SEVEN CIRCUMSTANCES

Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Karnaval en Lent (Carnaval and Lent), by T.T. Cloete

We studied T.T. Cloete’s poetry at university, and used his literary analyses as references. Theunis Theodorus (T.T. – not many people referred to him by his full names) Cloete (1924–2015, aged 91) was an acclaimed South African and Afrikaans poet, playwright, short story writer, translator, literary analyst, and academic. He was awarded many literature prizes for his work, amongst others, the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the W.A. Hofmeyr Prize the Hertzog Prize and the Andrew Murray Prize. His latest volume of poetry, the 12th, is Karnaval en Lent (Is Een Gedig) (2014). The title refers to a 1569 painting of Pieter Brueghel de Oude, “The Fight Between Carnaval and Lent” – the fight between enjoyment and religious observance. Phil van Schalkwyk on LitNet called it a formidable work and an amazing feat, considering that Cloete delivered it at an advanced age, and that it moves the parameters of his oeuvre, and is truly a fresh and expansive perspective on the creation, humanity, and poetry. It consists of 160 pages, divided into 7 sections in which Cloete proves himself an excellent composer and compiler, a feature of his work. An extract demonstrates this (originally written in English):

The I
Na A. Heschel en ‘n enkele vers van Jacob Revius

the I is a miracle
a pseudeonym for what we do not know
man is an obscure text to himself
scratch his skin and you come upon bereavement,
affliction, uncertainty, fear, and pain
a worm crawling on a pebble, the earth;
a speck of life floating aimlessly
through the immeasurable vastness of the universe
with his tiny candles in the mist…met
de beroockte slons van menschelijcke reden [tr. from Dutch: the smoggy mess of human reasoning]
his being a problem to himself”