Excerpt from Philida by André Brink, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by André Brink

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    Feb 2013, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Dawson Oakes

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And you said that when you came back on the farm...?

Yes, that was when. We first come past the old sow in the sty, the old fat-arse pig they call Hamboud. The Oubaas say many times before that he want to slaughter her because she is so blarry useless, but the Ounooi keep on saying she must stay here so her big arse can grow even bigger and fatter. And afterwards, when we get home, we come past the four horses in the stable, and the two good-for-nothing donkeys, and then the stupid trassie hen that Ounooi Janna call Zelda after her aunt that skinder so much, the hen that don't know if she is a cock or a hen and that can never manage to lay an egg herself but always go cackling like a mad thing whenever some other hen on the farm lay one. And then in the late afternoon when we are all back on the farm where we belong I first go to Ouma Nella, her full name is Petronella, but to me she is always just Ouma Nella.

And what happened then? ask the tall bony man, beginning to sound impatient.

So I tell him: Then Frans take me with him, away from the longhouse, through the vineyard where the old cemetery is. Down to where the bamboo copse make its deep, dark shade in the elbow of the river, that's the Dwars River that run across the farm, and there I begin to cry for the first time and that is when Frans –

You mean Baas Frans, the tall bony man remind me.

Yes, Baas Frans he take me to where the bamboo copse close up all around you, and when he see me crying, he get so hot that his thing also jump up, just like the dead man on the gallows, and that is when he get onto me to ride me.

Behind the dusty thick glasses the man's deep eyes seem to be looking right into me as he ask: Yes, and what did he do then?

I can feel myself going blunt inside, but I know I can't stop now, so I bite on my teeth and tell him: He do what a man do with a woman.

And what would that be?

I'm sure the Grootbaas will know about that.

He say: I want to know exactly what he did.

He take me.

How did he take you? I have to know all the particulars.

The law demands that I must find out everything that happened. So that it can all be written down very precisely in this book.

I tell him: He naai me.

The tall thin man with the bald head give a cough, as if his spit is now dried up. After a while he ask: Did you resist?

Grootbaas, in the beginning I try to, but that is when Frans begin to talk to me very nicely and tell me I mustn't be scared, he won't hurt me, he just want to make me happy. If I will let him push into me, then he will make sure to buy me my freedom when the time is right, that is what he promise me before the LordGod of the Bible, he say he himself will buy freedom for me. But I remember thinking, how can it be that a thing like freedom can hurt one so bad? Because it was my first time and he didn't act very gentle with me, he was too hasty, I think it was his first time too.

And then what happened?

When he finish, he get up again and tie the riem of his breeches.

It is just as well the man don't give me much time to think, because the questions start coming again and they getting more and more difficult.

Philida, I want to know what happened afterwards? ask the man with the ploughed field on his forehead. Did you... I mean, were there any consequences to the intercourse you had in the bamboo copse?

I don't know about that intercourse thing and the consequences, Grootbaas.

This thing you did in the bamboo place. Did it lead to anything? He getting very red in the face. What you did together in that bamboo place...? Did anything happen inside you – to your body?

Not right away, Grootbaas. Only after he lie with me a few times, I start to swell.

How many times?

Many times, Grootbaas.

Excerpted from Philida by Andre Brink. Copyright © 2013 by Andre Brink. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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