The 39 interlinked stories in Asleep Awake Asleep can be read as a hand-drawn narrative map, charting the course of a country’s turbulent history. Together they tell a coming of age and a coming to consciousness story, as Rip – child, adult, journalist, partner, mother – revisits milestones marked and signposts ignored or unseen. Set in the suburbs and newsrooms of South African towns and cities and their wilder surrounds, there are vignettes of relationships; tales of political assassinations, murder and betrayal, and questions asked about complicity and reparation.
Asleep Awake Asleep
The 39 interlinked stories in Asleep Awake Asleep can be read as a hand-drawn narrative map, charting the course of a country’s turbulent history.
“In the blue-black world of Bekker’s South Africa the legacy of the past inscribes its history on all bodies. The bodies of chain-smoking reporters in ‘unpredictable garments,’ of itinerate oboe players in the City of Roses, of baby starlings chucked through the dairy window to discourage the rats, all these and more bear upon them the marks of violence, of suppression, of life lived fitfully as if beneath a pall of smoke. And yet, this book’s greatest strength is not the tenacity of the smoke but of the life that struggles through it. In a dazzling coil of interlinked tales Bekker mines the loaded seam between what we witness of the historical world amassing around us and what we internalize of that history into our remarkably unremarkable lives. In fairy tales and elegies, flash-bulb bright vignettes and elegant absurdities, Asleep Awake Asleep imagines the world as a response to the dream of self. It dares us to speculate on what the future may look like when that same self is no longer the property of history but its own true thing, blinking in the light.”
“… an abundance of vivid, intelligent, exciting pieces in which a woman tells herself the story of a life…”
“Jo-Ann Bekker’s collection of stories is an utter delight to read. Her imagination is wild and vast, her writing lyrical, tactile and sensual.”
“Bekker’s spare blade slices her narrative world into impeccable formed morsels that nevertheless stick in the craw.”
“Bekker [demonstrates] acute observation, honesty, and the ability to build an important story from a seemingly tiny detail. […] [This is] an extraordinary book.”
“It is a quiet study of the everyday amidst a country’s turbulent politics, national events and natural disasters. A thoughtful read that gently bids you to continue turning the pages.”
“I don’t usually enjoy short stories. But this book is different. I recently saw two huge portraits that had been created using photographs. Close up the photos were visible. At a distance the photos became the colours of the portrait. This book is rather like that.”
“Jo-Ann Bekker’s stories are carefully crafted. They take you on a journey into our recent history and into the personal. The writing is taut, nimble, a joy to read.”
“Delicate, unsentimental, frank, powerful … The way [Bekker] use[s] clothes, hair, nature, cooking, to describe moods and drive[s] [the] narratives forward.”
“The semi-objective voice of the narrator Rip is spacious enough to let the emotional undercurrents speak for themselves.”