Translated from the Afrikaans by Marius Swart and the author
This playful, genre-bending cahier tells the story of pale, anxious creative writing student Kasper Olwagen and his strange encounter, through the person of a Swan Whisperer, with the phenomenon of translation. Through brilliantly imagined letters and recordings, van Niekerk recounts Olwagen's discovery of a vagrant who, without uttering any even remotely intelligible words, summons swans from Amsterdam's canals. Through the story of Olwagen's experience, van Niekerk probes south and north, language and living, stories and truth. A story of doubles, cadence, and, yes, swan whispering, The Swan Whisperer delves into the playfulness of sound in the Afrikaans language and the necessity for listening in all translation
William Kentridge’s black-and-white prints form a fantastical accompaniment to van Niekerk’s peculiar fable. Birds, mammals and human figures are thrust into loose spatial arrangements, struggling, like Olwagen, to orient themselves in a newly rearranged world.
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The National November 2015
Music and Literature January 2016