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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Book launch: Change – Organising Tomorrow, Today by Jay Naidoo in conversation with Louisa Zondo

Penguin Random House and Love Books invite you to the launch of Change by Jay Naidoo. He will be in conversation with Louisa Zondo.

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Biografie oor André P Brink deur Leon de Kock op pad

’n Biografie oor die ontslape skrywer André P Brink deur Leon de Kock gaan in 2018 deur Umuzi uitgegee word.

De Kock doseer tans in die VSA aan die Johns Hopkins Universiteit in Baltimore en is ’n Suid-Afrikaanse skrywer, vertaler en akademikus wat onlangs Brink se briewe aan die digter Ingrid Jonker vir die boek Vlam in die Sneeu vertaal het.

Brink is op 6 Februarie 2015 oorlede op ’n vlug terug na Suid-Afrika nadat hy deur ’n Belgiese universiteit met ’n eredoktorsgraad vereer is.

De Kock se mees onlangse boek, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality, and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing, word later vanjaar vrygestel. Hy is ook die outeur of mede-outeur van South Africa in the Global Imaginary en Civilising Barbarians: Missionary Narrative and African Textual Response in Nineteenth-Century South Africa.

Pryse wat aan De Kock toegeken is, sluit in: die Pringle-prys vir digkuns, die SALA-toekenning vir literêre vertaling, die Pringle-prys vir ’n akademiese artikel en ’n prys vir uitmuntende vertaling, toegeken deur die Suid-Afrikaanse Vertalersinstituut, vir sy vertaling van Marlene van Niekerk se Triomf.

Oor die biografie, sê De Kock: “Die stories rondom Brink se romans is in die breë sosiopolitieke verhale – sages oor sensuur, weerstand teen apartheid, die Sestigers, teistering en, veel later, teleurstelling met wat ná apartheid gevolg het. Dit het te make met hoe onenigheid onder Afrikaners tydens ’n beduidende tydperk in die geskiedenis in Brink se romans vorm aanneem en hoe sy romans oor ses dekades met Suid-Afrikaanse omstandighede in gesprek tree.”

Brink se weduwee, Karina Brink, het die publikasie gemagtig en sal aan die biograaf toegang tot Brink se persoonlike dokumente verleen.

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Don’t miss the Johannesburg launch of Letters of Stone by Steven Robins at WiSER

Letters of StoneWiSER and Penguin Random House would like to invite you to the launch of Letters of Stone by Steven Robins.

Part memoir, and part history of the Holocaust and the long shadow it still casts, Robins’s new book asks important questions about guilt, belonging, and our complicated relationship with the past.

Read: “Exceptional and unforgettable” – Antjie Krog on Letters of Stone, the new book by Steven Robins

Robins will be at the WiSER Seminar Room on Wednesday, 24 February to launch this “exceptional and unforgettable” book. He will be in conversation with Terry Kurgan, Catherine Burns and Victoria J Collis-Buthelezi.

The event starts at 6 PM and refreshments will be served.

See you there!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 24 February 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room
    6th Floor Richard Ward Building
    East Campus
    Wits University
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Panel: Steven Robins, Terry Kurgan, Catherine Burns and Victoria J Collis-Buthelezi
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP:


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Join Marianne Thamm and Steven Robins for the launch of Letters of Stone at The Book Lounge

Launch of Letters of Stone

Letters of StonePenguin and The Book Lounge would like to invite you to join them for the launch of Letters of Stone by Steven Robins.

This new book is a moving reconstruction of a family trapped in an increasingly terrifying and deadly Nazi state. Set in southern Africa, Berlin, Riga and Auschwitz, it follows Robins as he traces his father’s family who were killed in the Holocaust.

Read: “Exceptional and unforgettable” – Antjie Krog on Letters of Stone, the new book by Steven Robins

The launch takes place at The Book Lounge on Tuesday, 9 February at 5:30 for 6 PM. Robins will be chatting to Marianne Thamm about his exceptional book.

