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Saturday, June 8, 2013


Coming up next week in the Mondays @ Six at St Clements programme is the Shooting Snakes book launch.

Author Maren Bodenstein will read from her new novel and discuss aspects of the writing process with poet Mari Pete. Modjaji Books launched Maren’s novel at Joburg’s Love Books and at Kalk Bay Books in Cape Town. Maren will be in attendance to sign books and answer questions.

In her book review for The Witness, Margaret von Klemperer wrote: “Maren Bodenstein grew up in Hermannsburg and was part of a Lutheran German missionary family. So, when she writes of a life on a remote mission station, there is an immediate authenticity to her writing … Bodenstein writes with elegance and skill, and has created a poignant and perceptive story.”

Shooting Snakes is the story of an old man who is woken up by the wailing of a prophetess. Sitting on the veranda and staring into the dry veld, he is beset with images of snakes hiding in the cellar beneath him. His peace is further disturbed by visits from his angry daughter, Susanna. Memories of his childhood on a remote mission station in Venda come flooding in.

Maren Bodenstein grew up in the tiny village of Hermannsburg in KZN which was established around 1856 to provide support to German Lutheran missionaries in Zululand. Here they came to learn Zulu, before being posted into remote rural areas and could send their children to receive a German Lutheran education. Maren's family is deeply rooted in this history - with one great-grandfather a missionary in India and another in the Transkei. Both her parents went to school in Hermannsburg and later returned there to teach. Her maternal grandfather was interned at Koffiefontein and taught John Vorster to play chess.

Bodenstein has published stories for children under the pseudonym Max Sed. She has written books on HIV and AIDS and sexual abuse and has translated short stories form Afrikaans into English. Over the years, she has held writing workshops in a variety of contexts – from prisons, to design students, to children and adults. In 2004, she was commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council to contribute a short story to a collection – Freedom Spring - celebrating ten years of democracy.  In 2007, she was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to write a story for their 20 Minute slot. The result was Love Song to the Rocks, which celebrates the ancient landscape of the Magaliesberg where she and her husband built a house of stone and run the Emoyeni Retreat Centre together.

Shooting Snakes was first drafted as part of the British Council Crossing Borders Programme, where South African writers were mentored by their UK counterparts. The impetus for it was given by a local German family who asked Maren to write up the story of their missionary father and all he had achieved. They took her to see the places he had worked and she spent hours talking to his family and those who remembered him. What inspired Maren’s imagination was the period when the missionary was removed from his mission station and left his wife and children to find their own connection to this beautiful and spirit-filled world.

The launch will take place at 18h00 on June 10 at St Clements Restaurant, 191 Musgrave Road, Durban. All welcome. For table bookings, phone St Clements Restaurant 031 202 2511. Supper orders can be placed before 18h00 and will be served around 19h00.