Still Life, Zoe Wicomb & Ancarani Le Signore Famoso
by Kim Kent
A year ago
“I do not think this is a task I could, or even should, take on,” so begins the novel Still Life by Zoë Wicomb. It is from this place of trepidation we, as readers, enter the precisely crafted house of Wicomb’s fiction. Part historical, part biography, and part mystery, her’s is a house that “bursts at the seams,” full of ghostly voices “clamouring for being, clamouring for control.” While reading, I often found it hard to keep straight exactly whose story it was, which, I believe, is exactly the point. History is never just one story, and the more we try to shovel in the gaps the more stories we realize were already there. For her part, Wicomb seems largely unconcerned with answering questions, as much as she is interested in creating the structure for the questions to be asked: the novel, a place better equipped for “different or equivocal levels of the real” perhaps, but no less dedicated to the digging. Perhaps there is help to be found in a book?
Just as admirable as the structure of Wicomb’s novel, is her acerbic yet opulent and occasionally flowery language. A quality “that brings lasting joy and makes the mouth water.” This month’s wine, the Ancarani Le Signore Famoso, is, at first, a bit like pressing your mouth into “the cupped hand of the fragrant lily,” and then crushing it. But just behind that glittering spritz of perfume, you’ll find a solid place of rocky minerality and fruit “bursting with sunshine and honey and crunch of seeds.” It’s a wine that exists physically, in your glass, even if your self “need not be irrevocably fixed” to this century.
Zoë Wicomb is the author of You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, Playing in the Light, The One That Got Away, and October. In 2013 she was awarded Yale University’s Windham Campbell Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction Writing. She lives in Glasgow, where she is Emeritus Professor at the University of Strathclyde. Still Life is her most reccent novel, published in 2020.
Ancarani is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Once thought to be an extinct varietal, Famosa (Uva Rambela) is indigenous to the region of Emilia-Romga, having gone out of fashion in the early 21st century because it was seen as too floral, and not commercially viable in the North American markets. The winery is all organic and all wines see little to no added sulfur at bottling.