“The state of being apart”, “apart-hood” or what we know better by its more familiar Afrikaans name – Apartheid!
Given the horror, revulsion and the unfairness that the name evokes, I find it difficult to read books on Apartheid. I mean, I’d hesitate many times over, before choosing one. I approached ‘Buckingham Palace’, District Six by Richard Rive with a certain amount of trepidation. I looked up the author, tried to find a parallel, decided that a probable one might be James Baldwin; the fact that they come from different continents notwithstanding! Yeah, right, you got it…I was procrastinating! That’s how much I worried about getting drawn into the suffering of an indigenous people dominated in their own land!
Set in the South Africa of the ’50s and ’60s, the novel spans 15 years in the lives of the inhabitants of this row of motley cottages, ironically called Buckingham Palace. Mary, “Madam” of the Casbah and her “girls”, Zoot, her bouncer, Pretty-boy, his friend, the Jungles, Knight-before-last and Katzen, their Jewish landlord. It is their religion and their sense of community that binds them together. In his tragicomic narrative, Rive takes the reader through the harsh incidents that characterized life in the South Africa of that time. His craft lies in the skill with which he makes you feel all the injustice the characters accept stoically. He does this, without going into profound details. Unlike Baldwin, I might add.
Why does their stoicism upset me? Why can’t I see that they had no choice?? Is it because I always put up a fight??? Is it because of Richard Rive’s narrative, is THAT what he wants me to see….that they had no choice? That under apartheid, they…had…NO..choice!
We go off to the US of A next to pursue the American dream with the ” Namesake ” by Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri. We meet on the 24th of April 2015 at 1830 hrs at Luis Vives.
Have a lovely Easter!
Michelle Ann Prabhu