Vision of the future, possibility three


Brand Smit and his wife, Elsa Kleynhans, live with their two young children in number 11 Bluestone Lane. Marie, their oldest, is five and a half, and Ben is three. Brand spends most of the conventional workday on his literary projects. He’s currently working on a first draft of an idea about struggle and creativity, especially in the context of the suburban middle class. Between his study, the living room and the kitchen, chances are that you’ll find a copy of at least one of his two volumes of poetry, as well as a copy of the collection of essays and other pieces from his time in Taiwan and Korea.

Brand’s daily routine follows a familiar pattern. He usually gets up before Elsa and the children, makes them breakfast, takes the children to kindergarten, and drops Elsa off at the primary school where she teaches. Then he might spend an hour or two at the library, and between lunch and dinnertime he’s usually behind his computer.

Apart from the meagre income he earns from his writing, he also publishes English textbooks with a business partner in Taiwan. This endeavour takes him to East Asia at least once a year for book fairs and to talk business with local schools.

Last December, the family visited Elsa’s family in the Cape, and Brand swore never again. Elsa’s brother is a local businessman and prominent member of the community. As before, they didn’t sit around the same campfire when the conversation – as it almost always does – turned to politics and religion. Brand initially said they should stay home this December. After talking about it again, he and Elsa now plan to go to Mozambique for a week or so with Brand’s younger sister and her husband. Christmas will again be at Elsa’s parents in Bloemfontein, and New Year’s with his parents in Middelburg.

Brand frequently talks about the time he spent in the East. Elsa listens patiently, although she can by now tell all the stories in almost exactly the same words. Sometimes someone Brand knew in Taiwan would visit them. They usually talk late into the night about typhoons, pollution, epidemics, English classes and Chinese. Brand registered for a correspondence course in Chinese at UNISA after returning from Asia. He finds it ironic that he now speaks better Chinese than when he lived in Taiwan.

When Brand turned forty last year, he bought himself a lawnmower. Elsa laughed when he first mentioned the idea, but he thought the time had come to see if he could still use one (gardening services had done the necessary maintenance until that point).

Brand is devoted to his wife and children. He hopes Marie will one day become an architect or a vet. Although it’s still too early to say, he believes little Ben may also develop into a writer. He shares this with anyone who wants to hear, and looks embarrassed every time Elsa says to him, “Allow the child to become his own man.” His usual response – he can see it in the boy’s eyes. A writer, or – who knows? – maybe a clergyman.

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Stella Adler said: “Life beats down and crushes the soul. Art reminds you that you have one.”

Brand Smit reckons: “The future waits for those who are patient enough to first figure out the meaning of life.”