Atom bomb, philosophers, thunder and remembered love affairs


Atom bomb, philosophers, thunder and remembered love affairs

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH once again whets your appetite with his pick of the latest books.


I FIND Daniel Silva's espionage novels strangely addictive, thanks to his exceptional ability to anticipate world events. No matter what's happening, you can assume that Silva, in his latest novel — with his connections to CIA and MI6 operatives and his own journalistic investigative skills — will give you insight into exactly what's going on.

The seventh bomb

The Collector struggles to get going, like most of Silva's novels about the life and career of the Israeli super-spy, Gideon Allon. We know the pattern — The Collector is the 23rd title in the series. The major question Silva poses this time is whether Russian president Vladimir Putin will use a nuclear bomb to finally force Ukraine to its knees.

Front and centre is the mystery surrounding the theft of a famous painting by Vermeer. Allon becomes entangled with next-level thieves and smugglers. It's the first time  Silva has directly involved Volodya (the Russian term of endearment for Vladimir Vladimirovich, known to us as Putin) in a crime novel. Volodya's stamp of criminality is imprinted on every shady manoeuvre in this novel.

For South African eyes, there's a local twist that's quite interesting: at the heart of the novel is a nuclear bomb that South Africa built at Pelindaba in the 1980s and that was not destroyed with the other six bombs that South Africa built and dismantled under international pressure. We know the existence of the six bombs is a fact, as well as the fact that we destroyed them.

But a seventh bomb? That's a nice touch. With Silva's stories, we already know that the smoke indicates a real fire.

Between Silva's imagination and Putin's poltergeist-like presence on the international stage, The Collector evolves into a tale that makes you forget everything around you for a couple of days of intense reading. There's nothing boring about this book.

The criminal scoundrel who kickstarts the story is a South African expat named Van Damme, and there's also a Hendrik Coetzee, who is in a class of his own. I just wish authors like Silva wouldn't choose such common Afrikaans names. What's wrong with something like Niehaus or Liebenberg?

Finally, you're left with an amusing thought about the Russian concept of kompromat. Could that perhaps be one of our own remarkable leaders' secret issues?

The Collector by Daniel Silva was published by HarperCollins and costs R296 at Graffiti.

Dance of thunder

People were nagging at Ray Carney, who had shed his criminal past after Harlem Shuffle (2021) and now sells furniture to young home decorators. But then he's somehow forced to help a corrupt white cop to get rid of stolen jewels, and we perform the dance of thunder and turning a blind eye along with Ray. Except this time, he is the one who's in trouble. Crook Manifesto involves three different episodes, and our man Ray manages to keep his head above water and his body one step ahead of destruction in all three. Don't you dare say anything negative about Colson Whitehead to me — I'm looking for a new Elmore Leonard, and I think I've found him in Whitehead.

Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead was published by Little, Brown Group and costs R414 at Graffiti.

Female philosophers

I ordered this book because Wolfram Eilenberger's Time of the Magicians stimulated my curiosity about philosophers in such a delightful way. It dealt with Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Walter Benjamin and Ernst Cassirer. This time, he looks at the female of the species. Eilenberger takes the period from 1933 to 1943 into account, focusing on four philosophers who each took their own direction and later influenced the outlook of humanity in different ways: Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil and Ayn Rand. Yes, it sounds intriguing to mention Rand in the same breath as Arendt and De Beauvoir, not to mention Weil, but that's exactly what piques my curiosity. Perhaps he strips away Rand's veneer and we see Alisa Rosenbaum standing in her full peculiarity.

The Visionaries by Wolfram Eilenberger was published by Penguin Press and costs $28.80 at Amazon.

Lest I forget

When André Brink submitted the manuscript of Voor ek vergeet to Human & Rousseau many years ago, he said he was at that stage of his life where he wanted to process in fiction format everything he remembered about certain love affairs. It wasn't one of his best novels, but the yearning behind it has inspired many writers. Ia Genberg is a Swedish author who had the same aim with The Details: it's about a woman who, on her deathbed, reflects on the four major relationships in her life. It won every Swedish literary prize in 2022, and the translation by Kira Josefsson has been praised to high heavens by reviewers.

The Details by Ia Genberg was published by HarperVia and costs $22.99 at Amazon.

♦ VWB ♦

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