The Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures

By Steven Pile

(Faber & Faber, R194.95)

There is very little to say about this book, except that it is something you would buy if you had everything else in the bookstore.

There are hundreds of books written about outstanding achievements – this is the complete opposite – as the author says, “doing something badly requires vision, originality and genius”.

As the title suggests, the author has collected records and information from around the world on the most awful and catastrophic failures.

South Africa has it’s fair share, too.

Under the heading The Least Successful Safe Sex Campaign, most people will remember when condoms were handed out in conjunction with the government, by the Society for Family Health, in Joburg, during 1999.

Pamphlets on safe sex were distributed along with a free condom – stapled to the pamphlet – therefore perforating the condom!

And The Least Successful Witchcraft details a South African witchdoctor offering a specialist free service to free people embroiled in court cases. It involved two chickens, chanting spells and waving the poultry at the court building, followed by drinking a liquid containing animal entrails and spitting it out on to the court doors.

He was subsequently arrested, his clients received 100 years between them and the chickens were confiscated.

It’s a fairly amusing read and causes a chuckle now and again. – Elaine Ash