Other Lives

Other Lives

by André Brink

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An artist comes to his studio in the afternoon. On his doorstep he sees a woman with curly hair and a dark complexion. She is a total stranger to him, yet she embraces him; she knows him intimately. As he steps past her, two strange children rush to his feet, yelling “Daddy!” But he has never seen them before. On the other side of Cape Town, a white man pulls himself out of bed and toward his mirror, where a black face looks back at him. A concert pianist falls passionately in love with the celebrated singer he works beside but whom he is not allowed to touch. Then one night there is a shift in their worlds, and suddenly the past invades the present in a catastrophic confrontation. In each of the three parts of the novel characters discover that below the familiar surface of their lives lurk other, disconcerting lives which are revealed under the pressure of changed circumstances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402226038
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 602 KB

About the Author

Thrice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature and twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, ANDRÉ BRINK is one of South Africa's eminent novelists. He is the author of over 20 works of fiction, many of them written during the years when apartheid dominated the culture of his country. His first openly political novel, Kennis van die Aand became a cause célèbre. It was banned a year after its publication under new censorship laws applied for the first time to an Afrikaans writer. Brink later translated the work into English as Looking on Darkness. A prolific literary critic and dramatist, Brink has worked for over 40 years as an academic and as a translator of works as varied as Mary Poppins and Shakespeare's plays into Afrikaans. André Brink is an outspoken recorder of South Africa's turbulent history from the days of apartheid to the present.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from The Blue Door

THERE WAS, FIRST, THE DREAM.WHICH SHOULD have alerted me, except that I'm not normally into dreams. But this one I found strangely disquieting, and carried it with me, like a persistent tune in my head, throughout that long day. Until the shocking moment in the early dusk. The kind of moment that once turned the life of Kafka's Gregor Samsa upside down. But this was not fiction. It happened. And to me.

Not that the dream had any direct bearing on what happened in the evening. But in some subliminal way, and with hindsight, there did seem to be a connection which I have not been able to figure out. Nor, I must confess, have I tried. I believe that dreams belong to the night in which they're dreamt and should preferably not be allowed to spill into the day. This time it was different.

In the dream I am embarking on a long journey with my family, moving house. My wife Lydia is there, but also three children, three little girls, very blonde, with very blue eyes. This is perturbing. We do not have children, and after nine years of marriage it still hurts, although both of us have become skilled at pretending it doesn't matter; not anymore. Lydia gets into the front of the truck with the driver. The girls are already in the back, perched high up on the mountain of furniture like little monkeys. I join them and we drive off very slowly, the load swaying precariously. It is a sweltering day and the children are perspiring profusely, strands of their blonde hair clinging to their cheeks and foreheads.

They seem to have difficulty breathing. Before we have reached the first corner, I realize that we will never make it like this. We need water for the journey for the children to survive. I start hammering with my hands on the cabin of the truck. The driver stops and peers up at me, a surly expression on his thick face which is turning an ominous purple.

"I've got to get water for the kids," I explain. "I left three bottles on the kitchen sink."
"We don't have time," growls the driver.
"I won't be long," I insist. "And they won't survive without water in this heat."

He mutters a reply, mercifully inaudible, and I jump off.

"Just drive on slowly," I try to placate him. "I'll soon catch up with you."
The girls begin to cry, but I give them a reassuring wave as I trot off into the simmering and searing white day.

Only when I arrive at the kitchen door do I realize that I have no keys with me. Glancing round to give another wave to the children, I hurriedly begin to jog around the house to find a means of entry. Only after three exhausting rounds do I spot a half-open window. In the distance, the truck is beginning to disappear in a cloud of dust.

I manage to climb into the house and collect the bottles of water. They are ice cold against my chest. But now the window through which I have entered is barred, and I lose precious time rushing this way and that through the house. Everything seems locked and bolted. I become aware of rising panic inside me.

Then at last, somehow, in the inexplicable manner of dreams, I am outside again, still clutching the water bottles to my chest. By now the truck is nowhere to be seen. Only a small cloud of dust, the size of a man's hand, hangs in the distance.

I start running. In the heat my legs turn to lead. But I persevere. I have to, otherwise my family will be lost: they do not know where we are heading for, I am the only one who knows the address. On and on I run. From time to time I catch a glimpse of the diminishing truck. On, on, on. I have to. I just have to.

In the distance I can hear the thin voices of the children wailing, more and more faintly. Once I believe I can hear Lydia calling:

"David! David, hurry!"

Then that, too, dies away. In the ferocious glare of the day I redouble my efforts. But in the end I am forced to admit that it is useless. I shall never catch up with the truck. I shall never see Lydia and the children again.

That was where the dream ended.

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Other Lives 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book consists of three interconnected short stories, all set in contemporary Cape Town and its surrounding towns. In "The Blue Door", the main character is a middle aged teacher who is also a successful painter, who lives in an apartment with his wife, in a comfortable but stolid and childless marriage. He owns a studio across town, which also serves as a haven of solitude for him. He leaves the studio one day to go to a local delicatessen, but when he returns there, he is greeted by an attractive younger woman who claims to be his wife, and two small children who smother him with hugs and kisses. Shaken, he leaves and attempts to return home, but his plight becomes increasingly surreal. In the second story, "Mirror", a successful architect prepares to go to work one morning after his wife and children have left, but he is shocked at the change in his appearance in the bathroom mirror. Finally, "Appassionata" is narrated by a concert pianist, who engages in a professional relationship with a renowned but mysterious singer with a dark past, with whom he falls madly in love.In [Other Lives], Brink plays with shifting identities and roles in the new South Africa, a country that is adjusting to new realities and expectations. The technique of using the same characters in different stories was largely successful, although "Appassionata" was a far weaker story than the brilliant first story and the very good second one. This book slipped from a 5 star read after "The Blue Door" to a 4 star one at the end, but it was still a very good read overall, and is highly recommended.
Medellia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I recently discovered Brink--I bought this book, and A Dry White Season, which I haven't read yet. Other Lives is one of those books that critics are apt to label as "bold" or "audacious." It's comprised of three novellas that are thematically linked, and, to a certain degree, linked by common characters. But the realities of the three novellas do not entirely coincide--here I imagine a sort of fractured, mirror-image structure. The main themes involve issues of race and identity in post-apartheid South Africa. The metaphysical weirdness of the book was generally well-done, particularly in the Kafkaesque second novella, though I think that part of the book would have been more successful had the protagonist's transformation engendered a more gradual change in awareness.So there's the good stuff. Unfortunately, the whole book was marred for me by basic surface issues. Often bad prose, stilted dialogue. More than a few times I found myself wincing at a bad turn of phrase or a trite statement. Overall, I just couldn't help but feel disappointed that such an intelligently designed book didn't live up to its promise for me.NB: Some readers might be disturbed by the rather violent sexual encounter in the second novella.