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22 October, 2015

The Prufrock team would like to express our solidarity with the ‪#‎FeesMustFall‬ movement.

This magazine was founded because we believe that the more young, South African voices are heard, the better. That diversity is key to progress.

We had the power to turn that belief into Prufrock because we went to university. The magazine's founders met at UCT, we have received support and encouragement from the staff there, and the university has advertised in the magazine.

This network was, and continues to be in each of our lives, just one of many benefits of higher education.

We thank those students, Prufrock contributors and readers fighting to bring these benefits to everyone. We are so proud of you, and so humbled by your strength. We hope you will be safe.



Like bookworms, but more powerful.

Rosa Lyster's Booksnakes is starting! 

Read the manifesto here. Submit your own book reviews there too. 

'I would like it to be a place where all different kinds of people write reviews, on any sorts of book they feel like writing about: new ones and old ones, serious ones and not.  It doesn’t have to be the standard review format, it doesn’t have to be Funny or Clever or make some sort of overarching point. It doesn’t have to be a disquisition on this terrible world. If I was giving a Power Point presentation about the purpose of Booksnakes, I would flick over now to a photograph of people going very fast on a speedboat, or else riding a horse at full gallop, or Dickie Greenleaf on his yacht. I would say, “I’m thinking fun, I’m thinking freedom, I’m thinking first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.”'



Essay 16 The Room With No Doors

The full essay(s) can be found here:


Even if I wanted to, I am incapable of writing a novel about an idea. My problem is plot. Another way of putting this is that I have a problem with the future. I like to get all my characters into a room and gleefully outline their backstories.  I like to have them talk to each other so you see who is the good one and who is the secret Hound. My problem is then what? What are you supposed to do with them then? Last year, the demented writer Rachel Cusk said that she felt fiction was “fake and embarrassing… the idea of making up John and Jane and having them do things together seems utterly ridiculous.” I don’t think it seems ridiculous – I think it seems great. I just can’t do it. I cannot contrive a single fictional situation. Iris Murdoch said that “A novel must be a house fit for free characters to live in.” My characters can’t even turn on the taps. There are no beds, and just a little hamster where the kitchen should be. My characters are at a party that they are not allowed to leave.

Rosa Lyster, Crime and the Technique of Crime

the complete essay, and others, can be found at

       One day, we were outside in the courtyard at the same time. I was there      drinking a Diet Coke in big, frantic gulps. If you do it fast enough you can make  your throat feel like a book has opened inside it. This works especially well if the  Coke is for some reason bitterly cold, as the drinks from the vending machines at  the archives always are. The forestry girl was smoking a cigarette with the same  inappropriate intensity. I paced back and forth with my Coke, gasping away, and  the forestry girl stared wretchedly into the grass. We hadn’t spoken for a bit, and  then she said I hate it in there. She gestured toward the reading room, to all the  sweet old people bent over the birth certificates of their long-dead relatives. They  all looked so happy and industrious, so filled with purpose.What are all those people  even doing? They don’t even have to be here. They just like it.She shook her head in full  disgust. I am bendy and eager to please, and so I nodded my head, agreeing. I see  now that I was scared of her. I said, This place used to be a prison, you know. She drove  her cigarette into the grass. She stomped on it til she dislodged some roots. Of  course it was, she said.

Essay 12, Rosa Lyster

Find the complete essay at

From June:

  1. him: in his mid 50s, probably, sort of dad age, but did not necessarily appear to be an actual dad. not the kind of dad you would want, anyway. he looked like he used to have a ponytail until very very recently. his whole bearing and the way he even moved his head and shoulders seemed like he used to have a ponytail. he had a “peruvian” shirt (blue and purple stripes) on, and Black Jeans, and closed shoes, thanks god (he seemed like he would have clammy white feet with horrible toenails). i couldnt at all tell where he was from, sort of american but also south african. he looked like a visiting sociology lecturer at UKZN, a lot.
  1. we were standing in this poster shop called blackwell’s looking at which pictures i would buy to put on my wall if i had any money at all, and there was one banksy one, and i said, “oh jesus i *hate* banksy”, and rom said, “it’s just Typical that you would hate banksy. that is a Typical Rosie move.”

