Singer, songwriter, poet and writer Koos Kombuis is as much a national treasure as biltong and braaivleis – but what does he have to do with sushi?
The artist first rose to fame in the late eighties as part of an alternative, anti-establishment Afrikaans music movement with the likes of Johannes Kerkorrel and Bernoldus Niemand. But it may come as a surprise that the Voëlvry-icon not only (still!) has a cult following among Afrikaans-speakers, but also among South Africans from all walks of life and even internationally, especially in the Netherlands where he regularly performs. Part of this artist’s success story is his ability to re-invent himself without losing his essence; thus, walking the tightrope of staying relevant and authentic.
Kombuis recently branched out, trying his hand at an English youth novel, Hubert the useless unicorn, that was extremely well-received by readers of all ages. The novel (also published in Afrikaans as Eben die ellendige eenhoring) appeared under the name Joe Kitchen. It was the first time that the artist used this pseudonym and when asked about the decision of using a different name, he replied that “Koos is not dead, but Joe Kitchen provides an outlet for another aspect of my artistic persona”. The name Kombuis simply did not roll comfortably off the tongues of English and international fans, but Joe Kitchen immediately hit a chord with them.
And now English and Afrikaans fans alike will be delighted to learn of his latest novel, which he describes a “burlesque fantasy”. Sushi with Hitler is a delightful satire written in Douglas Adams style, that pokes fun at everything but the kitchen sink. The author describes the book as “completely irrelevant” and to my mind its beauty lies precisely in the escape it offers from everyday problems (no loadshedding here!). But be warned, it is not a book for the fainthearted: it questions the status quo on just about everything and none of society’s holy cows remain untouched.
If you dare to read it, be prepared to be treated to a myriad of inter-textual jokes, involving everything from classical literature to pop music. However, even if some of the references are lost on you, don’t worry, the story in itself is just as hilarious and enjoyable. Many people may have many opinions about this book, but one thing is clear: Kitchen had fun making Sushi with Hitler. And, according to Kombuis/Kitchen that is just the recipe for South Africans to thrive: a dash of irrelevance, a deep questioning of everything around us, and some serious fun.