Great South African Tales

RADIO LIFE & STYLE  |  Podcast , ±13 min episodes every 5 days  | 
Herman Charles Bosman (1905 - October 14, 1951) was a South African writer and journalist who became famous for capturing the rhythms of backveld Afrikaans speech even though he wrote in English. He is widely regarded as the greatest short story writer to come out of South Africa. Many of his stories have a sting in the tail.

He was born at Kuilsrivier, near Cape Town. While still young, his family moved to Johannesburg where he went to school at Jeppe Boys High School in Kensington. He was a contributor to the school magazine. When he was 16, he started writing amusing short stories for the national Sunday newspaper (the Sunday Times). He attended the University of the Witwatersrand submitting various pieces to student’s literary competitions.

Upon graduating, he accepted a teaching position in the Groot Marico district. The area and the people inspired him and provided the background for his best stories; the ones about Oom Schalk Lourens and the Voorkamer sketches. (In Afrikaans, Oom is Uncle and a Voorkamer is literally the Front Room).

During the school holidays in 1926, he returned to visit his family in Johannesburg. During an argument, he fired a rifle at his stepbrother and killed him.

He was sentenced to death and moved to Death row at the Pretoria Central Prison. He was reprieved and sentenced to ten years with hard labour. In 1930, he was released on parole after serving half his sentence. His experiences formed the basis for one of his best known books, Cold Stone Jug.

He then started his own printing press company and was part of a literary set in Johannesburg, associating with poets, journalists and writers. Needing a break, he then toured overseas for nine years, spending most of his time in London. The short stories that he wrote during this period formed the basis for another of his best-known books, Mafeking Road.

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The Music Maker

Manie Kruger was one of the best farmers in the Marico. He knew just how much peach brandy to pour out for the tax collector to make sure that he would nod dreamily at everything Manie said.

Then one day Manie Kruger read an article in the Kerkbode about a musician who said that he knew more about music than Napoleon did. After that having first read another article to find out who Napoleon was, Manie Kruger was charged, man. He could talk of nothing but his place in history and his musical career.

Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy

The theme of this story can be summarized in two words: guile and gullibility. The narrative is simple and uncomplicated. Bosman relates how a young Schalk Lourens attended a dance at the farm of Willem Prinsloo near a place called Abjaterskop in the Great Marico. Prinsloo is a "celebrity" because of his ability to stoke strong mampoer -a peach based beverage that contains a high percentage of alcohol.

We read that Prinsloo's daughter, Grieta was due back from finishing school where she had gone to learn "English manners and dictation and other high-class subjects." All the young men in the district were invited to attend a dance at Prinsloo's farm. Schalk recalls that they were "all somewhat nervous to meet Grieta."
Greita's guile and the gullibility of the farmers in her area is what makes the story so humorous

Peaches Ripening in the Sun

Peaches Ripening in the Sun is set in the time of the Second Boer War. Schalk and his companions have joined a commando that rides off to do battle with the British. Oom Schalk Lourens rides along with Ben Myburgh who is young and optimistic and believes that after the war he will go back to his lovely young wife and his flourishing peach orchard.
Sadly this is not to be.

Mafeking Road

In Mafeking Road, the story that you are about to hear, Oom Schalk explains the art of good story telling and the importance of what to leave out rather than what to put into it.
He illustrates this by telling the achingly poignant story of Floris, the last of the van Barnevelds, and the son he lost in the second Boer war

In the Withaak's Shade

In "In the Withaak's Shade" Oom Schalk describes his encounter with a leopard in the veld when he is out one day looking for strayed cattle. True to character, Oom Schalk conducts his search by lying under the shade of the "withaak" tree. "I could go on lying there under the withaak and looking for the cattle like that all day, if necessary," he observes: "As you know, I am not the sort of farmer to loaf about the house when there is a man's work to be done." To Oom Schalk's horror, a leopard appears, inspects him closely, and then goes to sleep next to him.

5 episodes