See you there!
Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 9 February 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge
    71 Roeland Street
    Cape Town | Map
  • Interviewer: Marianne Thamm
  • Refreshments will be served
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge,, 021 462 2425


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“Exceptional and unforgettable” – Antjie Krog on Letters of Stone, the new book by Steven Robins

Letters of StonePenguin Random House South Africa is proud to present Letters of Stone by Steven Robins:

“This is a most exceptional and unforgettable book” – Antjie Krog

As a young boy growing up in Port Elizabeth in the 1960s and 1970s, Steven Robins was haunted by an old photograph of three unknown women on a table in the dining room. Only later did he learn that the women were his father’s mother and sisters, photographed in Berlin in 1937, before they were killed in the Holocaust. Steven’s father, who had fled Nazi Germany before it was too late, never spoke about the fate of his family who remained there.

Robins became obsessed with finding out what happened to the women, but had little to go on. In time he stumbled on official facts in museums in Washington DC and Berlin, and later he discovered almost 100 letters sent to his father and uncle from the family in Berlin during the Nazi terror. The women in the photograph could now tell their story.

Letters of Stone tracks Steven’s journey of discovery about the lives and fates of the Robinski family, in southern Africa, Berlin, Riga and Auschwitz. It also explores the worldwide rise of eugenics and racial science before the war, which justified the murder of Jews by the Nazis and caused South Africa and other countries to close their doors to Jewish refugees.

Most of all, this book is a poignant reconstruction of a family trapped in an increasingly terrifying and deadly Nazi state, and of the immense pressure on Robins’ father in faraway South Africa, which forced him to retreat into silence.

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“I’m Malangana.” – Read an Excerpt from Zakes Mda’s Latest Novel, Little Suns

Cover reveal: Little Suns

Little SunsUmuzi has shared an excerpt from the new novel from Zakes Mda, Little Suns.

Mda’s latest work is a love story set in the early 1900s, written against the backdrop of true events surrounding the assassination of colonial magistrate Hamilton Hope in the Eastern Cape.

Possibly most famous for the novels Ways of Dying and The Heart of Redness, Mda was the winner of the 2014/2015 University of Johannesburg Prize and is longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award – described as “the world’s richest literary award” – for his novel Rachel’s Blue.

Little Suns hit the shelves in December, so if you have not had a chance to grab a copy yet, read an excerpt and order it online below:

