Category Archives: Resensies

Royce Kurmelovs oor Australiese politiek

Resensie-essay deur Leon Lemmer

Vroeër vanjaar was Australië plaaslik polities in die nuus toe een van sy ministers die mening uitgespreek het dat daar voorkeur aan Suid-Afrikaanse boere as immigrante gegee behoort te word. Hierdie uitlating is in Afrikanergeledere verwelkom en voorspelbaar deur die ANC-regering verdoem. Uiteindelik was daar ‘n aanduiding dat in die buiteland amptelik kennis van die benarde situasie van Suid-Afrikaanse blankes geneem word. Wat ek my afgevra het, is: Waarom nou eers en waarom ‘n respons van net ‘n enkele land?* Waar is die reaksie van die baie ander lande wat luidrugtig en vol gewetenswroeging teen rassediskriminasie en apartheid te velde getrek het? Waarom nie die huidige (wraaksugtige) rassediskriminasie deur die ANC-regering veroordeel nie?

[* Hongarye bied dalk ook ‘n heenkome aan blanke Suid-Afrikaanse vlugtelinge. Die Visegrad-lande (Hongarye, Pole, Tsjeggië, Slowakye) verset hulle teen die massa-immigrasie uit die Midde-Ooste, Ooste en Afrika wat Europa oorspoel. Die Europese Unie (EU), onder die leiding van Duitsland en Frankryk, verwag dat alle EU-lande volgens kwotas hierdie “vlugtelinge” moet inneem. Die Hongaarse eerste minister, Viktor Orban, het in 2016 gesê: “Hungary would open its door to ‘true refugees’ – those from Western Europe fleeing the breakdown of their societies” (Julian Langness, Identity rising, St Paul: ES Linden, 2017, 337p; Amazon Kindle $1.14, 3003). As Europeërs kwalifiseer blanke Suid-Afrikaners moontlik ook. Maar om Hongaarse burgerskap te bekom, sal dit maar bars gaan om Hongaars, ‘n nie-Euro/Indo-Germaanse taal, baas te raak.]

Soos in Amerika en Brittanje is daar tradisioneel twee groot politieke partye in Australië. In die regering wissel die Arbeidersparty en die Liberale Party (in koalisie met die Nasionale Party) mekaar af. Die Arbeidersparty is links en die Liberale Party en Nasionale Party regs van die sentrum. Soos in Amerika en Brittanje het die tradisioneel duidelike onderskeid tussen die twee hoofpartye gedurende die afgelope dekades vervaag. “The Libs never gave a damn about ordinary people, while Labor have given up their blue-collar roots” (Royce Kurmelovs, Rogue nation: Dispatches from Australia’s populist uprisings and outsider politics, Sydney: Hachette, 2017, 272p; Amazon Kindle $14.02, 1789). “Labor has largely abandoned the bottom 30 per cent to pursue the aspirational middle ever since 1996” (3117). Daar is ook talle kleiner politieke partye* en “onafhanklikes” wat koalisievennote in die sentrale (of federale) regering of in die ses staatsregerings kan wees. Kurmelovs verwys na “the deeper sickness within the major parties” (3048).

[* Daar is bv die United Patriots Front (UPF): “Among the loose constellation of extreme groups which make up Reclaim Australia, the UPF were the most militant. They were fascist in the plainest sense of the word” (2305). Kurmelovs gebruik die term “fascis” glad te graag as hy iemand wil slegsê – kyk hier onder.]

Die kernprobleem wat die kiesers al hoe meer met die politiek het, is die politici. Die politici is dikwels kansvatters wat nie die mas in die openbare sektor kan opkom nie en hulle dan tot die politiek wend, wat buitensporige vergoeding en byvoordele bied, terwyl geen bewys van formele kwalifikasies of prestasie vereis word nie. Nigel Farage het as leier van die United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) bekendheid verwerf. Hy sê: “People are not disenchanted with politics. They are disconnected from the politically-correct carer class of politicians. Just look at them. It is like a game. They are all fighting desperately to hold the middle ground. They are made up of focus-groupies, triangulators, dog-whistlers, politicians who daren’t say what they really mean. And we [UKIP] are different from that. We stand up and tell it like it is and whether people agree with it or nor at least they know where we stand … and I’m proud of that” ( Matthew Lynn, Independently minded: The rise of Nigel Farage, Endeavor Press, 2014, 67p; Amazon Kindle $4.59, 73).

UKIP “is an uprising against a professional, managerial class of politicians, and against the alliance of big business and big government that is not only estranged from ordinary people, but increasingly doesn’t seem to care much about them either” (91). “Democracies had been hi-jacked by professional politicians, creating a network of parties, think-tanks, bureaucracies, lobbyists and political correspondents that talked mainly to each other and for whom politics was really just a career rather than a calling” (651). Die Europese Unie, volgens Farage, “has been captured by a bureaucracy, which has put its own survival above any other objective” (508). “UKIP became the protest party, the anti-system party” (690).

