“GAGMAN: Exposing the horrors through humour” by Jessica Abelsohn

Could you entertain the commandant if it meant your survival? Can we turn horror into art and, dare we say it, humour? This is the question that Gagman – a uniquely uncompromising book by revered cartoonist Dov Fedler and his daughter Joanne Fedler – poses.

Gagman is scattered with comedian’s notes. The first one opens with the lines: “You think you’re a tough audience? I’ve died more times than you’ve belched …”

It’s these words that set the tone for the book, a Holocaust story with a difference and its certainly not the kind of book one would associate with a political and satirical cartoonist. Yet, it is written and illustrated by acclaimed South African cartoonist Dov Fedler along with his daughter Joanne.

Continue reading: Australian Jewish News

Women power at Liberty Books

When Christy Weyer of Liberty Books mentioned the thematic connections she spotted between Cathy Park Kelly’s memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly, and Penny Haw’s novel, The Wilderness Between Us, I was thrilled about the possibility of her exploring the themes in a conversation with the two authors. Last night, Christy made it happen, and it was magic! The three inspiring women spoke about relationships, abuse, survival and empowerment, and the people who gathered in the audience were enthralled.

Thank you, Christy, Cathy and Penny – and Liberty Books! And thank you to all who attended, especially those who shared their stories of abuse and survival.

We also celebrated the reprint of Cathy’s memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly – congratulations, Cathy!

SA Jewish Report: ‘Dov Fedler’s Gagman makes its deadline’ by Peta Krost Maunder

When acclaimed veteran South African cartoonist Dov Fedler celebrated his 82nd birthday recently, he received a gift of the first copy of a book he had spent 35 years working on.

Titled Gagman, the book isn’t full of political and satirical cartoons as one would expect from Fedler, but a Holocaust story with a difference.

The book was conceived in 1985 when, said Fedler, “the story just jumped into my head” and he sat down and “wrote it in a flash”. The story is about a comedian in a concentration camp who survives by entertaining the commandant. “He would give his soul for a new joke,” said Fedler. “He knew that the moment he was no longer entertaining, he would die.”

Fedler said it took him until 1995 to understand where his idea had come from. “I was living on deadlines and every single day, I had to produce a cartoon and it had to be funny. If you break down the word deadline, you have dead and line. So, the story was a metaphor for myself times a thousand. It was me telling history and my story in a way.”

He revealed this recently in a video conversation with his daughter, Joanne, an accomplished author in her own right, and Lewis Levin, a family friend and the architect of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Museum.

“I felt like I grew up with Gagman,” Joanne said. “I remember my dad talking about him when I was a teenager and early adult. I remember writing a poem about him when my dad was 54, and now I’m 54.”

The project went on for many years and took on many iterations. “It wasn’t just the writing of the book but the many illustrations that took time, and it got to a point where it felt like the project was never going to come to fruition,” said Joanne.

Fedler battled to tell a story about someone who had lived through the camps, which wasn’t his own experience. However, the Holocaust certainly played a role in his life.

South African Jewish Report

Continue reading: South African Jewish Report

Joanne Hichens interviews Cathy Park Kelly about her memoir, Boiling a Frog Slowly

Boiling a frog slowly is a courageous exposé of a romantic relationship that slides into increasingly disdainful and abusive territory, when love indeed goes wrong. In this interview, Joanne Hichens chats with Cathy Park Kelly about her experiences and the writing of her memoir.

Boiling a frog slowly, a memoir of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of an early lover and partner, is searing in its honesty. Your story shows how terribly difficult it can be for a woman to extricate herself from a relationship in which she is treated with violence and contempt. What prompted you to write your account of abuse at the hands of your male partner?

It’s what I do – I use my writing to explore my life and pick out threads that shine with truth for me. What I have learned, and what I am coming to trust, as I write more and share my writing more, is that these threads are universal. They are present in many human stories. When it comes to the story of the abusive relationship, I wanted to do two things: make sense of this experience for my own sake, and also make something out of this chapter in my life that I could share with others.

On the first, personal level, I used my writing to make sense of this chapter and to crack through the disbelief I was left with, to dig beneath the feeling of “What the f*ck?” to get at the truth of what it meant. I was weirdly fascinated, as well as confounded, by what I had gone through, so I used my writing to create some sense of order and understanding.

But, on the more universal level, I was driven to write this for the unknown reader out there. I felt that I had learned much and gained many insights, and this hard-earned knowledge burned inside me. It felt alive, like it wanted to be given a voice …

LitNet

Interview with Cathy Park Kelly, author of Boiling a frog slowly

‘Reading Romance: Melissa Volker’s twisty love stories with an environmental agenda’ by Joy Watson

Daily Maverick

… Volker’s tales are carefully spun, a weave of gossamer thread of the finest ilk. Her books take a while to write and she has an uncanny ability to transpose the reader into time and place. 

In A Fractured Land, we are able to visualise the arid landscape, the sweat of hot nights is tangible, and we can smell the lingering scent of wisteria on dry, balmy days. Volker is adept at breathing life into the South African landscape, making it jump off the page to embed itself in the reader’s mind. 

“Quite a lot of work goes into my books,” says Volker. “I have been working on my current novel for about three years. I’m quite fussy. I try hard to layer the characters, to make the dialogue work. I feel like each novel is taking longer – maybe I’ve become a harsher critic of my own work, or maybe I am learning the craft of writing more.” 

The time that Volker invests in her writing is evident in her other books, Shadow Flicker (released in 2019) and The Pool Guy, a novella published in 2021. Attention to detail sets her work aside from other books in the genre, where some writers have managed to push out many books in a short time. 

Volker’s writing stands out in its meticulous effort to cobble together a love story that is complex, exquisitely told and of a high calibre. 

What also sets Volker apart is that both A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker skillfully incorporate an attempt to pluck at the strings of environmental consciousness. 

“I write about the environment because it’s an issue of concern to me. When writing the books, I thought about some of the social circles that I am in where these issues don’t even touch ground. I realised that one way of getting people to think about it is through fiction. 

“Sometimes people are just so fatigued about bad news and watching it on TV. So I wanted to package it in a way that was palatable… in a way that raises awareness.”  

Daily Maverick