* * * * *

Gcazimbane was full of tricks. He had this habit of taking off at full gallop, neighing and swishing his tail from side to side in mock irritation. Malangana knew that it was all part of a game. He just wanted his groom to run after him. And then look for him when he disappeared down the gorge. Gcazimbane enjoyed playing hide-and-seek. Malangana, on the other hand, was exercised by this kind of behaviour because it was the cause of Mhlontlo’s annoyance with him whenever the king needed his horse and Malangana could not locate it.
           ‘You can’t even look after one horse,’ Mhlontlo would say. ‘The white man’s jail has made you stupid.’
           Malangana should have been angry, walking the wilds looking for the horse. But who could stay mad at a fine Boerperd specimen like Gcazimbane for any length of time? He was hiding somewhere among the boulders down the hill. And the bounder did it on purpose, just to cause a problem for him.
           He whistled as if calling a dog. Gcazimbane sometimes responded by whinnying back when he thought it was time to be found. He didn’t this time. Malangana did not know what direction to take so he wandered aimlessly.
           Suddenly the air was filled with a strange combination of whirling and chirping and buzzing and humming sounds. The sky had been blue all along with nary a cloud, but without warning Malangana was walking in the middle of deep shadows. Above him was a dark cloud of swarming locusts flying in the direction of Sulenkama.
           Malangana marvelled at their stupidity – invading a month before the planting season instead of waiting till the fields were green. Their folly saved the land of amaMpondomise from famine.
           Unless they were the harbingers.
           At that moment Gcazimbane came cantering up. He was neighing with his head held high in search of his groom. He was obviously agitated by the sudden darkness and his tail was swishing violently from side to side.
           Malangana burst out into a belly laugh while Gcazimbane nuzzled and blew.
           ‘I thank the locusts for routing you out, you silly nag,’ said Malangana.
           He began to walk back to the village with the horse following him.
           On the outskirts of Sulenkama children, maidens and young women were spread all over the veld. Malangana knew at once that the locusts had landed and were feeding voraciously on the grass. When he got closer he saw that the people all had containers of different sorts, ranging from clay pots and grass baskets to enamel basins. They were picking up the locusts that had formed a thick carpet on the grass, and were stuffing them into the containers. They were all singing and beating rhythmically on their containers. The children were laughing and giggling and prancing about on the hapless creatures. In the evening the whole of Sulenkama would be feasting on stiff sorghum porridge and savouring fried or grilled locusts.
           Locusts were destructive in the fields. But they got their comeuppance by becoming a juicy meal for the day and a sun-dried snack for weeks to follow.
           Malangana could see Mthwakazi among the locust gatherers. He made a point of passing her way, though it was a detour from his path to the Great Place. He stopped next to her and gave her a mischievous look, folding his arms across his rippling bare chest and leaning against Gcazimbane’s head. Mthwakazi surveyed him from toe to head and then back to toe, one arm akimbo and the other holding a basketful of locusts. She looked cheeky in her tanned-hide back-and-front apron, a single-strand ostrich eggshell necklace gleaming on her bare chest.
           He suspected she was impressed with his European trousers, though the turn-ups were frayed – most young men in his age-group wore loin cloths. He knew immediately that she was different from other girls. An ordinary Mpondomise maiden would have cast her eyes on the ground shyly. But this Mthwakazi was staring back at him. And she was giggling to boot, as if there was something funny about him.
           ‘I’ve seen you before,’ said Malangana. ‘You’re the Mthwakazi who nurses our queen.’
           ‘I know you too,’ said Mthwakazi. ‘You’re the man whose buttocks were shredded by the white man’s kati.’
           He chuckled. That was his claim to fame, the fact that he was lashed by Hamilton Hope with a kati or cat-o’-nine-tails. And the magistrate had done it himself, personally, instead of assigning the task to a policeman. After that he had summarily sentenced him to imprisonment. Malangana had served almost one year in prison in Qumbu. He had only just been released, and yet his reputation had spread. He knew that women pointed at him when he passed and whispered to one another: ‘That’s the man who was in a white man’s prison.’ Part of the fascination was that the whole concept of locking up transgressors in a building was new to the amaMpondomise, and Malangana had been among the first inmates of the new jail in town. The proud pioneers, so to speak.
           Gcazimbane nuzzled him at the back, pushing him until he staggered. He wanted them to leave, but Malangana resisted.
           ‘I do have a name though,’ he said. ‘I’m Malangana.’
           ‘Little Suns? Ha! Your name means Little Suns!’ she said in the language of the abaThwa which he did not understand.
           ‘What did you say?’
‘There’s only one sun,’ she said in perfect isiMpondomise.
           ‘Uyabhanxa,’ he said. That’s silly. ‘There’s a new sun every day. It rises in the east and crawls across the sky until it hides itself behind those mountains in the west.’
           ‘It is the same sun, you silly man!’
           ‘Silly Mthwa girl, did you see it go back?’
           She did not.
           ‘There are many suns,’ he said, driving home his victory. ‘Each day has its own. Some are small, some are big. I’m named after the small ones.’

* * * * *

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The Faceless Puppeteer Behind the Boipatong Massacre: Read an Excerpt from Gruesome by De Wet Potgieter

GruesomeGrusaamDe Wet Potgieter’s latest book Gruesome: The crimes and criminals that shook South Africa (also available in Afrikaans as Grusaam: Die dade en geweldenaars wat Suid-Afrika geruk het) follows the trail of a number of criminals in South Africa’s history.

