In other hands these encounters between Europe and Africa would be lousy with meaning and allegory and retrospective wisdom, but there are no morals here. Everything is an inexplicable sequence of often terrible events without cause and effect, the way life can be. Things just happen, one after the other like feet walking, and the sand and salt scour away symbolism and significance until what's left is a brutal poetry of indifference, another verse of a violent song of a violent land, neither consoling nor too pessimistic.
Whyle's writing is lean and spare - a much abused phrase when describing male South African prose stylists - but it generates hard beauty: "They were weak and very thin, like assemblies of driftwood draped in tattered cloth and knocked about by the wind, jerking puppet mendicants on a fine firm sandy beach in the rain. Each one carrying fire."
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