The Swan Whisperer

An Inaugural Lecture

Marlene van Niekerk

The Swan Whisperer

Marlene van Niekerk

Distributed for Sylph Editions

Translated by Marius Swart

40 pages | 6 x 9 1/2 | © 2015
Paper $19.00 ISBN: 9781909631106 Published October 2015 World sales rights except India
This playful, genre-bending cahier tells the story of pale, anxious creative writing student Kasper Olwagen and his strange encounter with the phenomenon of translation in the person of the Swan Whisperer. Through brilliantly imagined letters and recordings, van Niekerk recounts Olwagen’s discovery of a vagrant who, without uttering any even remotely intelligible words, summons swans from Amsterdam’s canals. Through the story of Olwagen’s experience, van Niekerk probes the relationship between language and experience, writing and translation, stories and truth.
A story of doubles, cadence, and, yes, swan whispering,  The Swan Whisperer delves into the playfulness of sound in the Afrikaans language and the necessity for listening in all translation.
The Swan Whisperer: An inaugural lecture

Translated from the Afrikaans
by Marius Swart and the author 
Review Quotes
The National

The Swan Whisperer is not an answer to the question of the mystery of writing, but a delineation of the mystery itself—a depiction of the space of ‘translation’ in which the reader, with greater, or lesser difficulty, interprets what is written—and that is achievement enough. . . . The illustrations in this gorgeous Cahier edition make it clear that The Swan Whisperer is a book about its own hors-texte, but this is one book whose pages I cannot bring myself to annotate. And, though they touch me, I will also leave untouched those pages illustrated by artist William Kentridge, which explode in a violence of ink.”

Music & Literature
“This is a tale of transmission, disappearance, and utterance, of writing as it hovers at the edge of language, trafficking with the ephemeral and the unreliable; challenging the primacy of the written text through a compelling reflection on flow and interference, rhythms and non-origin. A tale of listening as the rebeginning of writing; of people missing but resounding through words whose meaning is lost (or maybe it was never there completely): it has to be made anew every time. A story of speech emerged from and given back to birds, wind and water, a story of speech into landscape. A tale of writing as divining and impure continuity.”
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