The investigative journalist started his career in 1975 and has worked at numerous newspapers, including the Sunday Times and Rapport.

In Gruesome, Potgieter shares stories that the public has never known, for instance the reason why André Stander become a bankrobber, how Gert van Rooyen’s victims are connected to a human-trafficking network and the events that really happened on the night of 17 June, 1992 in Boipatong.

Read the extract about the Boipatong massacre:


* * * * *


Chapter 2
Boipatong, Trust Feed and the Third Force


In 1994, shortly after South Africa’s first democratic elections of 1994, two AK-47 rifles were shoved into Sergeant ‘Pedro’ Peens’s hands, accompanied by the command ‘Get rid of these very quickly, or we shall hang’.

     With the two ‘hot’ rifles in the boot of his police car, Peens was panic-struck. He knew full well he had dynamite in his hands. He pondered what to do with the weapons, his stomach tied up in knots while he paced restlessly trying to work out a strategy. He realised he was on his own now. He dared not ask for advice, as the politics in South Africa had become so dangerously fluid that no one could be trusted any longer.

     Colonel Eugene de Kock, commander of the state-sanctioned death squads at Vlakplaas, had already been incarcerated and was awaiting trial, while policemen and members of the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), the notorious covert unit operating under the South African Defence Force (SADF), had begun to sing like canaries backstage in an effort to save their own skins.

     The dark truths had begun to come to light, and Peens had no idea when it would be his turn in the spotlight. He knew that those two rifles were the key to a horrible, bloody truth that would cost him and many other people dearly should they end up in the wrong hands. He had to act quickly …

The beginning

Early in 1992, during one of the bloodiest periods in South African history, the multiparty constitutional negotiations of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) were under way, with the National Party (NP) government and the African National Congress (ANC) as the principal players.

     Prior to the formation of Codesa, the South African president, FW de Klerk, had been trying to put out fires related to the ANC’s continuing allegations of a ‘third force’ at work systematically mowing down the organisation’s supporters in the townships. Gangs armed with AK-47s, pangas and knives were waging a reign of terror on suburban trains. During morning and evening peak times they moved from carriage to carriage, assaulting anyone who looked like an ANC supporter and sometimes throwing them off the moving trains.

     De Klerk was also worried about the ANC alliance’s rolling mass action, which had started off with aggressive demonstrations. Sit-down strikes, boycotts and occupying government buildings would follow, all aimed at destabilising the government.

     The ANC president, Nelson Mandela, accused De Klerk’s government of being behind the faceless third force allegedly responsible for the violence on the trains and in the townships. The growing crisis was driving a wedge between the two high-profile political leaders. After Mandela had walked out of Victor Verster Prison in Paarl a free man after 27 years of imprisonment, he and De Klerk initially had a good relationship. But the mass action, violence and third-force allegations were complicating matters. At the opening of Codesa 1, on 20 December 1991, the two leaders had engaged in a spectacular public quarrel on these issues. Their relationship would never fully recover after that.

     Nevertheless, Codesa carried on – and so did the violence. While the negotiations at Kempton Park in the first half of 1992 were at a delicate stage, South Africa was burning. The country was on a knife-edge and people feared that the ongoing violence would quash peace efforts.

     De Klerk did not have the faintest idea of his security forces’ hand in the bloody violence, and the generals laughed in their sleeves at their president’s dilemma, exploiting his uncertainty and spurring on the politics of blood and violence. Actually, it was just a continuation of the old NP trick: divide and rule.


In the winter of 1992, the Boipatong massacre drove the country to the brink of civil war. Years later, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings, the deputy chairperson, Dr Alex Boraine, described the night of 17 June 1992 as ‘one of the darkest days in the history of South Africa’.

