Michiel Heyns

Michiel Heyns: Three Novels in One

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Lost Ground is a richly textured novel set in contemporary South Africa. The murder of a beautiful woman shatters the rural village peace of Alfredville, and her husband, the police station commander, is jailed as chief suspect. Her cousin Peter, a freelance writer in London, returns to South Africa for the first time in decades – unsettled, curious, but also in search of a career-defining story.As Peter abandons the neatly patterned story he had planned and is forced to participate in a community that he once despised, he begins to reconsider his place in the world. In search of Desirée's story, he now starts to rewrite his own – till events take an even more shocking turn… Lost Ground explores questions of xenophobia and prejudice, of national, sexual and personal identity, and what it means to be a foreigner wherever you go. In Invisible Furies Christopher Turner returns to Paris after a thirty-year absence. He is here to extricate his best friend's son Eric from the mercenary machinations of some Parisian gold-digger – or so it is assumed, at home in South Africa. Christopher, with melancholy memories of Paris, is deeply ambivalent about the city; and, as for the young Eric, Christopher remembers him as a brutish lout with little to recommend himself.As Christopher comes to know and enjoy this ambiguous world, he finds his moral categories challenged: is beauty a trap for the innocent young, or a self-validating, even ennobling attribute of a fully lived life? Responding to the gentle appeal of Beatrice, he feels ever more strongly that the young man's place is in Paris with her, rather than on his father's farm in Franschhoek. But Eric has ideas of his own . .. Exploring, as in the widely applauded Lost Ground, the tensions between the fatherland and a larger world, Michiel Heyns turns an ironic eye on the most seductive city on earth, and traces with humour and insight the invisible furies of the heart. In A Sportful Malice a young South African literary scholar, Michael Marcussi, is offered, via a Facebook contact, a house in the Tuscan village of Gianocini, and he accepts with alacrity: this is just the space and quiet he needs to complete his study of Literary Representations of Tuscany. But even before he has boarded his plane at Stansted Airport, things start vexing him: an obnoxious old man jumps the boarding queue, and Michael is given the evil eye by a belligerent bovver boy covered in tattoos. Nor is this to be his last meeting with these objectionable characters: they turn up in unexpected places, first in Florence and then in Gianocini itself, with a frequency that cannot be purely coincidental. In the meantime Michael is pursuing his own extracurricular agenda, through the streets of Florence and the passages of the Uffizi, then through the medieval alleys of Gianocini, only to find himself the object of mysterious designs and the subject of some very disturbing paintings. Add to this the innocent but curious Wouter, the startlingly rude upper-class harridan, Sophronia, the beautiful but supercilious Paolo and a dog called Thanatos: the Tuscan sun never shone on a more bizarre mix. A Sportful Malice is a scintillating tale of love, revenge and trippa.
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1,003 printed pages
Original publication
2015

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