“Farage is well aware that campaigning as an anti-politician is a big part of his appeal” (708). YouTube word beskryf as “the single most important factor in the rise of [UKIP]” (381). Farage het 100 000 volgelinge op Twitter (385). Die naam Reclaim Australia is eintlik dieselfde as UKIP se slagspreuk: “We want our country back” (86). “Withdrawing from Europe [is] a way of re-claiming [British] sovereignty and the power to make decisions locally” (809). Al hoe meer Australiërs eis hulle land terug omdat hulle voel dat die blanke inwoners deur nie-wit immigrante uit Asië en Afrika verswelg word.

Die inkrimping van die tradisioneel groot politieke partye in Australië en die opkoms van kleiner partye en die verkiesing van onafhanklikes bring mee dat koalisies gevorm moet word voordat daar ‘n regering kan wees. In hierdie situasie “the country independents became kingmakers” (Kurmelovs 1576). In koalisie maak hulle dit vir die groter partye moontlik om ‘n regering te vorm, wat beteken “power is a cooperative relationship” (1616). “With the trend towards government by coalition and a persistently fractured Senate, populists are powerful. Each represents a regional blend on the same general theme, operates on the same basic principles, and will often work with each other at the expense of the major parties. They are, in a manner of speaking, a decentralised, emergent political party” (3031). As gevolg van die moontlikheid van koalisievorming “voting for a minor party or independent candidate is a lottery, as there’s no way of knowing where your vote will end up. This may be true, but then politics itself has never been a perfectly rational process” (3053).

In opvolging van my artikel oor Chinese indringing in Australië en elders (Praag 16.06.2018) het ek Kurmelovs se boek gelees. Daarin word na “the Asian Invasion” van Australië verwys (1341). Dit gaan nie net om immigrante nie, maar ook om vlugtelinge, wat nie net om politieke redes gevlug het nie, maar dikwels eerder om ekonomiese redes. Die boek word geadverteer as “essential reading about Australian politics.” Die outeur is ‘n joernalis wat eerstehandse kennis van die Australiese politiek het. Sy invalshoek is die tans reeds geykte verbandlegging tussen drie verskynsels: die verkiesing van Donald Trump as Amerika se president in 2016,* die 2016-referendum-uitslag wat die uittrede van Brittanje uit die Europese Unie tot gevolg gaan hê (Brexit), asook politieke populisme,** wat die vorm van anti-elitisme kan aanneem. Hierdie drie verskynsels word as ‘n verskuiwing na regs vertolk. Die volgende is ‘n onmiskenbare hoewel versluierde anti-Trump-verwysing: “What had happened to us, and the rest of the world, when fear-mongers and conspiracy nuts were suddenly put in charge of nuclear codes and the national budget?” (91).

[* Trump se verkiesing is in Australië onder meer verwelkom as “the ‘beginning of the Western spring’, a reference to the Arab Spring that toppled autocratic regimes across the Middle East” (1465).

** “Populism … is radical democracy and a by-product of neglect or indifference by the status quo. It works by taking different interests and binding them together against a common enemy, a coalition of the underdogs united, despite the traditional antagonisms or apparent contradictions between them, along a clear overarching theme” (3015). “Populism in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it’s what you combine it with that makes it potent. Mixed with the left, it focuses on those with money and power. Blended with the right, it takes aim at immigrants, refugees and enemies of the nation. Keep it in the centre and everyone ends up unsatisfied. Put it in a coalition and its worst impulses are tempered, allowing it to do some good by pushing for reform in those area that sorely need it. Give it majority rule, things can turn ugly” (3020) – bv die ANC se mobilisering van anti-blanke sentiment.]

Kurmelovs se teks het by my van meet af dieselfde indruk as Gabriël Botma se boek, Polemieke (Praag 7.04.2018), gewek – dat Kurmelovs eerder links as regs neig en hy sy politieke oortuigings, soos Botma, grootliks terughou tot kort voor die einde van sy boek. Die leser word op ‘n rit op ‘n jollielorrie (“band wagon”) van aktualiteit geneem, wat veraangenaam word deur goed geformuleerde, vloeiende teks. Die outeur het baie van die inligting tydens veldwerk op die Australiese platteland versamel – nie in die stede waar die politici by voorkeur vertoef nie – wat uiteraard die waarde van die boek verhoog. Kurmelovs verwys na ‘n spesifieke politikus wat hy beskryf as “a walking stereotype, an embodiment of the way city folk see country people” (1506), wat by daardie politikus sekerlik ‘n skeut vooroordele en wanvoorstellings insluit. Die oorgrote meerderheid Australiërs is stadsbewoners.