     A heavily armed band of Zulus, or impis, allied to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) sneaked into Boipatong that night. Their actions elevated the obscure black township between Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging to international newspaper front pages and television screens the next day. The fear-stricken residents were, like numerous others in black townships across the country, caught up in the bloody power struggle between the ANC and the IFP, which, in those days, was primarily a Zulu organisation. That night, in the biting winter cold, the people of Boipatong lay in their beds, listening to the invaders entering the dusty streets.

     ‘We were already asleep when we heard them walking and talking in Zulu,’ Dinah Manyika later testified before the TRC. ‘I lay listening as they walked through the streets shouting, “Wake up, you dogs!” The next moment they kicked open my door and one of them said, “Here’s a bitch, kill her!”’ Terrified, Dinah fled outside. When she returned half an hour later, she found her two brothers hiding under the bed. A neighbour took her to where her 47-year-old mother had been hacked to death with pangas. Manyika’s father later died in hospital as a result of his wounds.

     Klaas Mathope recounted how he had fled into the bushes when he heard the Zulus approaching. He sat shaking in the dark, listening to people being hacked to death in the squatter shacks. He also heard someone saying, ‘Zulu, catch him!’ in Afrikaans. When it became quiet, he went back and found his wife’s body. She had numerous gunshot wounds and her intestines were lying outside her ripped stomach. His son, Aaron, had also been killed, while his daughter-in-law later died in hospital.

     Jane Mbongo, a young mother who hid under the bed with her two-year-old daughter, Victoria, had to listen to her husband being stabbed until he died. Afterwards the attackers continued sticking assegais through the bed until Jane crept out. She clutched her child, looking the men in the eye, and then watched as an assegai was driven through the little girl’s body. They stabbed Jane too, and chopped her fingers off.

     In that night’s gruesome massacre, the attackers went from home to home in Boipatong, mowing people down indiscriminately. Some survivors later maintained that white policemen had assisted the Zulus by transporting them there in Casspirs. The final death toll was 45, with many more wounded.

     And somewhere behind all these atrocities sat a faceless master brain. Three days later an irate Mandela suspended all Codesa negotiations with the government, accusing De Klerk of sitting with his arms folded while ANC supporters were killed in numbers. The negotiations were resumed only much later, after De Klerk had undertaken to control the security forces.

     Shortly afterwards the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 765, demanding an incisive investigation into the events and requiring that the offenders be brought to justice.

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"Stay Well with All Our Secrets" – Ingrid Jonker's Last Letter to Andre Brink in Flame in the Snow

Flame in the SnowVlam in die sneeuKarin Schimke recently wrote an article for Marie Claire about Flame in the Snow: The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker.

Schimke en Leon de Kock were responsible for the translation of the collection of letters, which is also available in Afrikaans as Vlam in die sneeu: Die liefdesbriewe van André P Brink en Ingrid Jonker.

In the article, Schimke writes tenderly about Jonker’s suicide and how Brink responded to the public scrutiny and gossip. She also shares a line from the last letter Jonker ever wrote to Brink.

Schimke spoke to the people who were involved in helping these precious love letters see the light: Umuzi publisher Fourie Botha and Brink’s widow Karina Magdalena Szczurek, as well as to Willie Burger, professor of Afrikaans at the University of Pretoria, who said:

“The letters are a knock-out blow to the idea that she was a bubble-headed blonde with a few good verses. She displays clear political thinking, good literary discernment and sharp insight. She had a particularly difficult life. Towards the end of the correspondence it becomes clear that her loneliness has become more desperate, while he slowly withdraws. It’s the stuff good novels are made of.”

