incomplete manuscript" a so-called first draft on top of the grandfather's memoir and other artefacts, is finally getting what he wanted-it supplants the grandfather's memoir. In "The jonkmanskas" Prinsloo provides a series of quotations, some of which have been 'doctored' by him in that they do not appear in the grandfather's original memoir, where he Prinsloo Junior insists that the tale he is telling is "mere fiction" 82 as his knowledge of his grandparents is limited and subjective.
But as Scheepers 17 points out, "there are persistent autobiographical markers such as the use of the name of Koos as primary narrator and the fact that a number of matters he mentions can be historically verified".
Nonetheless, Prinsloo, the young short story writer who insists he is writing fiction, is refusing "to embody the myth of memoir: to write as an act of dutiful transcription" Hampl He takes control, refuses to transcribe dutifully and instead attempts to reveal new truths. Both "On writing notes about a journey" and "The jonkmanskas" deal with the narrator's visits to his parents' home where he spent some of his childhood.
Prinsloo creates, according to Olivier, "a complex fictional identity and a manner in which the distressing truth of the world is represented" As part of this "distressing truth" one of the questions we need to ask is how and where Prinsloo saw himself in the linear narrative of his parents, older siblings and forebears.
When his parents moved to South Africa he was in all probability too young to regard himself as intrinsic to such a linear narrative but as he grew older he inevitably listened to the chronicles of loss and melancholy reflected by family members. He is a member of his family but largely missed out on levels of co-experience in eastern Africa.
He is thus reliant on second-hand memory and sometimes even this is disputed by his parents when it comes to little details such as the location of the first church built on the Plateau "The jonkmanskas", Prinsloo erroneously thinks of his family's farms as being called "Verbrandebos" Burnt Forest, and "Moiben" but these are actually the names of those hamlets nearest to the farms.
Both townships, Burnt Forest and Moiben, still exist. Accidental deceptions are of little consequence as far as historically verifiable facts are concerned.
Deliberate deceptions are of greater consequence in that Prinsloo purposefully tells the reader that some aspects of the stories are fictitious when they very obviously are not. These are all part of the plot to debunk the often unquestioned mythologies of the "first man" mentioned by Veracini above as well as the notions of bravery and virility that accompany such myths. Prinsloo the younger does not see himself as part of that linear narrative and sets out to question mythologies that have emerged from them. In a story in which his father features prominently, "And our fathers that begat us" in Die hemel help ons , it is clear that no assistance has come from heaven as the collection's title implies.
The narrator, Koos, is once again on a visit to his parents' home and the reader is informed that his father, formerly a successful farmer in Kenya, has been obliged through misfortune when an entire harvest was lost to hail soon after he acquired a farm near Newcastle in Natal, to take up employment as a turbine operator at a power station. This was the second time where circumstances beyond his father's control led to the loss of a farm.
In he had to give up his farm in Kenya and watch with eventual admiration and respect how a former Elgeyo foreman of his made a success of the enterprise. From a literary point of view both Scheepers and Olivier read the almost negligent way in which the reader is informed of the hail storm-imparted in the short story "And our fathers that begat us"-as a deliberate literary ploy by Prinsloo to illustrate the impending and ultimate failure of the patriarch.
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In reality during the s there was no short-term crop insurance available and many farmers went bankrupt when a harvest was decimated by hail. In one violent hailstorm Prinsloo's father's life changed from that of landowner and farmer to that of being landless and a member of the working class. The reversal of roles from landowner in a British settler colony to figuratively speaking, a political 'refugee' and then from a new landowner in white-controlled South Africa to landlessness again is a double form of emasculation.
But the family did not lose everything. Apart from old photo albums and the grandfather's chronicle packed up when they moved into a house provided by the power station, they also took bigger physical reminders of their past with them: a piano "On writing notes about a journey" in Jonkmanskas ; and two elephant tusks elaborately mounted within two cured elephant feet, an elephant tail and perhaps even more incongruously for Afrikaans-speakers in nationalist South Africa, an ashtray commemorating the coronation of Elizabeth II as opposed to the ubiquitous sugar bowl of commemorating the Voortrekker Monument and the Great Trek of The elephant tusks and piano speak of a time and spatial dimensions irrevocably lost.
Both need space to be displayed and the tusks would probably have been the focal point in a room that could cope with their size. A worker's house simply does not have the dimensions to display such a trophy and an expensively mounted one at that. The severely diminished environment, loaded as it is with things and memories too big to dismiss, is redolent of a loss of manhood in both the figurative and the literal senses. The description of the elephant trophy is followed by a snapshot of Prinsloo's father his face is entirely obscured sitting on an elephant shot by the grandfather on one of his last hunting safaris.
No photograph of Daan, Prinsloo's father, and his 'own' elephant was ever taken as the elephant was only wounded and had to be hunted down by an acquaintance that would see to it that Daan eventually got the tusks and feet. A rather dismissive excerpt from the grandfather's memoirs relates the story of the hunt: Daan was not permitted to hunt down his own elephant as the old man wanted to get home in time for his birthday.