On the evening of Tuesday 18 July, the Book Lounge in Cape Town was packed for the launch of Firepool: Experiences in an Abnormal World, a collection of essays and creative non-fiction by Hedley Twidle. In conversation with Rebecca Davis, the author explained that while the title immediately suggests President Jacob Zuma’s infamous fire-fighting reservoir at Nkandla, he had chosen ‘this very beautiful word’ for other reasons too. Metaphors of fire and water, he remarked, are threaded through a collection that responds to a moment of raised political temperatures and environmental disarray – both local and global.
In essays which ‘are each written in a slightly different gear’, the collection explores the languages of contemporary activism, the question of South Africa’s nuclear pasts and futures, as well as a secret history of the country’s longest highway, the N2. Davis suggested that this was making a very funny book sound far too serious, and drew attention to the more personal pieces: the opening memoir of acne, rave culture and wonder drugs during the author’s 1990s schooldays, as well as an award-winning account of ‘Getting Past Coetzee’.
The conversation also riffed on Twidle’s tribute to the work of late pianist and composer Moses Taiwa Molekwa, ‘Twenty Seven Years’, as well his obsession with the extraordinary but forgotten life of Demetrios Tsafendas, the ‘mad Greek, who assassinated apartheid Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, and whose letters from Pretoria Central Prison provide the collection’s subtitle and epigraph: ‘This is just a glimpse of my Experiences in an Abnormal World. I intend writing a Book if I ever have the opportunity, but medical attention is what I need at present.’
Image courtesy of Tiara Walters