"An artist told of a three-day trek into the mountains during which Coetzee said not one word to anyone." ("The Prince of Darkness", Rian Malan in The Fair Lady Collection, p201, Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2005)
Why is it so wrong not to do what is expected?
It's hard – who can say it's not hard? –
to hike for three days in the mountains
and say nothing to anyone,
not even No, thanks or Coffee, please.
If I'd been on that walk, I'd probably also
have told the story later,
of the silent Coetzee, who chose not to take part.
Maybe I'd even have been brave enough,
on the walk itself, to goad him by asking direct questions –
inane ones like Isn't that a great view?
or Can I have some of your water? Even the shabby classic
Are we nearly there yet? might have done.
But, no doubt for entirely the wrong reasons,
I respect the silence, the deliberate failure
It works, doesn't it, this silence stuff?
Gets other people talking.
His publicist 'd love it.
Such an easy myth. Never mind the artist's garret –
here we have the man we love to hate,
(and tell stories about),
wrapped in a silence so snooty
it's pleasant to pretend
he's soulless, a cold old crocodile.
Photos do nothing to take away from,
even bolster, this notion.
But the position of Groot Krokodil
's already been taken. This one's just a clever man,
who pushed himself out of the realm of the ordinary,
left South Africa for Australia, pissed off almost everyone,
and now seems determined to give
only what he wishes.
Someone please buy him some red and purple
so we can recognise his right to do so.