Cokcraco reviews: ‘a genre-bender’; ‘fantastic read’; ‘multi-layered literary journey’

“Brilliantly entertaining.”

Emma on

Cokcraco is so flooded with satire and subversion, it is really difficult to know where to start. It feels like a novel that is in constant tension with itself, always trying to find a way to reconcile its experimental nature with its adherence to generic narrative structure. In straining under the weight of its own ambitious ideas, some of its flaws become more obvious, but ironically these flaws serve to reinforce just how excellent this novel becomes when it successfully balances its internal tension.
…  [T]his is an impressive novel, which I have no hesitations in recommending.”

Ben Eldridge on

Cokcraco … is a clever and playful novel that resurrects Kafka’s motif of the cockroach. … The cockroach is used to expose the gap between seemingly antithetical standpoints: creator and critic, colonised and coloniser, perception and reality. The innovation of this work resides not only in the multiplicity of the voices presented but also the structure of the novel.

… Williams’ novel is at once a second person narrative, an epistolary fiction, a literary dissertation (complete with footnotes and a list of references) and a postmodern treatise exposing false binaries. Each chapter begins with an encyclopaedic entry chronicling a specific type of cockroach, revealing their characteristics and pervasiveness. These entries serve as a frame for the chapter, mirroring the difficulty of reversing preconceived perspective and stereotypes. The satirical use of the travel guide aptly named Crowded Planetpositions Timothy as the ‘foreign other’ attempting to navigate the South African space. Timothy’s reliance on this information creates comical scenes of misinterpretation … While the mystery of Sizwe Bantu’s identity is the main storyline of the book, the multi-layered approach introduces key sub-plots that are intriguing. I was particularly enthralled with Timothy’s past relationship with ‘M’, evoked through a smattering of unsent letters. …
These elements, coupled with the inter-textual allusions to various African writers and Williams’ stylistic decisions, serve to make the novel enjoyable to read. As a multi-vocal epistolary novel, this story will appeal to a wide readership: those interested in a particularly well-crafted post-modern story of discovery as well as those ‘kritiks’ who enjoy unpacking the significance in the portrayal of the constructed self.”

Gina Brock, Social Alternatives 32.4 (2013) 52

Shelley Davidow

Cokcraco is a brilliantly witty mystery set in South Africa. Naive Australian academic Timothy Turner sets off on a quest to find the mysterious African writer (the Greatest African Writer of All Times) Sizwe Bantu, who has never been seen in person, but whose works have attracted a cult following, especially his world-famous ‘cockroach stories.’ His stunning works (Bantu’s that is) pepper the novel throughout, so that the reader is lead on a multi-layered literary journey which is at once serious and playful, and which invites us to contemplate the nature of creativity and inspiration. This is a novel to be read again and again…and again.


Jo Sparrow

Oh, how I love to read a book that is surprising and truly entertaining! Cokcraco nails the politics and ‘kontradicshuns’ of the academic and literary worlds beautifully. Funny and witty and cleverly written…Fantastic read.



It’s very rare to come across a new book this funny, this smart, this artfully written and structured–set in South Africa, set in back-stabbing academia, set in the mind of a paranoid and bumbling newcomer on the scene–the novel works on every level. Highly recommended.


“Ever since Don Quixote, novelists have been taking the piss. In Cokcraco, Paul Williams does exactly that, turning the full beam of his satirical spotlight on the civil wars of university departments, the cultish bunkum of literary theory, the self-obsession of creative writing courses and the self-flagellation of white liberal guilt. In the process, Mr Williams also succeeds in poking fun at the conventions of the novel itself. Cokcraco reads like a collage of what one of its pompous academics would probably call discourses – pseudo-scholarly footnotes, pseudo-scientific articles, pseudo-poems, pseudo-stories and a cod travel guide memorably called Crowded Planet. This is a novel that does its best to defy classification. This is a novel that sets out to be a real genre-bender – it’s at once a cross-cultural comedy of manners, a campus comedy transplanted to post-apartheid South Africa and a sly philosophical whodunit.

So there is some serious fun to be had here, but with something darkly serious lurking under the lush tropical surface. In this country of gated communities and ubiquitous Kalashnikovs, violence never seems far away. The novel’s central character, an expat Australian academic called Timothy Turner, has braved the post-apartheid chaos and come to KwaZulu on a quest to find a renowned local writer whose diverse literary output celebrates the cockroach as an emblem of both oppression and resistance. This quest turns out to be a lot more than the ingenuous Dr Turner bargained for. By his side, the reader will encounter cockroaches in every incarnation under the sun – as scientific marvel (surviving nuclear war and all that), as cultural marker (the rich don’t like them), as interior decoration (glued onto furniture as a kind of ornamental strip), as embodiment of the frustrated male ego (well, we all know who Gregor Samsa is), as narrative voice, as literary inspiration. The result is a strange, funny, intelligent and quite unforgettable novel. What Flaubert did for parrots, Mr Williams has done for the humble roach.”
– Jeffrey Poacher, September 2013


“Paul A. Williams has written a novel that provides every conceivable narrative pleasure.  Cokcraco is a brilliant satire of letters set against the backdrop of post-colonial Africa. I cannot praise this novel highly enough.” – Elizabeth McKenzie, author of Stop That Girl!

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