Sharmilla, and Other Portraits

La ragazza che parlava Zulu e altri raccontiPublished by Jacana (South Africa), 2010 and Historica (Italy), 2019

Police question a Cape Town female escort about the whereabouts of her client, the mysterious and impassioned Mr C. An elderly writer reflects on her experiences of the struggle and the complicated allegiances it has brought her. A father works together with his daughter to bring, as he thinks, Bach to Africa.

Sharmilla, and Other Portraits offers a dynamic series of insights into a South Africa in edgy transition. Its vivid and varied narratives follow a range of displaced children, mothers, and domestic workers, a stadium manager, an AIDS patient and an office secretary, as they look in on the new and changing situation. In Sharmilla, and Other Portraits Boehmer distils a compelling cycle of radiant snapshots detailing lived lives and their interwoven and secret undercurrents.

Elleke Boehmer brings to her stories two qualities that all too often are mutually exclusive: the lucidity of her intelligence and the passion of her engagement.

—André Brink


Perceptive, new stories.

—Caryl Phillips


The accurate simplicity is astonishing, especially because it is present in all her portraits.

—Tshepo Tshabalala, Star Tonight