Jan Rabie on greed.

One of my favorite writers from South Africa is Jan Rabie. His work is written in Afrikaans and can be very political but he is also known for his surrealistic stories.  I wanted to share his most famous short story “Die drie kaalkoppe eet tesame” with you but could not find it in English. Please note that this is an unofficial translation done by me and I hope that it is not a disservice to Mr. Rabie – the power of the story is so much deeper in its native tongue. The message is universal and still very relevant today… we feed the greedy and we enable the corrupt.

jan rabie

Jan Rabie (1920 -2002)

Three bald heads eat together

by Jan Rabie

A trinity of bald heads sit around a table. The lights of the restaurant glows metallic on their bald polished crowns. It is reminiscent of egg shells, cracked open to monstrous miscarriages of shaking cheeks and mouths. The bodies of the bald heads are enormous and swollen dwarfing the three pairs of little legs skipping hungrily under the table.

A long thin waiter in a black tuxedo served them with all the dishes that they need. Their multiple folded chins flap up and down while they hastily gobble down beef fillets, and when they lift their glasses of wine to their red and eager mouths gaping under their bulbous noses, their eyes disappear into the folds of their cheeks.

The skinny waiter served them in silence. Dish after dish he brings and place it in front of them. He shows no emotion in front of his clients, but other people in the restaurant was surprised by the eating of the three bald heads, and left their own tables to stand in a circle around the three.

The three bald heads swing up and down in the tumultuous speed that they are eating. And while they eat faster moaning of impatience in between their mouths being plugged full with flying hands, something strange starts to happen: The moment a dish is placed in front of them its contents take shape of human forms: arms, legs, virgin breasts , and even an infant crown, cooked all rosy.

The onlookers gasped in disgust, but the three bald heads saw nothing of it. They eat with disturbing greed, they even forget to wipe off the streams of fat that flows over their cheeks. They grant themselves no pause between each new piece of human flesh, their mouths pulverize like meat grinders.

The skinny, silent waiter is always on time with the next dish. But the three bald heads seem to be blinded by their dizzying effort and from all the sweat running into their eyes: they can no longer discern the circle of spectators from the dishes that the waiter is bringing. One bald head mistakes a young girl for an overcooked chicken, and when he plunged his fork into her to lift her to his plate, he tore her limb from limb. The second bold head chopped a man near him neatly in half, the third open his mouth so wide that he bit a screaming woman’s head right off. The crowd fled in horror, the restaurant runs empty.

The three bold heads ferociously pursue their dinner. Their hands flying left and right to feed their salivating mouths. Their eyes drowned under the bulk of their cheeks, no longer able to see the dishes the waiter is carrying, they bit their own fingers off and tore large chunks of meat from each others bodies.

The table and chairs tumbles over and the gala dinner continues in twitching disorder on the floor. The bodies start to disappear into the swirling of the blurry mouths. Nothing is left on the floor, except the three bold crowns glowing white like cracked open shell eggs.

Then the waiter wipes the floor. He throws the three bald crowns in a garbage can where they look like rotten pumpkins. He sets the table in silence for the next day’s meal.

About Marais

Anja Marais is an artist with interdisciplinary projects consisting of sculpture, photography, installation and film that present the idea of the perpetual outlander. For more information visit http://www.anjamarais.com
This entry was posted in Inspirational, Masters to learn from and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Jan Rabie on greed.

  1. Marais says:

    Hi Ruaan unfortunately I do not have the rest of his short stories in digital format. Good luck with your test. Alles van die best – Anja

  2. Ruaan says:

    Im from South Africa. Am writing exam on Jan Rabie short stories tomorrow if you would be so kind as to e-mail me other short stories, if possible, like “baie” and “droogte” and “die man met die swaar been” and others. Thanx.

  3. Marais says:

    believe it or not but this was my favorite story as a child…just because it is so visual.

  4. Thank-you Anja…A visual feast…

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