Die saambindende faktor in die teks is Pauline Hanson (gebore in 1954), “an iconic Australian brand” (202) en die leier van die politieke party One Nation. Sedert 2016 is sy en drie van haar partygenote senatore in die federale parlement in Canberra. One Nation is soos volg gekarakteriseer: “We are a predominantly working-class nationalist party – what some may call a ‘right wing’ workers’ party” (1407) – dus nie aan dieselfde kant as die Arbeidersparty nie. “What makes us a ‘workers’ party’ is that the membership and support base of One Nation is made up of often poorly paid, hardworking Aussies whose basic decency, quiet patriotism, strong moral compass and fierce work ethic define them as the heart and soul of our nation” (1413). Wat hieruit afgelei kan word, is dat One Nation se ondersteuners blankes is. Een van hulle huldig die volgende menings: “I’m not against immigration, we’ve had good people come into this country before. They didn’t live on handouts. I’m here [at a One Nation meeting] to stand for Australian values our forefathers fought for and to see that the Australian lifestyle, culture and laws that we have always known, carry on into the future” (2276).

Kurmelovs skryf: “Once Trump had gone global, all it would take was one heartfelt lie in a post-fact universe [or “post-truth politics” – 468]* for One Nation to sweep through those areas of the country that were so cynical, so withdrawn, they would turn the whole system on its head” (180). “One Nation shared its name with the title of a speech Don Watson had written for Labor prime minister Paul Keating [1991-1996], and she barnstormed the country to spread the word” (240).

[* Trump “was just the biggest, loudest voice engaging in ‘post-fact’ or ‘post-truth’ politics” (1330). Naas die geykte etiket “racist” is “post-fact” en “post-truth” die nuwe terme waarmee konserwatiewes sleggesê word as daar nie van hulle regse politiek gehou word nie. Maar Trump is eerder nasionalisties as regs.]

In die Wikipedia-artikel oor Hanson (waarvan Kurmelovs ruimskoots gebruik maak, veral in hoofstuk 2) word genoem dat sy van rassisme beskuldig word omdat sy gekant teen Asiate en swart Afrikane as immigrate is. Sy het swart Afrikane met die toename in misdaad in Australië verbind. Sy verwerp multikulturalisme en het haar gevolglik die verwyt van xenofobie/vreemdelingehaat op die hals gehaal. Sy het dit veral teen Moslems as immigrante. “We are in danger of being swamped by Muslims who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.” Hanson het die owerheidsbevoordeling van die inheemse Australiërs (“Aboriginals” en die “Torres Strait Islanders”)* bo ander Australiërs as die uitdrukking van politieke korrektheid gekarakteriseer en dit as omgekeerde rassediskriminasie veroordeel.

[* In die Amerikaanse idioom noem Kurmelovs hierdie twee groepe “First Nations” (2965). Wie eerste op ‘n plek was, word deesdae polities byderwets beklemtoon, bv die Khoi-San in Suidelike Afrika. Van groter belang, myns insiens, is wat die verskillende etniese groepe tot stand gebring het. Die Torres-seestraat is tussen Australië en Papoea-Nieu-Guinee. Soos die ANC het albei die genoemde Australiese inboorlinggroepe hulle eie vlae, wat in die Wikipedia besigtig kan word. In Suid-Afrika mag ons vorige landsvlag eintlik nie meer vertoon word nie en ons vorige volkslied verkieslik nie gesing word nie. Ek dink Afrikaners behoort (soos Steve Hofmeyr) ongeïntimideerd voort te gaan met die sing van die pragtige “Die Stem”, want daarop kan kwalik verbeter word. Die vorige landsvlag was egter ‘n kompromie waarop verbeter kan/moet word, bv deur die Britse vlag weg te laat. Ek dink die tyd is ryp vir die ontwerp, bekendstelling en daarna die deurlopende en wydverspreide openbare vertoon van ‘n Afrikanervlag. As ‘n Australiese inboorlinggroep ‘n eie vlag kan hê, dan sekerlik ook die Afrikaners. Dit kan (aanvanklik) as ‘n kulturele eerder as ‘n staatkundige vlag gebruik word, bv die VOC-vlag (my broer se voorstel) of die Prinsenvlag (Dan Roodt se voorstel). Afbeeldings van albei verskyn in die Wikipedia.]

Hanson beskou globalisering en ander polities byderwetse standpunte as ‘n bedreiging vir Australiërs se identiteit. In Australië is daar – soos (veral voorheen) in Brittanje en Europa – in politieke geledere wydverspreide onwilligheid om te erken dat bv immigrant-ingevoerde multikulturaliteit probleme veroorsaak. Maar dink aan Enoch Powell (1912-1998) wat in Brittanje ‘n vroeë stem roepende in ‘n woestyn van ontkenning was (Praag 30 April 2016). In die hoofstroom-inligtingsmedia in Australië is daar sterk teenkanting teen Hanson se idees; dermate dat sy en haar partygenote verplig voel om hierdie media te vermy en hulle eerder tot die sosiale media te wend.

