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Dan Jacobson

  • Way Up Way Out by Harold Strachan
    David Philip, 176 pp, £6.99, July 2002, ISBN 0 86486 355 1

Almost five years ago the Cape Town publishing company David Philip brought out Way Up Way Out, a novel by Harold Strachan. Some time later I was sent a copy of the book by a friend of Strachan’s in KwaZulu-Natal, where the author himself has lived much of his life. His name on the cover meant nothing to me – though if I had been more quick-witted I might have connected it to his second trial and period of imprisonment during the apartheid years. For various reasons that episode had been widely reported at the time in the British press and I had known one of the people involved in it. Anyway, I read the book ‘blind’, admired it greatly, and then discovered that I was not alone in never having heard of it. None of the ex-South Africans living in London I spoke to knew of it, and during a subsequent visit to South Africa I learned that the same seemed to apply to people I met there. On my return to England I made two attempts to rouse interest in the book, and on both occasions was told by the publishers I contacted that it was ‘too South African’ to appeal to readers in this country.

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[*] How tortuous even the naming of these languages can be emerges from this entry in A Dictionary of South African English (Oxford, 1996), under the heading of ‘San’t : ‘In the early 1970s academic and scientific writers preferred the term “San” to “Bushman”, the latter being perceived as derogatory. However “San” is now believed to have been a derogatory word when used by the Khoi-Khoi, and “Bushman” is again in use among scholars.’