Wolf, Wolf isn’t afraid to ask questions about some of the more prickly aspects of modern life. Its protagonist, Mattheüs Duiker, and his classically manly father, Benjamin, are vessels for a robust discussion concerning modern manifestations of masculinity. Old Bennie’s wife was driven mad by her husband’s old-world, controlling ways. Mattheüs’s lifestyle is an enigma to his homophobic father, and even on Benjamin’s deathbed, it seems like religious convictions will win out over love.
Nothing about this tale of a fractured family is comfortable. The setting pays respect to the complex issues of race and potentially destructive social values. These lives in Cape Town, South Africa are filled with tension and disconnect. Love seems to be incompatible with the old ways, and a younger generation is still having trouble finding their feet in a world of social media and on-demand sexual gratification. There’s never a point at which the heart-rate of Wolf, Wolf drops. In the rare moments the characters find peace, it’s short lived and always feels fragile.
Mattheüs’s story is a slice-of-life tale punctuated by psychological and occasionally physical brutality. The desperation of his porn addiction is painted in graphic, textured detail. The rhythm of his compulsion is depicted with intense clarity borne out of many years of research. It is very troubling to sit through at times, but I found my own experience with Wolf, Wolf was ultimately rewarding. I was left contemplating the cultural narrative of what it means to be a man.
The relationship between this father and son is expertly crafted. Mattheüs doesn’t often have time for his Pa, despite being the only child willing to stay with the old man to the end of his days. Few characters remain entirely sympathetic, but none seem to deserve the slow-burning poison their culture feeds them. Venter’s characters are striking and well-researched entities, and are in no small way influenced by their creator’s own story. His life in South Africa, his passion for cooking, his experience of oppressive homophobia, and even his relationship with pornography have been documented and distilled into a universal, human story of fractured humanity.
Visceral, and at times extremely difficult, Wolf, Wolf is a story of this age and asks us to examine the cultural baggage we each carry.
Wolf, Wolf was originally published in Afrikaans in 2013. It was released in English by Scribe Publications on the 28th of January, 2015 in the UK and Australia. Pop Culture-y received a pre-release copy, courtesy of Scribe Publications.