Sunday Times

The road to re­venge and the moral de­bris aban­doned along the way

- L S. Tiah Beaute­ment @ms_­ti­ah­marie Entertainment · Arts · Movies · Justice · Law

Talion ★★★★ Bey­ers de Vos, Pen­guin, R250

Bey­ers de Vos’s sur­real crime novel

Talion de­fies genre, cre­at­ing a tale of grief, vengeance, and sto­ry­telling, in­clud­ing how a city is a story in it­self. De Vos ex­plains: “Cities are like sto­ries in that they are cre­ated — de­signed, planned, con­structed and edited. They’re places that are be­ing cre­ated in the minds of the peo­ple who live in them. It’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal space as much as a phys­i­cal space.”

This bloody thriller of vig­i­lan­tism fol­lows five char­ac­ters: the mur­der vic­tim and his twin sis­ter, the teacher, the drug dealer and the de­tec­tive. Not one of these dam­aged souls is pre­cisely who they seem to be, and their ideas around jus­tice are con­tro­ver­sial yet un­der­stand­able.

“The jus­tice sys­tem as a con­cept, and jus­tice as a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence are two very dif­fer­ent things,” De Vos says. “What hap­pens when the sys­tem fails you? And can the emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of jus­tice be rec­on­ciled with what the sys­tem of­fers?”

The novel was sparked when De Vos’s fa­ther told him the story of a sis­ter who sees her twin brother get mur­dered, and then be­gins stalk­ing the mur­derer. He found her quest for jus­tice com­pelling and

Talion is his way of ex­plor­ing both the ap­peal and the con­se­quences.

He says: “Vig­i­lan­tism is of­ten ro­man­ti­cised. The idea of the an­ti­hero as an em­bod­i­ment of our col­lec­tive sense of what is right and wrong and fair, despite what a fail­ing sys­tem has to of­fer, is of­ten at­trac­tive, even se­duc­tive. But is that re­ally what vig­i­lan­tism looks like? What does it feel like to the per­son ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it, and what do you have to go through to get to the point where you no longer care about your­self — only about get­ting re­venge? Re­venge isn’t an im­pulse — it’s a se­ries of de­ci­sions in which you aban­don moral judg­ment.”

This com­pelling page turner is also avail­able in Afrikaans, en­ti­tled Wrok. De

Vos rewrote the story him­self: “When you trans­late your own work, it’s not trans­la­tion. It’s a ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the orig­i­nal text and the trans­lated text.” Re­gard­less of which lan­guage you read it in, keep the lights on.

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