Observations of post-apartheid Pretoria

2008-02-01 00:00

This first novel by Heinrich Troost will keep you on your toes and, depending on how you view such matters, will impress with its wide-ranging references to literature, history, popular culture and music.

There's a long list of references at the back of the book which provides the official sources of these fragments, which makes for interesting reading in itself and will test your powers of observation, as well as your general knowledge.

Don't read this book if you value a strong narrative above everything else in a book. At times, I found the plot a little diffuse, but at all times it was delivered with intelligence, wackiness and frequently with wit. Through his protagonist, Harry van As, Troost's observations of post-apartheid Pretoria are acute and many of his turns of phrase deserve a rereading.

As a legal consultant at an insurance company Van As has one of the most boring jobs on earth: as he puts it, he's a “minor functionary in the big global curtsy”. But it's the way his mind works that fascinates as he weaves his way through a number of quintessentially South African social scenarios and relationships, the pain of the past always close to the surface.

I liked this book for its energy and cleverness. I also liked it for its distinct “South Africanness” which escapes the parochial. The title Plot Loss is apt on many levels, symbolic and structural. These nuances become increasingly obvious towards the end of the book when things take an unexpected turn. (You'll see what I mean when you read it.)

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