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Ernst Havemann.
Winlaw, BC: Polestar Press, 1987.
134pp., paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-91959141-8. CIP.

Subject Heading:
South Africa-Fiction.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Esther Hutchison.

Volume 17 Number 6
1989 November

Set in South Africa, this collection of eleven short stories gives immediate and personal insight into the reality of living under apartheid. Each story preserves its moment with laser-sharp clarity, leaving enduring after-images.

Even when there is a meeting and understanding between white and black, the moment is undermined by fear and suspicion. A white soldier and his black prisoner share cigarettes and confidences through the night. In the morning the soldier frees the prisoner, but watches through his gun sight until he has disappeared. A white liberal is coerced into reluctantly assisting in the rescue of a black prisoner whose release is attended by a vigilante gang. That the rescue attempt is not necessary does little to decrease the liberal's unease at being included or the ironic twist that results in his being credited with the actual rescue.

In the title story, a young man who has spent much of his childhood with Zulus on his father's farm observes a ceremony and assists one of the elders. Later he is terrified by a group of the young men, who attack his cornfield in mock battle and claim him as a member of their group. But as in all the encounters, the understanding fades and by their next meeting the distance has returned.

Author Ernst Havemann spent the first sixty years of his life in South Africa. Although of Afrikaner descent, his first language was Zulu, and many of his boyhood friends were black. Later he worked in native administration, before another career took him over much of the world. The deep understanding gained during his early years is obvious in these stories.

Many of these stories have appeared elsewhere, and they have won several well-deserved fiction awards. This collection appeared in hardcover in 1987. If you missed it then, don't miss it now.

Highly recommended.

Esther Hutchison, Spruce Grove Public Library, Spruce Grove, AB.
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