The Alphabet of Birds by S. J. Naudé
SJ Naudé's short story collection The Alphabet of Birds tells tales of the South African diaspora, of people hurled from home and scattered across the earth. Its characters turn up in London, Berlin and Vietnam, finding fellow countrymen and other wanderers wherever they travel, in a world so globalised that the boundaries between nations and cultures have become porous to the point of near collapse. As the stories progress, identities of gender and sexuality also begin to blur as Naudé skilfully evokes a brave new world where everywhere is everywhere and nothing is as certain as it might once have been.
Tenses shift just as easily in Naudé's stories, tales of the past flow into those of the present with waves of narrative reaching back and rolling forward in one unbroken motion. It's this reaching back that drives each story: a death in the family or some other dramatic twitch upon the thread that sends the hero hurtling back to where they've come from. It's a uniquely South African spin on a universal battle: the fight to understand who you are and what your place in the world might be. For the characters of The Alphabet of Birds, the answers lie behind them. [Ross McIndoe]