Drama of sixties SA

2010-07-14 00:00


A Case of Knives

Julian de Wette


THIS is a clever, tightly choreographed and multilayered tale involving a cross-section of South Africans living through historic times.

The story is told with sophisticated understatement by its poet author who shows time and again that he understands the power of quiet words to represent dramatic deeds.

Set in South Africa in the sixties, the story revolves around the family and the multiracial band of servants living in one of the homes of the South African Prime Minister, Dr Schoon, the former minister of native affairs. In between visits to the powerful herbalist “Khotso” in Comfimvaba, the PM is devising plans to sever links with the British Crown to make South Africa a republic, and to usher in the homeland system.

Even readers with just a tenuous grasp of South African history will enjoy the interplay between fiction and reality that this book offers and its clever dissection of the idiocies of apartheid legislation and its impact on individual lives.

One such idiocy is crystallised in the story of the Schoon family’s white butler who endures a mighty struggle to reverse his application to be classified as Coloured — a move he made voluntarily so as to be able to marry the Coloured nanny. Unrequited love, humiliation and frustration combine to create an explosive mix of emotions which are expressed in the end with fatal consequences.

This is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of good fiction to refine our senses, climb into the hearts and minds of others, and, ultimately to deepen our understanding of society, both past and present.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.