“When people start to worry about their future, they start to look for alternatives” (163). Dit is sekerlik die stadium waarin Afrikaners behoort te wees. Aan die begin maak Kurmelovs dit duidelik dat sy boek nie oor die politieke hoofstroom handel nie maar oor alternatiewe (69). “I did not want to write it from the perspective of the major parties … Instead, my book would be told from the perspective of the rogues and the strays who are now sitting in parliament” (91) – vandaar die boektitel. Hy beskou sy boek as “a field report on the health of our democracy,* asking why politics seemed to be unable to see the barbarians coming until they were storming the gate” (79). Dié formulering is (dalk) doelbewus dubbelsinnig. Word met daardie “barbare” die hedendaagse multikulturele stroom immigrante bedoel wat regse politici tot verset motiveer of verwys “barbare” na die al hoe groter aanhang wat regse politieke partye, bv One Nation, by die kiesers geniet?

[* Democracy functions when the losing side of an election continues to see their quality of life get better, despite the result” (2993). In hierdie sin is daar in die nuwe Suid-Afrika nie ‘n funksionerende demokrasie nie.]

Die persepsie bestaan dat immigrante werksgeleenthede van Australiese burgers ontneem. Hanson “was someone who preyed on the hopes and frustrations of working-class and country people” (85). “Hanson drew her support from women, the elderly, those without university qualifications and those in trades – who were all angry at the government” (3004). Kurmelovs wou eerstehands kennis met regse politici en hulle ondersteuners maak. “If I wanted to understand something [! – not someone/somebody] like Pauline Hanson with any real clarity, if I wanted to know what the hell happened out there, I had to be out there with the rest of them” (101).

Die verwagting dat Hillary Clinton in 2016 tot Amerikaanse president verkies sou word, word ‘n “collective delusion” genoem (118). Trump het die frase “drain the swamp” effektief in sy verkiesingsveldtog gebruik (147, 455) om te illustreer hoe van ongewenste dinge ontslae geraak moet word, net soos ‘n moeras sonder water nie muskiete/peste kan huisves nie. Trump het dieselfde woorde as voorgangers soos Ronald Reagan en Pat Buchanan gebruik. Maar selfs in die Wikipedia-artikel is daar geen blyke dat Benito Mussolini dieselfde frase vir politieke doeleindes benut het deur na die Poltine-moeras in Italië te verwys nie. Die volgende uitlating het my aan die ANC-regering herinner wat veral blankes, maar eintlik almal wat nie swart Afrikane is nie, vervreem en nogtans van nasiebou praat: “These days, they’re on about ‘Nation Building’ … But it’s a pie chart, not people. It’s figures in a book, not people” (1838).

Hanson het verwag dat Australië dieselfde koersverandering sou ondergaan as wat deur Trump en Brexit gesimboliseer word (281). Sy bewonder ook Vladimir Poetin se leierskap (2872). Daar is myns insiens heelwat onderliggende distansiëring, selfs vyandigheid, van Kurmelovs in die volgende twee aanhalings oor One Nation: “This [2016] was a turning point. Until then, the party had been a small but fanatical movement of Australian nationalists, each chasing their own unique vision of an Australia that no longer existed.* Then, it was a protectionist party, of the ‘Buy Australian’ variety. Now, it was hard-wiring itself into international networks of climate-change deniers and obscure ideological driven think tanks. In other words, One Nation was now speaking with an American accent” (310). “After all, she [Hanson] had done it first, before Brexit, before Trump, all the way back in ’96. She had championed a bizarre [?] ethno-nationalism before the internet helped similar groups network their way across the planet, and it had made her one of the most recognisable Australians … No, she was no Trump, but they were cut from the same cloth” (337).

[* Kurmelovs verwys hierna as “the poisonous nostalgia that has helped Hanson rise again” (3004). In Suid-Afrika word polities byderwets van Afrikaners verwag om nie nostalgies oor die verlede te wees nie. Sodanige nostalgie sou misplaas wees slegs as die hede beter is as wat die verlede was.]

“One Nation’s rise or fall depended on their ability to ‘professionalise’ in the way Marine Le Pen, daughter of French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, had done for her father’s party when she forced him out and took control” (1106). Hanson, anders as Marine le Pen, “will never become prime minister” (3031) omdat Hanson nie van dieselfde stoffasie as Marine le Pen is nie. Hanson se opgang, ondergang en terugkeer in die politiek herinner eerder aan “the dotcom bubble in the late nineties” (1202). ‘n Ondersteuner sê: Hanson “said a lot of things he agreed with, a lot of things he thought other people were too afraid to say” (2699). Maar daar is blykbaar nie genoeg onderliggende substansie en sigbare finesse by Hanson nie. Die toespraak van Hanson wat Kurmelovs in besonderhede aanhaal (2799), klink goed beredeneerd, maar die vraag is of sy dit geskryf het. Dit is kommerwekkend dat daar in One Nation nie ‘n plaasvervanger vir Hanson te bespeur is nie. Haar partygenote word “Pauline Hanson-lite” genoem (1929). Hanson het aanvanklik te vroeg met haar goeie idees op die politieke terrein verskyn. Noudat daardie idees al hoe meer aanvaarding verwerf, lyk dit asof Hanson en One Nation nie oor die vaardighede beskik om werklik ‘n deurbraak te maak nie. Maar juis omdat daardie idees aanvanklik onbekend of ongewild was, is dit onaanvaarbaar om hulle sonder meer as populisties te etiketteer.

