Review by Prof. Chris van der Merwe on LitNet
John Scott, former editor of the Cape Times
“Azila Reisenberger is an extraordinary woman and a wonderful story-teller. She is searingly honest about herself, with self-deprecating wit and dead-pan humour. At times also very moving. Her mother tongue, Hebrew, has actually enabled her to enrich her use of English with its colloquialisms and allusions.”
A BRIEF FOR THE MARGINALIZED by Prof. Geoffrey Haresnape
Bildungsroman, fictionalized memoir, adapted autobiography, call it what-you-will- this first-person narrative tells of the doings, thoughts and emotions of Abigail Pearlmuter who was born and brought up in Israel, travelled widely in Europe and in the United States of America, and who finally settled in Cape Town, South Africa. It is, among many things, an account of Abigail’s roles as daughter, wife and mother. Her unusual cross-cultural marriage to a gentle and understanding German professional man, Michael Dollinger, is probed from many angles. The ways in which she establishes herself in tertiary education and acquires degrees in Hebrew before becoming a lecturer at the local university are recorded with humour and gutsy realism.
The books appeals by the way in which Abigail’s story line is ready to wander in any direction as she jokes, confesses, affirms and theorizes in this testament to her life as a woman of high intelligence, fierce independence and great energy. On one occasion the story grows intensely dramatic when the abuser of Abigail’s late brother, Itzhak, is lost at sea. But for most part the protagonist faces life with a smile, though not for one moment does she lose the sense that she is identified with a culture which has been surrounded by enemies, and that survival is the most important sanction of all.
As Abigail matures, she becomes a writer of note-‘my pen was like a volcano spewing out poetry and stories.’ The ways in which she acquires English, and the problems of writing in a language not her mother tongue, provide for much amusing commentary. There are long sections in which the difficulties of inter-relating with isiXhosa domestic staff are put forward while a potentially disapproving German mother-in-law waits in the wings. Middle-East politics translocate themselves to Cape Town when Abigail tries to challenge the agonistic posture of Jewish Studies and Islamic Studies by supervising an MA topic which researches the interface between the two cultures.
The story culminates in Abigail’s awareness that ‘in my old hometown I would not be recognized, as I am an outsider now, and in my new home in South Africa I could never win as I will always be an outsider or, as we call it in literature,’The Other’’. Fortunately there are other ‘others’ in the same position, such as the Latino woman working in the US Embassy and the displaced Zimbabwean writer whom she meets there. Together, they hatch up the rogueish idea of ‘The Other Booker Prize’ which will be available only to those publications which fall outside national and cultural orthodoxies. Somehow, this book alerts the reader to the fact that there are many who do not fit snugly into particular moulds. It achieves authority by holding a brief for the marginalized. Abigail can team up with Frank Sinatra and sing: ‘I did it my way.’
- I have just finished your book. I loved every minute. It was such a journey of wonder and travel, so humorous. Carolyn S
- Your personality spoke to me from every page and I was riveted from beginning to end. Mazeltov! Love, Fel
- I’ve just finished reading THE OTHER BOOKER PRIZE, and just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing your gift of writing and all your other wonderful gifts (your joy, wit, tolerance, justice, warmth, integrity) so generously with all whom you meet. Collen C
- “…Adored your book and can’t wait to read the next one 🙂 Monica S.
- “I agree with Morell, this book is addictive, I could not put it down until I finished reading it. I await your next book”. Hannah S.
- “I enjoyed your book – I could not put it down. You are a born story teller” Gwynne