Infidelity, Egypt, algorithms and other mysteries


Infidelity, Egypt, algorithms and other mysteries

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH casts his literary gaze wide for our edification.


LUST is the prelude to sin. This you know, especially if you are married. It's also the most important thing you need to know about More, Molly Roden Winter's memoir; that, and that there are people who can't help but succumb.


More is the account of a woman whose husband convinces her they should have an “open" marriage. It's a memoir but it's written with the finesse of a writer who knows her readers' interest will be piqued when she starts to develop that itch for a man other than her spouse.

At first, Roden Winter doesn't know how to handle the matter. She confides in a friend. “Molly," said the girlfriend, “You're entering dangerous terrain now." I wanted to shout it to her too, but you know me, always the epitome of gentleness, and yet so ready to read how this train smash is going to happen.

Now, the smash happens, and more than once. Molly's husband, Stew, becomes so turned on when he hears of his wife's newfound sexual interest that he gives free rein to his own lust, likewise within the framework of their “open" marriage. The couple have two children and they are tormented by guilt and the sincere will to direct their lives between marital duties and matters that affirm their personal freedoms.

It's a massive task for both. Thank heavens Molly and Stew realise from the outset that for an “open" marriage to work, there is only one golden rule: don't fall in love with your casual bedfellows.

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More is in many ways a remarkable book. Nonfiction that reads like fiction.

To begin with, you have no other choice but to regularly ask yourself how you feel about what's going on here. Could you? You find that your reaction varies from wonder to prudish rejection. Roden Winter's greatest gift is the ingenuity with which she makes the memoir readable and entertaining (even if humour is not her or her husband's strong suit) while trying to come to terms with a myriad of ethical and moral issues. It's no surprise that her behaviour has roots in her parents' marriage — her memoir is a way to expose changing generational patterns but also to show there's nothing new under the sun.

I always remember Wilhelm Grütter's wise words that there should be no such thing as “confession time" in married life. Roden Winter makes me realise that Wilhelm and I belong to an older generation than her and her Stew.

When I think of all the ghost stories and sermons about the moral decline of modern humans that I've had to endure over the years, reading More was a restorative experience for me. It's definitely not a gimmick in the way Fifty Shades of Grey was.

As for that question above, my answer is “Maybe, but no thanks". I don't have it in me anymore.

More: A Memoir of an Open Marriage by Molly Roden Winter was published by Random House and costs R592 at Exclusive Books.


How can you not like a book that begins as follows: “Dear White People, I love white girls. Especially blondes."

Andy Africa is a Nigerian who is looking for his father and considers his mother an angel and the rock of his life. But in the meantime, he'll be happy if a blonde shows up in his life. And then it happens. Someone could have warned him.

In the almost tragic troubles that follow, while meditating over his mother's corpse Andy finally finds out of who his father was. This is a delightfully uplifting story of grief.

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro was published by Bloomsbury and costs R592 at Exclusive Books.


Egypt charms me in a way I can't explain. Perhaps it has to do with the ancient library and its modern counterpart, or the thought of the old lighthouse on the island of Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But it's all surface stuff.

Islam Issa describes the history of the city from the days of Alexander the Great through all its historical phases, as a result of which Pharos was eventually connected with the mainland and Alexandria became a city in which civilizations came and went. He connects this with a story in which figures such as Cleopatra, Napoleon and Mark — he who contributed the second gospel to the New Testament — made deep inroads. It's a bulky book (416 pages) but it fascinated me. Did the city really shape the modern world? Many people will disagree with that, but Issa has strong arguments.

Alexandria: The City That Changed The World by Islam Issa was published by Hodder & Stoughton and costs R395 at Takealot.


If you do anything on the internet, says Kyle Chayka, you find yourself in a position in which your grandparents never were. They only had their curiosity to help shape their intellectual and cultural personas. Our generation is shaped by powerful algorithms in the coded innards of social media, search engines and the obscure workings of all those cookies.

That's old and accepted news. But, says Chayka, the bigger picture is alarming. Your cultural foundation is nourished by it. Take a look at how you struggle to shake off the suggested list based on the personal profile you created when you joined Netflix. Look at the connections between your Google searches and the offers you suddenly get from social media and platforms like Spotify.

Mark Zuckerberg will retort that you're merely refining yourself through it; Chayka thinks the algorithms create a uniformity of behavioural patterns that ultimately have an impoverishing effect on all of humanity. Now the question remains: is Chayka's warning timely enough to make us change our behaviour?

Filterworld by Kyle Chayka was published by Random House and costs R592 at Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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