Somewhere along a border between Mozambique and South Africa, along a border that moves its position according to what is considered politically expedient at a moment in time, a severe drought is devastating everything. A small clinic, long since forgotten by the high and mighty finds it has become the refuge for hundreds of desperate people, daily more pour in until they become overwhelmed by this deluge with no sign of outside help. This leaves a disparate group of individuals trying to find the necessary supplies to feed all, which soon runs out, leaving them with no alternative but to find a new way to solve this dilemma – a drastic, crazy and illegal plan is soon hatched.
Bundu is an old fashioned adventure tale, and a love story set in a harsh landscape decimated by drought, it is also about how people survive in this environment, not merely on a physical level, but what mechanisms, habits, beliefs they rely on to communicate with the world. This book is not one I would normally read, in fact based on the blurb on the cover I would not have picked it out from other books on a shelf, as I said above it is a good old fashion tale of love and adventure. There is nothing wrong with it being that, except this is on The Independent Foreign Fiction prize longlist, meaning it needs to have something else to compete on a level playing field with the other contenders: it must have more depth, gravitas etc. Bundu does, although on one level it is a tale of love and adventure, and yet it is also a study of the characters, a motley gathering of the washed up and lonely, all of whom are seeking some resolution, some answers.
Bundu was first published in 1999 as Boendoe, in Afrikaans by Chris Barnard, considered to be one of the leading authors of Afrikaans Literature. Well known for penning various novels, novellas, columns, youth novels, short stories, plays, radio dramas, film scripts, television dramas and songs. He was born in Mataffin in the Nelspruit district of South Africa. In the 1960s he and several other authors were notable figures in the Afrikaans literary movement known as Die Sestigers ("The Sixty-ers"). These writers sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government, and also to bring into Afrikaans literature the influence of contemporary English and French trends.
As well as being Longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013, Chris Barnard is the recipient of the Department of Arts and Culture’s South African Literary Award (SALA) 2012 for lifetime achievement.
Bundu was Translated in 2011 by Michiel Heyns, a South African author, translator and academic, as well as writing reviews for newspapers, he has written several novels including The Children's Day, The Reluctant Passenger, The Typewriter’s Tale, and Lost Ground. He has won numerous awards for his reviews, translations and novels and has been Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize before, in 2008 for his translation of Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk, it was also the Winner of the 2009 South African Translators' Institute Award for Literary Translation.