Dagga-smoking womaniser hero of novel too much for some rightwingers
By DAVID MACGREGOR Port Alfred Bureau
AN EPIC Great Trek novel that has a dagga-smoking womaniser – who even has sex across the colour line – for a hero has got some rightwing Afrikaners so hot under the collar that they burned the book.
Days after Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) leader Andries Breytenbach and a group of placard-wielding supporters publicly burnt a copy of Canvas under the Sky, author
Binckes said he still could not understand what all the fuss was about.
“I doubt they even read the book,” the respected tour guide and historian complained.
“If they had, they would appreciate that the book was written out of admiration for the Afrikaner people.”
But Breytenbach is not convinced the novel – which mixes fact and fiction as it charts the mythical Great Trek exploits of hero Rauch Beukes from the Cape Colony to the Battle of Blood River – paints Afrikaners in a good light.
Instead, the rightwing leader sees the novel as yet another attack on the dignity and identity of the under-fire Afrikaans minority.
A statement on the HNP website said the book-burning was a symbolic act to show liberals that the attacks on the Afrikaner nation must end.
“The self-respect of Afrikaners has to be protected and our children must be taught to honour folk heroes.”
The HNP claimed the book was slanderous and eroded their self-respect.
Binckes challenged Breytenbach and his supporters to find a single negative reference in his book to long-dead Great Trek leaders like Piet Retief, Sarel Cilliers, Andries Pretorius and other folk heroes.
Although the Eastern Cape-born author, who went to Mthatha High, admitted his hero was a “bit of a stud” who enjoyed a little bed-hopping and dagga puffing, the 70-year-old raconteur said it was not unusual behaviour – even during the Great Trek.
“Every society has people like this.
“I wrote the book not to be critical of Afrikaners but out of admiration.
“They displayed tremendous bravery, fortitude and persistence on the Great Trek … what they did is one of the most incredible stories in the history of this country.”
Binckes does not have conclusive proof that some Afrikaner trekkers were high on dagga during their cross-country trip in ox-wagons, he says the fact they interacted with indigenous peoples who puffed the weed made it probable.
“They lived among the Khoi, who smoked dagga and had dealings with the Xhosa, who also smoked dagga … and they did not smoke dagga themselves? Come on.”
References to the Voortrekkers’ use of dagga – including recipes – are believed to exist in Rhodes University’s prestigious Corey Library archives.
“I am sorry they only bought one book to burn – they should have done it properly and bought 1000 and built a bonfire,” he quipped.
Binckes ’ “gobsmacked” publisher Kerrin Cocks yesterday said she found the book burning “mildly alarming”.
“The HNP said books like this chip away at the Afrikaner nation – is it that fragile that a book like this can chip away their identity?
Cocks said a non-fiction account of the epic voortrekker migration by
Binckes would be released later this year.
“If Canvas Under the Sky has wrought such anxiety among the ‘Afrikaner people’ then what will
Binckes ’ non-fiction account of the Great Trek, provisionally titled The Great Trek Uncut, due for release in September this year, do?
“Also one would think that a true Afrikaner could make a fire without the help of firelighters.”
2007 saw the launch of the first ever book prize in South Africa to be voted for by the reading public: the Citizen Book Prize, sponsored by The Citizen newspaper in association with 30 Degrees South Publishers.
The response to the competition far exceeded our expectations for its inaugural year and the decision to turn it into an annual event was therefore an easy one. The synopses we received were as diverse as the authors submitting them, with a fascinating array of plots, settings, genres, styles and storylines. However, the winning title, Home Affairs, by Bree O’Mara had an overwhelmingly clear majority win.
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“I laughed out loud, often and as long as I read my way through this cleverly constructed silliness, enjoying it thoroughly.”
– Alan Swerdlow
30 Degrees South is pleased to invite you to the launch of Home Affairs, the winner of the inaugural Citizen Book Prize, as well as the formal announcement of the start of the 2008 competition.
In the Underberg village of Hillman, population 237 (it would have been 238 except the mayor, Dewaldt “Pompies” van Niekerk, was not at home at the time of the last census; he was apparently seeing to some rather pressing matters concerning one of the town’s citizens that evening), something has disturbed the peace in the hilltop hamlet.
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You are invited to the launch of 30° South Publishers new autobiographical title:
The Kevin Woods Story—Under the Shadow of Mugabe’s Gallows
Kevin worked as a double agent for the South African apartheid government and Robert Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organization in the 80s. He was incarcerated in the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison (Harare ) for 20 years, five of which were spent naked on death row.
His release was pleaded to Mugabe by none other than Nelson Mandela in the 90s but this fell on deaf ears. Finally, a year ago he received a presidential pardon. Kevin now lives in South Africa and has launched a well-received career in motivational speaking. This is his story.
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30 Degrees South Publishers is pleased to announced that the winning title in The Citizen Book Prize inaugural competition is Home Affairs, by Bree O’Mara.
Here’s how The Citizen reported the story last week: Meet Our Winner!
Established in association with 30 Degrees South, The Citizen Book Prize was for first-time authors who had written novels with a South African theme – and the winner was chosen by The Citizen‘s and other readers through an easy, interactive and fun online voting system.
A short synopsis of the winning title and author biography follows:
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Announcing the R10 000 inaugural Citizen Book Prize for unpublished fiction – the first book prize to be judged by the SA reading public!
Established in association with 30 Degrees South Publishers, the Citizen Book Prize is for first-time authors who have written novels with a South African theme – and the winner will be chosen by Citizen newspaper and other readers through our easy, interactive and fun online voting system.
The prize includes R10 000, publication of the novel by 30 Degrees South Publishers (in time for Christmas 2007!), and guaranteed entry into the 2008 Exclusive Books Hombru promotion. Click the image for the competition rules, and visit 30 Degrees South home for more information. But before you do that, read on for the details of how to vote!
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Welcome to the 30° South Publishers’ blog.
In keeping with our vision and mission we aim to become internationally renowned as the leader in the field of books on Africa, and to reach national, regional and international readers by publishing top-quality books, through the print and electronic media, that are:
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