Dr Haarhof is a well known South African author and
poet and former Professor of English Literature at the University of Namibia
A Branch of Wisdom is an adventure of body, mind and spirit.
It plays with Logic and Intuition, with puns and coincidences, with time and perception.
The tale navigates a path between the turn of the millenium, and Christopher's life-shaping experiences as a white youth in the South Africa of the 1980s and 90s - a schizophrenic society where, at a socio-political level, in the oft-quoted words of WB Yeats: "Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold".
The author's quest is about finding that centring place of peace, tranquillity and meaning in the eye of the public and private storm. It is the individual's ongoing search for an authentic self.
The story traverses the South African border war. The alienated returning soldier experiences what western society constitutes as "breakdown". Despite prophecies of failure and future limitation, Christopher recovers in the eyes of the external world and does remarkably well in international finance. He is also accepted into the world of MENSA.
Then in his mid-30s, dogged by the black dog depression, he sets off on a search for understanding of his life thus far. So begins his philosophical quest - and the rebuilding of his life. He applies his fine intellect of head and heart as he follows the many forks of the Y shaped stick, first discovered in the psychiatrist's office. He traces this symbol through language theory to divining rods to the tree of life itself.
Christopher's quest twists and turns along many paths: Egyptian mythology, 17th century western philosophy and mathematics, Jungian psychology, eastern meditation, and the I Ching. Throughout, he ponders the meaning of the vision of two bodies levitating head to toe - one black, one white. He wonders what exists beyond the five senses of perception.
Christopher establishes hidden links between what appear to be separate worlds of west and east, inner and outer. This is the essence of metaphor - holding contradictions between unalikes, that reveal themselves anew in a flash of identity and shared purpose. The book is alive with such insights - revealing glimpses of how things are connected at deeper levels.
In this book Christopher walks the fine line between autobiography and fiction. Episodes such as his time in a mental hospital, and his visit to the east where he encounters the enigmatic Sam of the "Wisdom Shoppe", are particularly memorable. The writing is detailed, descriptive, nuanced, and often ironic and whimsical.
The text is accompanied by a website which features an innovative and conceptually brilliant array of metaphors for what could be described as visual puns. Christopher presents a playful interaction between contradictory states. And in so doing he challenges a society where an either/or paradigm holds on for grim life.
Richard Tarnas, author of The Passion of the Western Mind, discusses a dialectic in which "something from the past and something from the present come together and create the future. Two opposites converge to create a higher synthesis". This is the nature of this book. I trust that you will enjoy its challenges and disclosures as I have.
Dr Dorian Haarhoff