"Cold Stone Jug" by Herman Bosman was recommended to me during a trip to South Africa earlier this year. I ended up acquiring the anniversary edition, which finally came a few weeks ago. The book is in the same family as Dostoevsky's "House of the Dead", which similarly fictionalizes a real-life stint behind bars.
Like "House of the Dead", "Cold Stone Jug" describes the day-to-day prison experience. The people, the clothes, the environment, the routines, all are described in intimate detail. Like "House of the Dead", the narrator moves from a death sentence to a fixed term in prison, to release. Even the reliance on the prison infirmary as a release from the monotony of prison life is duplicated.
What makes both works enjoyable is the hopefulness, strained though it is at times. We know that somehow the narrator survives the ordeal, somehow his humor and wit survive. The anniversary edition in particular is enjoyable because it includes prefaces, etc that firmly root the work in the biography of Bosman and in the reality of the penal system he was incarcerated in.
Like any good book, this book left me wanting to read more from and about the author. Further reviews of the author's work to follow...