Growing up in a multilingual country has it’s advantages. Most South Africans are fluent in at least two languages, so it’s not uncommon for people to code-switch in everyday conversation. And it’s not always because you can’t find the English or Afrikaans word for something. No, we simply fuse different languages into one. In her debut short story collection, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, Jolyn Phillips captures the multilingual heart of average South Africans.
Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories is a whimsical collection of tales set in the fishing villages around Gansbaai, South Africa. Using memorable characters, witty dialog, and a charming background, Jolyn takes the reader on a journey of loss, laughter, and sheer calculated silliness.
An Imaginative Approach
Jolyn’s writing style is unique and inventive. In a world of dragons, hobbits, and dark lords, it’s refreshing to find writing that feels like home. Each story filled me with nostalgia for childhood days spent playing in my neighborhood until streetlights signaled it was time to head indoors. Her tales of nosey neighbors, unfortunate dogs, and the messiness of small-town life, is relevant and relatable .
Reading Between the Lines
Moreover, Jolyn explores themes like mental illness, secrets, poverty, rape, and molestation with an authenticity and sensitivity that I appreciated. In a world that calls for justice and trigger warnings, it can be difficult to shed light on social ills without offending the reader. Philips achieves this flawlessly.
My favorite stories in this collection were The Photograph, Secrets, The Fire, The Big Box, and The Legend of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries.
What I Didn’t Like
This collection is multilingual and although I understood the references other readers may not, so I would have liked to see a glossary. At times Phillips translated phrases and colloquial sayings into English which was annoying at times. Some of the stories fell flat and could have used a bit more punch.
I believe good writing should invite the reader to visit the locations described in the prose and Jolyn did just that. Her words painted landscapes on the canvas of my imagination. For the brief moments between the pages of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries, I traveled the streets of the small fishing villages of the West Coast. I would definitely recommend Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
About the Author
Jolyn Phillips was born and bred in Blompark, Gansbaai, South Africa. Her debut collection of short stories, Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and other stories, won the 2018 Best Fiction (Single Author) award at the third annual Humanities and Social Sciences Awards, hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). She is currently studying towards a PhD at the University of the Western Cape. She lectures part-time and is also known as a singer. Radbraak is her first collection of poetry.