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.

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.



Jo-Ann Bekker began writing short fiction in 2012, after working as a newspaper reporter for many years. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes University and her short fiction has been published in journals in South Africa and the United States. Asleep Awake Asleep is her first collection of stories. She was born in East London, and lives in Knysna with her family.

“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.”
Sarah Blackman, author of Hex

“… an abundance of vivid, intelligent, exciting pieces in which a woman tells herself the story of a life…”
Claire Robertson, author of Under Glass

“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.”
Bridget Hilton-Barber, author of Garden of My Ancestors

“Bekker’s spare blade slices her narrative world into impeccably formed morsels that nevertheless stick in the craw.”
Gillian Rennie, Grocott’s Mail

“Bekker [demonstrates] acute observation, honesty, and the ability to build an important story from a seemingly tiny detail. […] [This is] an extraordinary book.”
Suzy Brokensha, Fair Lady

“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.”
Tiah Beautement, Sunday Times Live

“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.”
Judith Reynolds

“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.”
Cornelia Fick, Goodreads review

“From page one of this delicately written, paint-strippingly frank book, I knew I was in safe hands. The way Bekker uses clothes, hair, nature, cooking, to describe moods and drive the narratives forward had me in fits of admiration.”
Charlotte Bauer

“The semi-objective voice of the narrator Rip is spacious enough to let the emotional undercurrents speak for themselves.”
Robert Berold