Essay 11 Rosa Lyster

Find the complete essay here:

The problem with my clothes is that they still have me inside them. Whatever effect I am striving for, I think, is marred by just the raw fact of myself. I will get dressed thinking “Kennedy in Martha’s vineyard in early autumn, late 60s” and then I will look in the mirror and it’s just me. Same old hair, same old face. I will choose my clothes to transmit a clear sense of “Nicole Diver when she is having fun”, or “Talitha Getty on a boat”, or “happy and confident member of a cult”, and then there is something wrong with my fingernails. Or else my one eye is extremely bloodshot. Or else I see that my boots are really the boots of a sweet little penguin. My other boots are suddenly the boots of a woman who made everyone read The Help at the most recent meeting of her book club. My last and final boots are, now that I think about it, the boots of a girl who once used to be a serious Goth, and is now trying to dress more professional at work. Her hair is black, and badly dyed. She has three different red cardigans. She writes a lot of startlingly erotic fan fiction. She describes herself as a “bluestocking”, which is funny, since the real stockings she wears have floral patterns on them. She wears shoes with a little buckle and a little heel. She has a hat called a cloche hat, made of felt, and she keeps asking everyone if they like it. Do you like my cloche hat, she says. It’s made of pure felt. I see all this when I look at my previously beloved pair of boots, and then I must give them a rest in the back of my cupboard for a little while.

Essay 10, Rosa Lyster

 You can find the complete essay here:

This is the tenth Friday since I started writing these essays. Is it too early to congratulate myself? Probably. Is it much too early to treat this as a small anniversary celebration? Definitely. And yet here I am. Ten weeks is not a significant tract of time, but it is just long enough for this too feel like a significant part of my life. This is what I do every Friday, now.

This, in itself, is a big deal: that I have created a routine for myself, and that I have stuck to it. I am not good at routine. Really, it’s more that I hate it.  It has been this way since I was four years old, and I told my mum that I couldn’t standgoing to nursery school any more. The same thing every day. The same nice man on the steps sweeping the leaves every day, and you say hello to him, and he says hello back, and it is hello, hello, sweep, sweep, and then you go down the stairs and do morning singing, and then here is your teacher who you love and she is reading you a story, and then it is lunch time and it is a boiled egg where around the yolk is blue, and you feel sick the same way every time, and then everyone is playing on the grass and the same girl is being allergic to grass in the same way and getting these bumps all on her legs, and then it is sleep time, and everyone is lying down in the dark on these small, small vinyl mattresses with animals on them that make a zipping sound if you move your legs even a tiny bit, and then your mum comes to fetch, and then back up the stairs, and the stairs have more leaves on them which will have to be swept up in the morning. I told all of this to my mum. I said, “I can’t take it anymore.”

Essay 9: The Language of Love

Find the complete essay here

"They met at a pre-war garden party, or on the deck of an ocean liner. It was just the two of them and the spray of the sea air. Inside, a whole party where everyone is drinking and waltzing across the waxed ballroom floor. The floor under the dancers’ feet rocks with the movement of the waves in a way that is like to make you vomit, but the dancers do not mind. They are too busy talking, talking, talking. About? Nothing, of course. We are reminded of the tiresome first girlfriend. The older woman is married to a callous bon vivant who doesn’t love her, and the young man knows all this without having to ask. The best thing about the older woman, in fact, is that she doesn’t want him to ask. She puts her elegant hand over his mouth, in fact, and says, “Don’t speak, please.”

The young man is always going to the house of the older woman and she is Wordlessly opening the door for him. She is just standing there in a silk dressing gown with an unreadable expression on her face. They don’t talk and the man can’t even read her face, but they have an understanding which surpasses speech. This extends to a tacit agreement that talking is for the weak. They are making ferocious love in every part of the house. The older woman is wearing suspenders and you will not believe the calm compassion with which she guides him inside of her. Still no talking, ever. He is in love with her bony articulated shins, the shining diamonds of her kneecaps."

Essay 7: A Brief History of Giving Up, by Rosa Lyster

Find the complete essay, and others, here:

Capitulation comes easily to me. I have no grit. I gave up piano lessons and ballet and yoga. I gave up on living in London. I ditched two different novels I tried to write. One was about some contemporary girls, and the other was about some girls of a previous generation. They were both about me. I gave up quitting smoking, as well as every attempt to cut a food group out of my diet. I gave up on flossing, as well as Infinite Jest, Moby Dick, and Midnight’s Children.All of Proust, Flaubert, Knuasgaard, Henry James, Murakami, Heller, Mailer, Naipaul, Lessing, DeLillo, Plath, Grass, and Atwood. Any book written for adults where a person turns green or into a mermaid. Any novel where a cat can talk. Any novel where a central character likes to read too much. Novels in which central characters have jobs which I consider to be unreasonable, such as hand models, undertakers, looking after whales, zookeepers in general, ghosts, huntsmen, woodsmen, salesmen, swordsmen, lion tamers, anything which seems too futuristic, astronauts, wizards, pornographers, lecturers in university departments invented in order to make a point about the current state of academia, inventors, clerks in subterranean government offices, and occupations invented in order to make a point about this terrible world. I gave up on them all.

