2 minute read

The alarmingly prodigious Tyler Cowen has a post up on his favourite things South Africa:
I have yet to go, but here is what I admire so far: 

1. Visual artist (you can’t quite call him a painter): William Kentridge. He is one of the contemporary artists who is both a realist and has a lot of the emotional power of the classics. His extraordinary body of work spans film, drawings, prints, and mixed media. Here are some images.

2. Home design: I am an admirer of the Ndebele, some photos of their colorful homes are here. They are better represented in picture books than on the web.

3. Movies: I don’t know many. I enjoyed The Gods Must be Crazy, even though some might find it slightly offensive. Nonetheless I hand the prize to District 9 for its interesting take on ethnic politics, its deconstruction and mock of Afrikaaner[sic] settler myths, and its commentary on how South Africans view Zimbabwean immigrants to their country. 

4. Movie, set in: Zulu, 1964 with Michael Caine. 

5. Novels: My favorite Coetzee is Disgrace, though I like most of them very much, including the early Life and Times of Michael Kand Waiting for the Barbarians and the later semi-autobiographical works. Nadine Gordimer I find unreadable, call the fault mine. Same with Alan Paton. A dark horse pick is Trionf [sic]. Agaat sits in my pile, waiting for the trip of the right length. 

6. Music: Where to start? Malanthini, for one. As for mbqanga collections, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto series is consistently excellent. Singing in an Open Space, Zulu Rhythm and Harmony 1962-1982 is a favorite. Random gospel and jazz collections often repay the purchase price and in general random CD purchases in these areas bring high expected returns.

7. Economists: Ludwig Lachmann was an early teacher of mine and I owe him my interest in post Keynesianism and also financial fragility hypotheses. G.F Thirlby remains underrated. W.H. Hutt was one of the most perceptive critics of Keynes and his insights still are not absorbed into the Keynesian mainstream. His book on the economics of the colour bar remains a liberal classic. Who am I forgetting?
I always wondered whether Tyler was - at least partially - pulling a fast one on his readers when compiling these favourite-things-country-X lists... Surely, he couldn't have informed opinions about different aspects of so many countries? And therein lies the beauty of such a scam; very few people would be in a position to call him out on his bluffs...

But, no. Now that he's referred to a country that I am (hopefully!) intimately familiar with, I have to say he's put together a very impressive list, comprising both obvious and non-obvious choices.[*] For what it's worth, I've added a comment towards the bottom on few additional things he might have considered. They're mostly of a popular culture variety and limited to things that Tyler normally includes in these lists. (Hence my reference to food... All hail Malva Pudding!)

I'd be interested to hear what other Saffas have to say on the issue...

[*] I'm all but resigned to channel Jacob Goldstein, who, in reviewing MR for Time magazine, drily remarked: "Cowen[...] seems to read the entire Internet every day."