In die laaste hoofstuk wys Kurmelovs openlik sy ware politieke kleure. Hy besoek die vis- en skyfieswinkel wat Hanson voor haar loopbaan as politikus in Ipswich bedryf het, asof dit noodwendig ‘n ongunstige assosiasie moet wees. Die outeur verlekker hom oor die feit dat Viënamese nou die besigheid besit, dus Asiatiese immigrante waarteen Hanson gekant is: “I … soak in the glorious irony of a Vietnamese refugee family taking over a chip shop once owned by the woman who raised her voice over fears about ‘being swamped by Asians’ and hordes of boat people” (2941). Kurmelovs noem daardie sake-onderneming sonder meer “the birthplace of Australian fascism” (2941). Dít kom van Kurmelovs wat Marine le Pen se National Front-party (onlangs hernoem as Rassemblement National/National Rally) sommer ook as “fascism rebranded” karakteriseer (3111).

“Hanson worked this joint [the fish and chips shop], hers was an ant’s-eye view of the world, with all the limits and constraints and distortions that entails. Everything seems bigger with that perspective. Everything makes you afraid. The newpaper headlines seem louder, so too does the television” (2959). Die armoede, onsekerheid en onvergenoegdheid wat Kurmelovs op die Australiese platteland teëgekom het, bly egter ‘n werklikheid wat nie ontken kan word nie. In hierdie opsig het Hanson nie verkeerd nie. “Economic problems, after all, are felt as cultural problems. Class may frame an issue, but race contours or deepens it. Social media then transmits the result” (2976).

Hanson word beskryf as “a product of random chance that has rewritten the rule book” (3059). “Without her name, One Nation is nothing” (3105). “No amount of data … could have predicted that one racist letter to a Brisbane newspaper would have triggered a series of events that saw Pauline Hanson pushed onto the national stage, leading to a fundamental restructering of the right in Australian politics with long-term consequences for issues as diverse as Aboriginal land rights, refugee policy and even climate change” (3070). “She is a woman of broad strokes, with an aggressive, short-term, transactional approach to politics and an intuitive feel for exploiting people’s arrogrance, anger and hurt, all in the right place, at the write time” (3082). “The people who vote One Nation … may not believe half of what Hanson says, if they’re being honest, but that is not the point. All that matters is that she connects, on some level, with their frustration, their resentment, their need to be recognised as clued in to what’s ‘really going on’, and that she seems to scare the living hell out of the bastards. The louder the outrage, the sweeter the sound” (3093).

Oor die genoemde “racist letter” skryf Kurmelovs: “Hanson penned a letter to the editor of the Queensland Times on 6 January 1996, complaining that white deaths in custody were being overlooked and Indigenous people were being ‘showered with money’”(213). Sy was toe ‘n lid van die Liberale Party. Van 1994 tot 1995 was sy ‘n stadraadslid vir Ipswich. In 1996, toe haar brief gepubliseer is, was sy ‘n kandidaat in die federale verkiesing. Toe hy van die brief hoor “John Howard, as leader of the Liberal Party, dropped her from the ticket and banished her from the party” (218). Op die stembriewe het “Liberal Party” egter steeds teenoor haar naam gestaan. Sy is verkies en het as ‘n onafhanklike haar plek in die federale parlement in Canberra ingeneem (1996-1998).

Fascisme het ‘n verskeidenheid kenmerke sodat die term op sowel linkse as regse politieke verskynsels toegepas kan word. Madeleine Albright skryf: “‘Fascist’ was the most versatile of insults” en “To use the term ‘Fascist’ is to reveal oneself” (Praag 19.05.2018). Kurmelovs het sy politieke gesindheid geopenbaar deur Hanson met die teerkwas van rassisme en fascisme by te kom. Wat hy eintlik wou tuisbring, is dat hy nie van haar politiek hou nie. Kurmelovs is deel van Australië se stedelike politieke establishment. Sy veldwerk op die platteland het hom nie daartoe beweeg om sy politieke heil buite die hoofstroom te soek nie.

Wat die Engelsman nie wil sien nie, dit sien hy nie

Robin Renwick (gebore in 1937) was ‘n Britse regeringsverteenwoordiger in Rhodesië (1978-1980) toe die politieke mag van die blanke bewind na swart terreurgroepe oorgegaan het. Hierna was Renwick die Britse ambassadeur in Suid-Afrika (1987-1991), dus toe dieselfde situasie besig was om plaaslik te ontvou. Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) en daarna John Major (1990-1997) was toe die Britse eerste minister. Renwick was lid van die Britse Arbeidersparty en uiters goed toegerus om die plaaslike blankes sover moontlik te benadeel. Hy is vir sy pro-swart gesindheid vergoed deur hom as die Britse ambassadeur in Amerika (1991-1995) aan te stel.