Essay Six: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by Rosa Lyster


Find the full essay here.

There are those of us who can tolerate social discomfort, and there are those of us that cannot.[1] The first group are strong and hardy; the second group are weak. The first group are powerful community wizards. The second group (of which I am a lifelong member) must find consolation in our belief that being “sensitive” is the same as being good. This is called making a virtue out of necessity. Please do not take it away from us.

Rosa Lyster: Animal, Vegetable

The complete essay can be found here.

When I was in high school, the cutting edge of Armchair Diagnostic research was focused on people believed to be Pathological Liars. One day, no one knew that there was supposed to even be such a thing as a Pathological Liar. We thought of it as just “lying”, the thing that people did when they were bored or strange. The next day, a quarter of our associates were found to be displaying the clinical characteristics of the hardened case.  The idea that someone was lying not because they wanted to but because they needed to is, for some reason, extremely easy for a teenage girl to understand. That’s how we explained it to one another: “It means that you like have to lie. It means that somewhere deep inside, you just need to lie.” Our eyes widened. Wow. No one knew exactly what the word “pathological” meant, but this did not prove to be a barrier. I would say more that it acted like a whip on an already motivated racehorse.

Saying it made it true. There was this girl we knew who told us she had to wear prescription glasses when clearly her eyes were 100% perfect and probably she could see in the dark. Her name for this essay is Julia Guy. She had briefly gone out with this nerd we knew, and then broke up with him at a party. The story was that she tore his heart into tiny strips. We admired the savagery with which she sent the nerd on his way, and thought about making her our friend. But there was doubt from the beginning. There was something unreliable, we thought, about Julia Guy. We narrowed our eyes slightly when she came up in discussion. We tilted our heads to the side. Julia Guy was mostly unsettling to be around. She had a rabbity sort of kinetic energy. She moved like a character in a Japanese horror film, able to travel from one side of the room to another without seeming to use her legs. Julia Guy was always zooting up close to us.

We had our doubts about her for a variety of other non-reasons, but there was nothing we could really pin on her. The main issue was this: we could not decide if she was our enemy or not. If she was our enemy, why was she so nice? If she was not our enemy, why did she persist in having crushes on the boys that we had crushes on? Why, also, did she act on those crushes with such devastating efficiency?

Rosa Lyster: Three Episodes

You can find the complete episodes here.

We’re walking down to the jetty. Everyone else is down at the dam already, being bitten by horseflies.  My mum is holding my hand, and we are singing a song called WE WALK STRAIGHT SO YOU BETTER GET OUT THE WAY. That’s the whole song, chorus and verse. You swing your arms when you sing it. I am shouting it as loud as I can so my cousins can hear and be jealous. It’s Easter Monday, and I am still smarting from the losses accrued at yesterday’s egg hunt. Every single person who was ever born is better at finding Easter eggs than me. I am sick with the shame of it.

It is possible that the walk and the song, then, are undertaken for the purposes of consolation. My mum knows me. She knows how much I hate an Easter egg hunt, and she knows how much I love this song. The two of us are WE WALK STRAIGHTing along the path to the dam, and my spirits begin to lift. I kick my feet out and admire my little red sandals. What I am saying to the world is: Get a load of me in these shoes.  Get a load of me and my mum as we walk down to the dam.

In the middle of all of this I look down at the puff-adder which has materialised in front of us. It’s there on the path and we are WE WALK STRAIGHTing directly into it. It lifts itself up and puffs itself out in the textbook style. It hisses like a cartoon snake. In the memory I have of this meeting, it actually spits at us. This is not normal behaviour for a puff adder, I don’t think. The relevant literature does not support my recollection, and also informs me that the bite of a puff adder is almost never fatal. Still, I will tell you that it looks at us with murder in its swirly hypnotic eyes.

