Get to know us through the books we read! Every first Friday of the month we’re sharing an interview with one of the Language Centre’s staff members on a favourite or memorable book.
This month we chat to Mariann Maartens, an educational interpreter at the Language Centre, and a board member of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). These days, Mariann does not have much time to read, but she is very enthusiastic about the books she does manage to get to.
What is the title of your favourite book? (It could also be a book that had a great impact on you, or a book that is memorable for some reason.)
I wish I could magically produce a favourite book in all honesty and with absolute conviction. Yes, many books have made a deep and lasting impression on me through the years, but there is no way at all in which I can define a favourite book. The way in which I choose books to read, depends directly on the amount of free time I have (and, if I may mention it, my free time has been almost non-existent in recent years). This may sound ridiculous, but there you are.
There are many books (real books with pages that have the unique scent of books), without specifically mentioning the names of authors or books, that regularly find their way to my bedside table, a shady spot underneath a tree in my garden, or, in winter, to where I curl up in front of the fireplace. Who remembers Hettie Smit’s Sy kom met die sekelmaan? Apart from the jolt that goes through my heart when I merely think about it, it takes me back to my years in my former res on campus, Lydia (not to mention the trip down memory lane when I do my work as interpreter in the Krotoa Bluilding (previously the Wilcocks), and the lectures by Prof DJ Opperman, WEG Louw, Prof Lina Spies and other leading figures in days gone by).
But this is not where my hodgepodge ends – I devour books about reincarnation, and I have enjoyed Darwin’s Darwin’s hunch and even Robin Sharma’s The monk who sold his Ferrari.
So, no favourite book or author?
No, I do not have a favourite book at all. There is no way I can imagine myself in a corner of a small room with one book by one author without climbing the walls. I definitely also do not have a favourite author. To me, it is more about the reason for the book’s existence, the content, the revelations, insights, and feelings of joy or sorrow it awakens in me.
What are you reading at the moment?
If only I could have time to read the pile of books that are waiting for me! At the moment I’m reading Hijackers on board by Cynthia Stimpel (it tells how one lone whistle blower took on the hijacking of SAA and reported to the treasury in parliament). Next on my list are A woman makes a plan by Maye Musk (an inspiring memoir about how Elon Musk’s mother, as a single parent, won an emotional and financial battle against almost unsurmountable odds) and Ryan Blumenthal’s Autopsy (life in the trenches with a forensic pathologist in Africa).
Do you have a preference: reading physical books with paper pages or on a Kindle or other electronic platform? Why do you say so?
A Kindle could POSSIBLY work on a long international flight, with the emphasis on possibly! I enjoy nothing as much as the smell of the pages of a book. The only thing that could approach that feeling of utter contentment is when one’s book drops out of your hand at the same moment that your drooping eyelids lose their battle against gravity in the pool of light from your bedside lamp, and your head sinks back onto your pillow.
What book have you re-read? Also tell us why?
Old favourites of mine that are always begging to be reread are Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, My wicked wicked ways by Errol Flynn and all Spike Milligan’s books. Who can forget those famous words, “We don’t have a plan, so nothing can go wrong” or his epitaph, “I told you I was ill”?
Who is your favourite literary character?
Morticia Addams of the Addams family.
Have you perhaps learnt a life lesson from a book or character that you would like to share with us?
Morticia Addams takes up the cudgels for any woman who has her own passionate personality, and who could not care less about what anyone thinks of her, her preferences and her utterances (I wish I could be like that!). She believes in herself – that is the way she is, and she has no intention of changing. Her motto is unambiguous: Accept me the way I am, or go.
What other books would you recommend?
At the very least Cynthia Stimpel’s Hijackers on board. Unfortunately, I have not yet read the whole book, but I did attend Cynthia’s talk about her book and I am the very proud owner of a signed copy that I’m reading at the moment. 😀 It was an eye-opener to hear how this woman took a deliberate decision to take on the ‘SAA-Goliath’ on her own when she realised she could not live with and keep quiet about their problematic ethics and operational processes. She was reviled because of her revelations. She lost her job and her reputation took a knock, but her integrity and self-respect remained intact. Hats off to her, I think! I hope I can find even the smallest grain of those attributes somewhere in my own makeup to nurture and take from strength to strength so that I can live it to the fullest.