The lost world of the Karoo

Julia Blackburn’s Dreaming the Karoo is the diary of a very bad year: from March 2020, when a research trip to South Africa was cut short by the sudden emergence of Covid, to March last year. Blackburn had gone to Cape Town, and then into the dry interior, the Karoo, to explore the lost world she had found in an obscure volume that she had once chanced upon in the London Library. Specimens of Bushman Folklore, by the linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd, published in 1911, contains the texts – life stories, origin myths, tales about animals, accounts of murders of women and children by the encroaching colonists –