There Goes English Teacher


Karin Cronje

A powerful memoir that is searingly honest, heart-achingly funny and deeply sad. There goes English Teacher spans three years of adventures and misadventures as an English teacher in a small Korean village and later at a university. This is an unusually honest memoir with strong reflective passages on, amongst other themes, the nature of identity and the loss of it; sexuality; belief; ageing; displacement; and nationhood.

On a ‘considered’ whim writer Karin Cronje packs up her life and flies across the world to teach English in a small Korean village. The result is a poignant, heart-achingly funny, scandalous, and deeply moving account of incomprehension, awe, dislocation, belonging, the sticky business of identity and the loss of it, sanity, and the loss of that.

Characters like Dae-ho, her guru man, who reminds her to breathe; dazzling Mae and her bar, Goldfinger; Leona with her rattle snake tongue, and all the others she can’t understand are now the people in her life.

Back home is her son who has fallen in with a suspect character and her friends who now seem like dung beetles each rolling their own ball of muck. They, together with the tip of the African continent, are about to disappear into the sea.

She has only herself. And that sure as hell feels inadequate.

With her inimitable voice Karin Cronje shocks and delights as she digs deeply into the full catastrophe of being human.

Karin Cronje is the author of two novels, Vir ’n pers huis (1998) and Alles mooi weer (2008), for which she won the Jan Rabie/Rapport Prize. She is a part-time lecturer in the Music Literacy Department at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“For years the story of teaching English in Korea was begging to be told. We are fortunate that it is now being told by a voice as skilled, funny and self-ironic as Karin Cronje.”
– Antjie Krog

“An extraordinary literary accomplishment.”
– Donve Lee

“Die vertellings is eerlik, snaaks en ook gevul met ‘n diep hartseer. Karin deel tong-in-die-kies haar persoonlike belewenisse gedurende dié soms uitdagende periode. Die botsing van twee kukture en die omarming en ontdekking van die onbekende word pragtig verwoord.”
– Christine Ferreira, Lééf – met hart & siel

“A book that hits home because of the author’s sincere voice and its many intriguing levels.”
– Michelle Dennis, Highway Mail, Northglen News and Berea Mail.

Coming here to Dae-ho is intense happiness. I never know what’s going to greet me. He may be sitting on the floor treating someone or making tea at his low table. The tea business involves a lot of pouring water from one container into another. Today is Buddha’s birthday so we have endless time. I’m lying on the floor in the winter sun with Dae-ho sitting right beside me.
“Do you believe me?”
“Trust? Yes, I believe you.”
“Tell me about your home.”
“I have a beautiful home in South Africa. An ancient oak tree is in my garden. Golden light rolls down from the mountain and falls through its leaves. I have very good friends. And my son is there. I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Perhaps to meet me,” he says.
He has a needle the size of a crowbar approaching my sternum. And in it goes.
“Now your tears will come.”