A Series of Undesirable Events - A Review

I am a strong advocate of non-conformity. I don’t believe in structure. I detest any template and reject any notion that anything is absolute. Even the truth is not because it is ‘the truth according to???’ whose perception of it might have been strongly influenced by the tide of the times. The events of any era produce their own truths and lies. And such truths become lies once the table turns. So, I protest that anything is gospel unless inspired by the Creator. And the Bible is not a book of literature but history.
Being a non-conformist, if I was to put together my twelve disciples there would be, among them Zukiswa Waanner (whose experimental style in Men of the South and her retake of Can Themba’s The Suit breaks conformity barriers), Kgebetli Moele (for his shrewd use of his poetic license in Book of the Dead), Tshwarelo Mogakane and until last week Deon-Simphiwe Skade.

Now I know you are familiar with some of the writers I have mentioned above and you wonder why would I want to put together a disciple unit of scribes some of you might call rebels? I deliberately omitted Siphiwo Mahala whose retake of The Suit (The Suit Revisited) is still one of those short stories I read to remind myself that Afrika is the cradle.

Now, Skade’s novella titled A Series of Undesirable Events is a peep-show into what this writer, who I have never met has in store for our literary landscape. I often get tired of justifying why I appraise some books and deliver positive judgments while I stump other like a badly translated Holy Book. Comrades, I am a literary adjudicator in the English panel of the South African Literary Awards (SALA) where I serve with a Doctor and a Professor and my competence to put forward an argument on literary merit is unchallenged. Your book becomes literature when we say so because we have read hundreds if not thousands of titles and we know what a good book read like.

And I dare say, A Series of Undesirable Events is a blerry brilliant story – though more could have been said between these 90 pages. Skade could have thrashed out details about his characters and added more flesh on the novella weighing 165 in a city where novellas die. Impressive because this novella does not face its demise but survives to be appraised.

Skade’s flirting relationship with his characters and their intricate stories robs the reader of any opportunity to fall in love with them, embrace them and peel more layers to discover their aesthetic. He tells us what they all do for a living, which is good and often shines through the narrative. He delves deep into that – especially towards the end when it’s just Moshe, Tumi and Tshitso who are reminiscing about lost friends and acquaintances over green bottles.

The poems accompanying the prose add a necessary colour to the canvas, and leaves the reader wondering why can’t they stand alone – without being adulterated by the prose.

I love Skade’s narrative because of what I call non-conformity. Throughout the 90 pages he manages to be all the characters in the novella and see the world through their eyes. He even manages to become someone as miscellaneous as Lorraine. He juggles being a man and a woman with a passion Waanner would be proud of. Waanner is three times all ‘men’ in Men of the South.

Skade’s book is so well-written I had to read it seven times before formulating this thesis. I don’t kiss ass (even when I get free books for my growing private library) and I am brave to say that Skade is a useful addition to our literature family. His story is set in a city very few people have tackled without touching on its pre’76 geo-political make-up (not make-over). Cape Town never changes – and Skade’s narrative is a testament of activism about this magnet with a table – the magnet that should be declared the 8th Wonder of the World for its eternal captivity in a time warp. The last European outpost in the South.

If this book pitched for any award I adjudicate it would have stood a chance to walk away with an accolade for creativity – depending on with whom will it be swimming. A worthy read I am comfortable to call – the first in a line of many. Even though it’s not mine.

Skade is extremely talented, his style seductive and the simplicity with which he tells the Undesirable Events addictive. Go buy it and read.

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