Die opskrif van hierdie rubriek is ontleen aan MER (Maria Elizabeth Rothmann, 1875-1975) se stelling oor wat kenmerkend van ‘n “Engelsman”/Brit is: “Wat hy nie wil sien nie, dit sien hy nie” (My beskeie deel, Kaapstad: Tafelberg, 1976, p 22). Hierdie stelling is in uitnemende mate op Renwick van toepassing. Soos hier onder blyk, is dit moeilik om ‘n bedrywiger en lastiger diplomatieke gatvlieg as Renwick voor te stel. My uiteensetting is gebaseer op sy boek, Mission to South Africa: Diary of a revolution(Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2015, 139p; Amazon Kindle $11,39). Hierdie rubriek behoort teen die agtergrond van FW de Klerk se lewensbeskrywing gelees te word. Tydens my bespreking van daardie outobiografie is verskeie kere na Renwick verwys (Praag 23 September).

In die proloog skryf Renwick oor sy betrokkenheid by Rhodesië, wat in 1980 as Zimbabwe onafhanklik geword het en sedertdien ‘n uiters bedenklike voorbeeld van swart regering is. Die terreurbendes van Robert Mugabe en Joshua Nkomo word “liberation forces” (Kindle 145) of “guerrillas” (201) genoem. “As for Mugabe’s tactics, one of the principal methods used to bring areas of the country under his forces’ control was the torture, mutilation and execution of village headmen in front of the villagers” (208). Tydens ‘n besoek aan Zambië Thatcher “added, to my dismay, that she had no plans to send British troops to Rhodesia” (228). Renwick wou hê dat Brittanje militêr moet ingryp ná Ian Smith se eensydige onafhanklikheidsverklaring.

Toe Smith later Brittanje besoek, het Thatcher besluit “having nothing whatever to do with Ian Smith, who had been greeted with applause by airport workers on his arrival in Britain and fêted by some right-wing members of her party” (238). Thatcher het geweier om met Smith gesprek te voer. Renwick verwys na “the brooding and sardonic presence of Ian Smith” en “his grating voice” (258) tydens die grondwetlike onderhandelings. Dwarsdeur die boek gebruik Renwick positiewe byvoeglike naamwoorde wanneer hy na linkses verwys en negatiewe byvoeglike naamwoorde vir nie-linkses, bv diegene wat pro-blank gesind is.

Peter Carrington (gebore in 1919 — die bliksem lewe steeds), die Britse minister van buitelandse sake (1979-1982), het Smith en die leiers van die terroristebewegings vir samesprekings ontmoet. “When Smith complained … that we were dragging out the conference while people were being killed in Rhodesia, the normally imperturbable Carrington lost his temper completely. Purple with anger, he told Smith that the responsibility for the war … rested squarely with him” (258). Onderhandel nou met ‘n Brit wat dermate bevooroordeeld is. Dit is terroris-invalle wat die oorlog veroorsaak het, maar Renwick verwys eerder na die Rhodesiërs “launching ferocious cross-border raids” (201) in Zambië en Mosambiek (268); invalle wat uit selfverdediging gedoen is.

Net soos die terroristiese Swapo later in Suidwes-Afrika sou doen (1309),* het Mugabe nie die wapenstilstand in Rhodesië eerbiedig nie, “Mugabe used his forces outside the assembly area to intimidate the villagers” (314). Renwick roem op sy eie “impartiality” (324) terwyl hy hom heelhartig by die swartes geskaar en sy anti-blanke gesindheid daarna in Suid-Afrika voortgesit het. Die Rhodesiese onafhanklikheidsverkiesing was glo “free and fair” (324), maar lees gerus ‘n ooggetuieverslag oor hoe terroriste toegelaat is om vryelik en ten volle gewapen by die stemlokale rond te hang.** Renwick skryf oor Thatcher: “Though she was no friend of the liberation movements, it was thanks to her willingness to take the necessary risks that we had been able to end the Rhodesian war” (2523).

[* Thatcher wou nie hê dat die Suid-Afrikaanse regering sonder die goedkeuring van die Verenigde Nasies teen Swapo se verbreking van die wapenstilstand optree nie: “If the South Africans took unilateral action, ‘the whole world will be against you – led by me!’” (1318). Die bemoeisieke Renwick wou die Swapo-terroriste soveel moontlik beskerm: “I argued fiercely against air strikes … As I returned to Windhoek, I was told that the UN had accepted the need for action to deal with the incursions and Pik Botha told me the air strikes had been called off. Ground forces and police units were allowed to deploy instead” (1326).]

[** “With an estimated 35 000 insurgents flooding into the country to vote, and to cause trouble if the outcome was not to their liking, the security forces certainly had to be on their toes” (George Selby, From safari suit to camouflage, edited by Lillian van Velden, Partridge Publishing, 2016, 276p; Amazon Kindle $4,55, 4498). “It was amazing just how many blacks had already gathered for the next day’s voting, many of them carrying weapons: RPG-7s, machine guns, and rifles” (4557). “As more and more insurgents came out of the bush, so did intimidation and beatings of the locals, who had no choice but to vote for whom they were told” (4580). “The three days of polling were full of tension as many heavily armed insurgents loitered around the polling station” (4617). Vir meer inligting: “Verraad in Rhodesië/Zimbabwe en Suid-Afrika (Praag 3.04.2016).]

