The Devil's Chimney
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Femina


"Anne Landsman on Myths and Magic"

First time author Anne Landsman grew up in Worcester, 'but that wasn't the real me.' Writing about her novel The Devil's Chimney (Soho Press) in Leadership, she confessed that she had always been passionate about leaving this country, believing that London, Paris and New York were on the other side of the Brandwacht Mountains 'because that's where I wanted them to be.' She 'switched hemispheres' when she was 21, having graduated from the University of Cape Town. New York was 'everything South Africa was not.'

Anne, who is married and has a daughter, studied screenwriting and directing at Columbia University and started her writing career by crafting screenplays. 'That's where I began to think of writing about South Africa, the place I never read about as a child.' A published short story became the prologue to The Devils Chimney.Andre Brink asserts in Leadership that the book is a remarkable debut: 'The story reaches not only into the subconscious of the narrator but into the repressed historical and racial memories of South Africa.'

Fitting into the magical-realism genre, The Devils Chimney is narrated by Connie, a 'poor white' living in the shadow of the Can go Caves in Oudsthoorn in the heyday of apartheid. Her life is dominated by gin, her dogs Skollie and Miss Esther Bester, her abusive husband Jack and the demands of her deaf sister. To escape the harshness of her world, she invents, or tells, the story of Miss Beatrice, an eccentric Englishwoman who is abandoned by her husband, Mr Henry, and left to farm ostriches on her own. Her intense relationships with two other men her Jewish neighbour Mr. Jacobs, 'the Ostrich King', and her labourer September, ultimately lead to an unexpected crisis. Woven skillfully into the narrative is a subplot - the urban legend of beautiful Pauline Cupido, who wandered into the caves and disappeared. It is written in lively prose, although attempts at authenticity are overdone in parts. Yet it is a powerful evocation of an old South Africa. As Lynn Freed notes in the sleevenotes, it's 'raw, funny, dangerous, wonderful'.

The Devil's Chimney is not yet available in South Africa, but can be ordered via the Internet, through Amazon Books, http://www.amazon.com. Ironically, in writing the novel, Anne says she learnt that 'some portion of my heart will always beat in that opposite hemisphere... I belong where I am not'.

– Sharon Sourour-Morris