Apparitions and superb prose flit through Zoë Wicomb’s take on Thomas Pringle story

14 August 2020 - 09:39
'Still Life' offers an acerbic exploration of colonial history.
'Still Life' offers an acerbic exploration of colonial history.
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Available in September

Few in his native Scotland know about Thomas Pringle, the abolitionist, publisher, and – some would say – “father” of South African poetry. A biography of Pringle is in order, and a reluctant writer takes up this task.

To help tell the story of Pringle is the spectre of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave whose history he had once published. Also offering advice is the ghost of Hinza Marossi, Pringle’s adopted Khoisan son, and the time traveller Sir Nicholas Greene, a character exhumed from the pages of a book.

While Mary is breathing fire and Sir Nicholas’s heart is pining, Hinza is interrogating his origins. But what is to be made of the life of Pringle so many years after his death by this motley crew from the 1800s?

As the apparitions flit through time and space to put together the pieces of Pringle’s story and find their own place in his biography, Zoë Wicomb’s novel offers an acerbic exploration of colonial history in superb prose and with piercing wit.

Wicomb is the author of You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, David’s Story (winner of the M-Net prize), Playing in the Light and The One That Got Away. She lives in Glasgow where she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. In 2013 she was awarded Yale’s inaugural Windham Campbell Prize for fiction.