In die eerste paragraaf van sy boek verwys Renwick na apartheid/afsonderlike ontwikkeling as ‘n “fundamentally abhorrent system” (35); daardie Brits-geïnisieerde beleid van rasse-segregasie wat die land vir blankes leefbaar en Europese beskawing eeue lank in Suidelike Afrika moontlik gemaak het. Later verwys hy na die PW Botha-regering as “this highly autocratic system” (1053). Renwick roem daarop dat Brittanje, wat buitelandse regerings betref, die hoofrol in die myns insiens skandalige plaaslike politieke revolusie gespeel het (45). “Great admirer as I am of George Bush senior, he did not make anything like as strenuous an effort as Thatcher did to bombard [!] the South African government with demands for reform and the release of Mandela” (1461).

Ten spyte van al die bedenklikhede wat feitelik korrek aan Nelson Mandela toegeskryf kan word, verklaar Renwick: “My admiration for him was second to no one’s … the great man” (45; ook 2179). “He did indeed have some saintly characteristics … the authentic Mandela, generous in spirit, libertarian by instinct, and inspirational to everyone he met – including me” (62). Ná Mandela se vrylating Renwick “met him in the tiny match-box-style house he had returned to … The contrast was dramatic between these humble surroundings and the quality of the man inside” (1788). “His old-world courtesy and unfailing charm served to mask a steely determination not to compromise any of the principles for which he and others had sacrificed their liberty or lives” (1797).

Die (meeste) toegewings sou van FW de Klerk se kant kom. Desnieteenstaande skryf Renwick: Mandela “showed a much greater commitment than others to genuine political tolerance” (1797). Mandela was egter ‘n bakhandstanende “heilige”: “At the end of every meeting I had with him, he would never fail to ask for money for the ANC” (70). In Renwick se oë is Desmond Tutu ook wonderlik: “I was a wholehearted admirer” (706). Toe ses swartes vir die moord op die onderburgemeester van Sharpeville ter dood veroordeel is, het die bemoeisieke Renwick vir Tutu opgesteek om Thatcher oor te haal om by PW Botha om begenadiging te pleit (877). Oliver Thambo was volgens Renwick ook wonderlik: “I was very impressed by the scholarly and thoughtful Tambo” (1788).

Die kettingroker FW de Klerk word uiteraard positief deur Renwick voorgestel omdat De Klerk daarin geslaag het om blanke politieke mag mandaatloos aan swart mag oor te gee. “I found him to be open, friendly and impressively self-confident” (673). Ook: “FW de Klerk was friendly, approachable, personally impressive” (1064) en “I had been impressed by De Klerk’s strength of character” (1083). “I was able to establish a regular pattern of meetings with De Klerk” (1141). “I always found him focused on getting to the next stage and never losing sight of the goal, which was to agree [to] a new constitution that would give political rights to all South Africans” (97).

Daar is ‘n De Klerk-kenmerk wat myns insiens ‘n deurslaggewende rol in sy oorgawe aan swart mag gespeel het: “De Klerk said that he was not security-dominated in his thinking” (1113). “In his first decision as President, he had banned use by the police of the sjambok” (1490); eintlik knuppel. Na sy toespraak in die parlement op 2 Februarie 1990 “virtually all the troops had been withdrawn from the townships” (1711). In sy naïwiteit het De Klerk geen idee gehad van die boosheid van die vyand waarmee hy spoedig onvoorwaardelik onderhandel het nie. Onmiddellik na sy vrylating Mandela “reaffirmed his commitment to the armed struggle … ‘Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts’” (1723). Maar Douglas Hurd, die Britse minister van buitelandse sake (1989-1995) het De Klerk beskryf as “an amazingly brave and wise man” (1893).

In sy boek wou Renwick ‘n lansie vir Thatcher breek: “I hope that this book will lay finally to rest the contention that Margaret Thatcher was ‘a friend of apartheid’ and called Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’ (which, as a matter of fact, she never did)” (114); wat nie impliseer dat Mandela nie ‘n terroris was nie. By geleentheid het die ANC probeer om Thatcher af te dreig met “British businesses in South Africa would become legitimate targets for attack” – “if she continued to oppose sanctions” (759). Die Britse sanksies het “arms, oil and nuclear embargoes” ingesluit (1760) maar nie algemene handelsanksies nie. “Understandably irritated, she replied that this showed what a typical terrorist organisation the ANC was” (759). “Thatcher had never been an admirer of the ANC, given that the ‘armed struggle’ had been extended to civilian targets and included the necklacing of ‘collaborators’, and that the organisation was committed to nationalisation of much of the economy. Moreover, she had not failed to notice that, despite the SACP’s lack of any mass support, two-thirds of the ANC’s politburo were members of the SACP” (759).

