I have recently read two books, both by South African authors, that I would like to share. Both books were originally written and published in Afrikaans, so if you can speak Afrikaans I would suggest reading them in the original language. Afrikaans is such a descriptive language that it does not translate as powerfully into English, although both books are still on my “must-read” list in whichever language you choose to read them.
“It’s me, Anna” by Elbie Lötter (Afrikaans Title: “Dis Ek, Anna”)
This is the harrowing story of the childhood sexual abuse of Anna, the title character, by her step-father. It starts in the “present day” and the events which have unfolded, and then tells the story of how the characters get to that point through a series of flashbacks. Anna herself tells the story, so you hear it from the point of view of the victim. You learn how Anna’s stepfather starts to groom her when he first meets her family, leading to full-on sexual abuse when she reaches her teens. How that affects Anna, as well as the other members of the family. How her stepfather threatens her into silence. When she finally does have the courage to tell other adults (her mother and her minister), they do not believe her – or try and gloss over the crime as if she were the guilty one. The story is told with such simplicity and raw honesty that the crimes committed are even more horrifying.
Although this was written as a novel it is based on the true-life sexual abuse of the author. Elbie Lötter is the pseudonym that was originally used, by the author Anchien Troskie, when the book was first published.
It is a harrowing read – I took a couple of breaks while reading it – but it is an important story in understanding sexual abuse of children – and the possible consequences thereof.
“Dead Before Dying” by Deon Meyer (Afrikaans Title: “Feniks”)
“Dead Before Dying” is a much lighter, purely fictional read. It is a “police procedural” written by one of South Africa’s best known crime fiction authors. His description of Cape Town – where the story is set – and his well-developed characters are an accurate reflection of life in South Africa. I usually read European and British crime fiction, so it was very interesting reading a story set in the city I grew up in.
I came to read both these books after seeing a film adaptation of them. The Afrikaans film “Dis ek, Anna” is an award-winning production with some great local actors playing the main roles. Charlene Brouwer and Izel Bezuidenhout (as the adult and teenage Anna respectively), and Morne Visser (as the abusive step-father) do a stunning job in their roles. I also found the cinematography excellent.
“Dead Before Dying” was adapted into a mini-series titled “Cape Town“. As the mini-series was an international co-production, the two lead roles were played by European actors with a supporting cast of South African actors. I think that the two European actors (Trond Espen Seim and Boris Kodjoe) were very good and both looked like they could have been South Africans. Their local accents were not consistent throughout, but believable. The production made good use of the Cape Town locations. This was not as strong an adaptation as the previous one, but watchable nevertheless.
This post is part of my daily posts for October 2016 – otherwise known as The October Dash