Sunday, June 13, 2010


Crime fiction can be used to put the case for all sorts of groups who don't usually get a good press.
Political and cultural points can be made within the general narrative, and as long as these are not overdone that can add a lot to the atmosphere of the story.

In his latest thriller Thirteen Hours Deon Meyer is obviously concerned about the future of the Afrikaner in the new 'rainbow nation' of South Africa. He gets his character Piet van der Lingen, an elderly historian with a son in Canada, in whose house Rachel takes shelter tell her about his writing.

'I'm writing a book. I promised myself it is my last. It's about the rebuilding of South Africa after the Boer War. I am writing it for my people, the Afrikaners, so they can see they have been through the same thing as the black people are going through now. They were also oppressed, they were also very poor, landless, beaten down. But through affirmative action they got up again............'
'But the book is also for our black people,' he said. 'The Afrikaners rose up again, an amazing achievement. Then their power corrupted them. The signs are there that the black government is going the same way. I am afraid they will make the same mistakes. It would be such a pity. We are a country of potential, of wonderful, good people who all want only one thing; a future for our children. Here. Not in Canada.'

This is the sort of social commentary and history that makes reading crime fiction so interesting.
Deon Meyer's writing suggests that the Afrikaners were influenced by a deep concern for the future welfare of their country, and this was the major factor that brought about the dismantling of the terrible apartheid system.
Others, perhaps less informed, might might claim it was the sporting boycott that prevented rugby and cricket teams playing against South Africa.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - I'm glad you brought this point up. I think that social commentary (provided it doesn't overpower the plot, characters, etc., of a crime novel) can add much to the story. When I was in South Africa (admittedly, it's been a few years), several people I met had the same concerns you mentioned here. I think it can give the reader a real look at the culture when those things are integrated into a story.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Margot-thanks for your comments.
I have never been to South Africa, but by the number of South African dentists in the UK, and the number of South Africans in the England cricket team, there has been a considerable exodus of the white population.
This exodus includes those who left because they disagreed with the regime during the apartheid years, and more recently those worried about crime and the future.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

The apartheid regime was indeed a terrible and repressive regime. Norman, is this really Deon Meyer's last book or have I misunderstood the quote? It is a bit odd because having seen him talk at the London Book Fair recently, he did not come over as you have depicted him in this quote. Odd. (I read a proof copy of the book and I think this part you have quoted from is not in it - perhaps it is a foreward added in to the final, on-sale version.)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

My fault, Maxine.
This is the character of the old historian Piet van der Lingen, in whose house Rachel shelters, speaking. I will make that clear, sorry I had other things on my mind

12:01 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Deon Meyer in Blood Safari wrote that the blonde Afrikaner receptionist at the posh hotel spoke in English to Lemmer and Emma le Roux even though she knew they were Afrikaans speaking.
At the end of the recent Rugby Super 14 final, between two South African sides, the winning captain Victor Matfield [2007 world cup winner] was being interviewed in ENGLISH by Joel Stransky [1995 world cup winner].
Matfield interrupted Stransky and then addressed the huge crowd in AFRIKAANS. I interpret this to mean the Afrikaner feels their culture and language are in danger of eventual extinction.
But then I may be reading far too much into the books and this incident.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I’m not sure Deon Meyer suggests Afrikaners’ concern brought down the apartheid regime as much as he laments that the black regime is behaving as the white one did in some ways. Caught in the middle: the colored population, whom Piet van der Lingen did not mention.

This is where Roger Smith bears reading and interviews with colored gang members in the Cape Flats bear listening.

P.S. The dentist who performed my root canal last year was South African.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

3:17 PM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Thanks, Norman, that makes more sense to me - that it is the character in the book expressing this view, not Meyer himself. (Also Peter is under the same misapprehension I was, it seems, from his comment).

9:13 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Yes sorry Maxine, I must try and concentrate when I am posting and not get carried away. I have so much on my old worn out mind with three different medical appointments for different conditions this week.

If I get bumped off it could be the chief executive of the NHS, who might have worked out I am costing the country a small fortune to keep alive!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maxine has left a new comment on the post ""A FUTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN"":

... (Also Peter is under the same misapprehension I was, it seems, from his comment)

This gete more confusing than ever. I was not under that misapprehnsion that Thirteen Hours was Deon Meyer's last book.

I may be laboring under a misapprehension if I attribute the character's views to Meyer, but not entirely, I think.

I have come across the view that the black regime is behaving in some ways the way the white one did, particularly with respect to the coloured population.

1:05 PM  

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