About: Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter

Title: Wolf, Wolf

Author: Eben Venter

Published: Scribe Publishing February 2015

Status: Read from February 20 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

How should a man be? Mattie Duiker is trying very hard to live up to his dying father’s wishes. He is putting aside childish things, starting his first business serving healthy take-away food to the workers in his district of Cape Town. His Pa is proud.

At the same time, Mattie is pulled toward an altogether different version of masculinity, in which oiled and toned bodies cavort for him at the click of a mouse. His porn addiction both threatens his relationship with his boyfriend, Jack, and imperils his inheritance.

Pa’s peacocking days as a swaggering businessman are done, but even as the cancer shrivels and crisps him, the old man’s ancient authority intensifies as it shrinks, like Mattie’s own signature sauce. Pa haltingly prepares his son for life without him, and himself for life without a male heir. And, while the family wrestles with matters of entitlement and inheritance, around them a new South Africa is quietly but persistently nudging its way forwards.

Wolf, Wolf is a novel of old rigid states and new unfinished forms, of stiff tolerance and mournful nostalgia. With uncommon sensitivity to place, time, and sex, Eben Venter reveals himself to the world outside his homeland as one of its most astute and acute observers, giving shape in story to some of the sea-changes of our time, in the manner of Coetzee and Roth.“

My Thoughts:

I selected Wolf, Wolf by Eben Venter to read in order to satisfy a reading challenge requirement, but my curiosity was piqued by the premise and some flattering reviews – Cape Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013 and it was shortlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times (South Africa) prize.

The narrative of Wolf, Wolf shifts between the perspectives of Benjamin, Mattie and Mattie’s boyfriend Jack, a school teacher at a private school. It a story about manhood, love, family and legacy – not only that which a father passes on to a son, but also in relation to South Africa’s struggles with a post-apartheid society.

The translation by Michiel Heyns from Eben Venter’s Afrikaans has received much praise but unfortunately I struggled with the dense prose from the first pages and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in the narrative to suit me. I persevered until the end, but with little enjoyment.

Available to purchase from

Scribe Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

I want to know what you think! Your comments are appreciated.

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