An enigmatic novel that transports readers into seductive, dark worlds

23 March 2020 - 09:49
'Will, the Passenger Delaying Flight ... ' by Barbara Adair.
'Will, the Passenger Delaying Flight ... ' by Barbara Adair.
Image: Supplied

‘Barbara Adair is one of South Africa’s most original writers. In WILL, the Passenger Delaying Flight, her voice is comical, dark and wittily allusive. Enigmatic from beginning to end, the novel (set in an airport) never goes where one expects. The narrative is tightly woven; yet still it soars, borne aloft by its own imaginative charge and linguistic richness.’ David Medalie, writer and professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of Pretoria

A man is travelling to Africa from Europe. And yet it is also about waiting — waiting for Africa.

Volker, a German, leaves his home in Frankfurt for Windhoek. He leaves a lover. He is leaving for a long time and he does not have a return ticket.

He does not know anything about Africa. To him it is one country, not a continent. Neither does he really know where he is going to; he just knows he wants to leave Europe.

Lufthansa, the airline that carries him, stops at Charles de Gaulle airport in France and here he waits and waits and waits. In the airport he observes and describes and thinks. The text is a stream of consciousness, Volker’s thoughts. Interspersed with this are stories of people he encounters in the airport — a murderer, a terrorist, a person with dwarfism, a trans woman, a porn star, a terrorist, a child trafficker, a paedophile. All are connected, with each other, with Volker and with us, the readers.

Adair’s novel is innovative in form, self-conscious and self-critical. It challenges conventional western assumptions that all good novels have a clear storyline, a good plot and fully rounded characters.

‘Adair is an accomplished writer with the ability to transport her readers into seductive and, at times, dark worlds she skilfully conjures.’ Barbara Boswell, professor of English at the University of Cape Town and author of Grace

‘In a dystopian world that has served up an imperfect future, Adair breathes life into the limbo and emotional baggage of her characters as they travel across the world.’ Karabo K Kgoleng, broadcaster, public speaker and writer

About the author:

Adair has published experience in novels and short stories, travel articles and book reviews. She writes and works part time at the University of the Witwatersrand Writing Centre and in Nairobi, Kenya, consulting and assisting students in critical thinking. She previously practised as an attorney, litigating in human rights issues and, thereafter, taught constitutional law at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is registered as a PhD student at the University of Pretoria.

  • Article provided by Modjaji Books