My mum lifts me up with one arm, the whole of me, like a woman who could hoist a car up off a baby. She has me somewhere up round her shoulders and we are running up the path back to the house. My mum is whisperingJesuschristjesuschristjesuschristjesuschrist as she runs. This is all technically terrifying, but I am just about ecstatic by the time we get back to the house. My mum has started her horrified laugh, and she won’t be able to stop for days. Imagine it bit us. Imagine its teeth when it bit us through our sandals.  It is a proper adventure. We could have actually died, you know. I practise saying it to my cousins. They can stick their ability to find eggs up their butts. Who was it that nearly got killed by a snake? Me.

Rosa Lyster: Make Way For Toadvine

You can find the complete essay here

We have been living together for one month. We have been dating for one year. This is exactly right and perfect. All is as it should be. I look at the sky and see no clouds. I put my ear to the ground, and no train is coming. No drumming of distant hooves etc.  It’s not that I am surprised. I knew from straight away that M. was the best person I had ever met. It’s true that it took nearly ten years for it to dawn on me that I actually wanted to date her instead of just be Incredible Best Friends. This is because I lack the capacity for reflection.

My friend Caitie once described the inner life of someone I was going out with:There is a sash window open inside his head. It is a windy day. A door is banging. Papers are blowing all around. I found this to be absolutely chilling in its accuracy. I also understood that it could have been about me. I never know what I am thinking or feeling. I can go for a whole hour without an idea in my head, like a little baby or a robot. Sometimes I walk down the hill after being in the library all day and laugh at a joke my brother told me a decade ago. It was not even really a joke. He walked into the kitchen eating a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and said, “Riddle me this. Where would tuna be without mayonnaise?”

Rosa Lyster: Prince John

Some lists from Rosa's new essay, which can be found here. It's the second in her plan to write one every week. 

Below, an extract in the form of some lists:

"Here is a sample. The date is the 10th of June. The list is exactly as it appears in the original document.

  • “Bon viveur
  • Stated occupation vs observed occupation
  • Silk cotton tree (ghosts)
  • JOHN 11:35 Jesus wept
  • Failure of imagination is a general term used to describe circumstances wherein something that was possible to predict or foresee was, in fact, not predicted or foreseen.
  • Hanna arendt – Eichmann in Jerusalem – a report on the banality of evil
  • Zhou Enlai – Mao’s second in command
  • “Racial hygiene” – eugenics
  • “to be thus is nothing but to be safely thus” – Macbeth
  • Colombian necktie”

Here is another. The date is the 22 August.

  • “The marchesa casati
  • Mary Vetsera – the mayerling incident “apparent suicide of the crown prince of Austria”)
  • Balthus (painter)
  • Bruce Davidson Brooklyn Gang
  • Library of Congress Recordings
  • The Alan Lomax Collection
  • 100 most frequently challenged books
  • The Regency (transition between Georgian and Victorian)
  • The ballad of Reading Gaol (Oscar wilde)
  • Cambridge Apostles”

One more, from May:

  • “Othello Act 5: “of one that loved not wisely but too well”
  • The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars were conflicts in the East End of Glasgow in Scotland in the 1980s between rival ice cream van operators, over lucrative territory and suggested use of ice cream vans as a cover for selling drugs. The conflicts involved daily violence and intimidation, and led to the deaths by arson of several members of the family of one ice cream van driver and a consequent court case that lasted for 20 years.
  • “I would never wear anything cheap unless I thought it was funny”
  • Saturnine: cold and steady in mood : slow to act or change b : of a gloomy or surly disposition …
  • A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.” "

Rosa Lyster's Essay A Week

Prufrock's own regular essayist Rosa Lyster has launched a website, and a plan: to publish a new essay every Friday, "no matter what". Here, an extract from the first, "The Antarctic Campaign"

"A man who cannot admit to an afternoon sleep is a man who might struggle with the concept of reading novels for pleasure. Instead, he preferred biographies, or the new book about Darwin. You would be startled to learn how often a new book about Darwin comes out. He liked accounts of doomed Antarctic expeditions, of Everest seasons during which the social fabric collapses.  There is a bookshelf in my parents’ lounge dedicated to this considerable collection. My mum calls them the Beloveds. It is unclear whether she means the books themselves, or the people they are about. I think the people. My dad has started many conversations with the words, “You know how I feel about Darwin”. Indeed I do know.  His feelings about Shackleton are more ambiguous, less furiously admiring. Scott and Mallory, ditto. Still, he loves them all."

Can't. Wait.