Read the article for more about Jonker’s last days and her final letter to Brink:

In the weeks before her suicide, friends noticed a change in Ingrid. Where once she had taken enormous pride in her looks, she had become sloppy. Her cheerfulness had receded into an almost constant bleakness. An extremely difficult childhood and adult life, and a possibly genetic predisposition towards depression and anxiety, had caught up with her. She was poor, had worked in soul-destroying bureaucratic jobs and could not find safety and succour from the maddening world with any of the men who loved her. It is clear, from all the literature available – and now these letters – that the talented poet Ingrid Jonker had run out of the emotional resources required to go on with life.

Her last letter to André ends: ‘Stay well with all our secrets…’

For extracts in English and Afrikaans, quotes from the contributors, articles and more news about Flame in the Snow, visit the website



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Find Out More About Cecil John Rhodes’ Life and Plans at the Launch of The Secret Society in Cape Town

Invitation to the launch of The Secret Society

The Secret Society: Cecil John Rhodes's Plan for a New World OrderThe Book Lounge and Penguin take great pleasure in inviting you to the launch of The Secret Society: Cecil John Rhodes’s Plan for a New World Order by Robin Brown.

Rhodes made a fortune from diamonds and gold, became prime minister of the Cape, and had a country named after him, but his ambitions were far greater than that. When he was still in his 20s, after a meeting with General Gordon of Khartoum, Rhodes set up a Secret Society with the aim of establishing a new world order. The society, disciplined on Jesuit-style rules, became Rhodes’s lifelong obsession, and after his death it lived on and grew under the leadership of his executor, Lord Alfred Milner.

Renowned historian Bill Nasson will be chatting to Brown on Thursday, 12 November about this fascinating history, which plays a major role in the shaping of South Africa and has been a topic of conversation for the greater part of 2015 (#RhodesMustFall). The event starts at 5:30 for 6 PM.

Don’t miss this!

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 12 November 2015
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge
    71 Roeland Street
    Cape Town | Map
  • Interviewer: Bill Nasson
  • Refreshments: Wine and snacks
  • RSVP:, 021 462 2425

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Shedding Light on Cecil John Rhodes’ Lifelong Obsession: The Secret Society by Robin Brown

The Secret SocietyNew from Penguin Books, The Secret Society: Cecil John Rhodes’s Plan for a New World Order by Robin Brown:

Cecil John Rhodes made a fortune from diamonds and gold, became prime minister of the Cape, and had a country named after him, but his ambitions were far greater than that. When he was still in his 20s, after a meeting with General Gordon of Khartoum, Rhodes set up a Secret Society with the aim of establishing a new world order. The society, disciplined on Jesuit-style rules, became Rhodes’s lifelong obsession, and after his death it lived on and grew under the leadership of his executor, Lord Alfred Milner.

The society played a key role in the governance of Britain during the Great War and the peace terms to end it, and it was linked to appeasement initiatives involving Hitler, the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson before World War II. Echoes of the Secret Society survive in different guises to this day, including the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Rhodes Scholarships.

In The Secret Society, Robin Brown unpacks this astonishing and largely unknown history. He brings Rhodes, his companions and his successors to life by drawing from diaries and letters, and sheds new light on Rhodes’s homosexuality. Ranging from the diamond mines of Kimberley to the halls of power in Westminster, and peopled with characters such as General Gordon, Leander Starr Jameson, WT Stead, Olive Schreiner, the Princess Radziwill, Joseph Chamberlain and David Lloyd George, this book is a page-turner that will make you see the world, both past and present, in a different light.

About the author

Robin Brown has published 14 books across a range of genres – fiction, history, natural history and biography – mostly with African themes. He also created, produced, directed and wrote Nature Watch, ITV’s most successful natural history series, consisting of 68 programmes, all in the British top 20. He has produced some 50 specials for the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery, including Man-eaters of Tsavo (with David Attenborough) and the award-winning In the Company of Whales. His book Marco Polo: The Incredible Journey has been sold in five countries and is presently the primer on the subject in Brazilian schools. Robin has presented his own television programmes and has given lectures at the Royal Geographical and Audubon Societies.

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