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Few in his native Scotland know about Thomas Pringle – the abolitionist, publisher, and – some would say – Father of South African Poetry. A biography of Pringle is in order, and a reluctant writer takes up this task.
To help tell the story of Pringle is the spectre of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave whose history he had once published. Also offering advice is the ghost of Hinza Marossi, Pringle’s adopted Khoesan son, and the timetraveller Sir Nicholas Greene, a character exhumed from the pages of a book.
While Mary is breathing fire and Sir Nicholas’s heart is pining, Hinza is interrogating his origins. But what is to be made of the life of Pringle so many years after his death by this motley crew from the 1800s?
As the apparitions flit through time and space to put together the pieces of Pringle’s story and find their own place in his biography, Zoë Wicomb’s novel offers an acerbic exploration of colonial history in superb prose and with piercing wit.