Latin: /'vɒks pɒpjʉliː/ VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

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Monday, August 23, 2010

A take on "Willem Prinsloo's Peach Brandy" by Herman Charles Bosman -Nicola du Plessis

The theme of this story can be summarized in two words: guile and gullibility. The narrative is simple and uncomplicated. Bosman relates how a young Schalk Lourens attended a dance at the farm of Willem Prinsloo near a place called Abjaterskop in the Great Marico. Prinsloo is a "celebrity" because of his ability to stoke strong mampoer -a peach based beverage that contains a high percentage of alcohol.

We read that Prinsloo's daughter, Grieta was due back from finishing school where she had gone to learn "English manners and dictation and other high-class subjects." All the young men in the district were invited to attend a dance at Prinsloo's farm. Schalk recalls that they were "all somewhat nervous to meet Grieta."

The picture reflects and portrays a young girl in Victorian splendour: that is precisely how I imagine Grieta looked when she arrived at the dance - complete with roses in her hair. She is described as "tall and slender and very pretty" and her dark hair was braided with "a wreath of white roses." The author then proceeds to tell us of Schalk's clumsy attempts to woo Grieta.

We read about a conversation between Schalk and Grieta and how awkwardly he tried to convey his affection for her. She slipped away from him but left one of her roses behind. Schalk in his naive way interpreted this as a token of her affection.

Schalk and the other young men had too much to drink of Willem Prinsloo's peach brandy. Schalk tried to catch Grieta but fell in the process. He picked up the rose and displayed it in his hat when he returned to the dance; and "it caused quite a stir."

The story ends when Schalk woke up the morning after the dance feeling very sick. On his way home Schalk then encounters one of Grieta's other wooers - Frits Pretorious, clearly also suffering from the after effects of the peach brandy. What took the young Schalk by surprise, however, was the fact that Fritz had also received one of Grieta's roses. That, says Schalk, made him "wonder about those finishing schools!"

It was perhaps only then that the penny dropped: both he and Fritz (and many others) had been duped by the guile of Grieta. She relied upon their gullibility to make each one believe that she experienced the same emotions about him - that is to say, that he was the "chosen man."

Greita's guile and the gullibility of the farmers in her area is what makes the story so humorous -an absolute must read!

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