Title: The Bushman Winter Has Come
Author: Paul John Myburgh
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2014
If you pick up this book and expect a linear story from start to finish, you will be disappointed. If you expect a historical account, forget about it. What you will find is a collection of Myburgh’s impressions and understanding of the way of life of the Bushmen.
Fact and fable commingle in a glorious celebration of survival in a harsh environment and a record of the cosmology of the “First People”. Through this, Myburgh explores that which makes us human and our individual relationships with the environment that has broader repercussions on a bigger scale. In addition, he brings us a record and an understanding of a way of life that is now relegated to the past.
He writes: “The great sadness is not the passing of a people; it is our failure to remember, our failure to bring forward the knowledge, our failure to consecrate the wisdom and so redeem the sacrifice of those who came before us.”
That sense of irrevocable shift in time and place underpins this book, which is at times dreamlike, and others a record of how our ancestors lived.
Myburgh explores the world of his /Gwikwe band with the knowledge of what lies in wait for them, and in that his telling of their lives is tinged with sorrow, for that final change when the people make the decision to move to the settlement is unavoidable.
The world changes and those who are unable or unwilling to adapt will fall by the wayside. While Myburgh’s writing style is uneven, this is nonetheless a haunting treatise that deserves to be treasured. He evokes a sense of place, as well as the spirit of an age, and it is clear that he writes from the heart – and that’s what matters.