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Peter Horn

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My Voice is Under Control Now

Horn’s stories, ranging from the drily satirical to recreations of horror and dementia, leave an impression of savage intensity.

Waiting for Mandela, one of the lighter stories, is about a pickpocket who attends the release rally with loot in mind. Here Horn achieves a bizarre and telling counterpoint of the apolitical indifference of this single-minded “skelm” with the lyrical majesty of Mandela’s speech (echoes of both still washing about us).

In Practical Criticism he takes a few swipes at critics and novelists – seen to be living in unseemly and obscene symbiosis – and in The Greenhouse Effect he lampoons Eurocentric isolationist goings-on in Cape Town. These are amusing and pointed, and may well supply assiduous skinnerbekke with something to chew on.

Horn has several stories which relate black experience, all of them powerful, but the most disturbing is My Voice Is Under Control Now, in which a young woman tells of how she resisted having her tongue pegged, her voice silenced according to the tradition of her people. It makes almost unbearable reading. And, for those who bristle and wonder, “How dare he assume this voice?” Horn is, in my view, completely vindicated by the blazing anger directed against men who practise such oppressions and women who comply.

Review by Jane Rosenthal