Waarop Thatcher deurgaans aangedring het, was “the release of Nelson Mandela, the repeal of all the apartheid laws and independence for Namibia” (123) en “the front-line states should be spared further attacks by the South African armed forces” (412). Renwick het aan Thatcher voorgestel hoe sy die PW Botha-regering kon afdreig: “any major cross-border raids … would make her position intolerable and result in the withdrawal of her support” (500). In 1983 het Thatcher geskryf “that the exclusion of blacks from the political process was ‘a powerful factor in compelling black politicians to seek by violence what is denied to them by the laws under which they live’” (392). Op hierdie manier word terrorisme goedgepraat.

Soms het Thatcher se deuntjie ietwat verander: “She was, she said, against all forms of terrorism, but the ANC was an important factor in South African politics. The question was how to get them to give up violence” (1013). Die ANC was so verknog aan geweld dat hy dit nooit afgesweer het nie. FW de Klerk se “oplossing” was om met hierdie gewelddenaars te onderhandel terwyl hulle terselfdertyd met hulle geweld voortgegaan het, met uiteindelik die katastrofiese resultaat van oorgawe aan swart mag. Ná haar eerste ontmoeting met Mandela het Thatcher gesê: “‘I warmed to him.’ She told Mandela that he would get support from the British government in the negotiations for a new constitution … She concluded that ‘South Africa was lucky to have a man of Mr Mandela’s stature at such a time’” (2142).

Toe Renwick sy geloofsbriewe as ambassadeur oorhandig het, het hy ‘n deel van sy toespraak in Afrikaans gelewer (529), want “I had resolved to concentrate my efforts on the Afrikaners and the black leadership” (520). Renwick noem die blanke politieke bewind ‘n “regime” (bv 373, 480; “that ironclad regime” – 2594) en daar was toe glo ‘n “siege mentality” (383) by Afrikaners. PW Botha wou hê dat die ANC se kantoor in Londen, van waar sy terreurbedrywighede bedryf is, gesluit moet word, maar Thatcher het beweer dat die ANC-kamerade hulle nie aan onwettige bedrywighede skuldig maak nie (403, 944). Ronnie Kasrils is egter toegelaat om Londen te besoek “even though MK had declared that it would be targeting ‘soft’, ie civilian, targets” (953). Wat volgens die Britse regering glo wel onwettig was, was die inbrake in die Londense kantore van die ANC en Swapo deur die “apartheidsregime” se Craig Williamson (412).

“Following the assassination of Dulcie September, the ANC representative in Paris, in March 1988, we became concerned about the possibility of an attack on ANC personnel in London. The Prime Minister [Thatcher] decreed that we must give the South African government the clearest possible warning that any such action would attract a strong reaction from us” (1123), wat duidelik toon dat die Britse regering kop in een mus met die terroristiese ANC was. In 1989 was daar ‘n interessante verwikkeling. “South African agents had supplied a rocket launcher and training to a Northern Ireland Protestant paramilitary splinter group” (1373). Thatcher het toe van PW Botha geëis: “The South African arms procurement agency, Armscor, must be told to cease their activities in the United Kingdom” (1384). Dus, die ANC mag Suid-Afrika vanuit Brittanje militêr ondermyn, maar Suid-Afrika mag nie militêr in Britse sake betrokke wees nie.

Renwick het Pik Botha, toe die minister van buitelandse sake, gewaarsku teen Suid-Afrika se ondersteuning van Renamo se bedrywighede teen die kommunistiese bewind in Mosambiek (520). Kontrasteer die volgende gemene beskrywing van Pik Botha met hoe Renwick Mandela, Tutu en De Klerk beskryf: “Built like a buffalo, he would sit in his shirtsleeves, a thick black lock of hair falling across his face, complaining about the world’s supposed injustice towards South Africa … an accomplished actor … his faults … were not small ones” (1229).

Volgens Renwick PW Botha “never forgot that his mother had been interned by the British during the Anglo-Boer War” (546). Waaraan het tweegesprekke met PW Botha vir Renwick herinner? “Conjuring up images of what it must have been like calling on the Führer in his bunker” (546). Renwick lug later weer sy smerige begeerte om PW Botha met Adolf Hitler se vergelyk: “The last-ditch atmosphere around PW Botha was like that which must have prevailed around Hitler in his bunker” (1042). Oor PW Botha se uittrede as president skryf Renwick: “I doubted that he would agree to go gracefully, but felt a sense of great relief and satisfaction at seeing the last of him. For this was a man who never should have been put in charge of the fortunes of his or any other country” (1413). Renwick sê nie iets soortgelyks van enige swarte nie; dus ook nie van bv Jacob Zuma of Robert Mugabe nie.

PW Botha “exercised a reign of terror over the cabinet. He believed in intimidation across the board” (750). Daar was ook “PW Botha’s chief henchman, the Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan, leader of the group of so-called securocrats … Malan was a great believer in ‘taking out’ enemies of the regime, internally through special force units, which had developed into assassination squads, and externally by whatever means were necessary” (657). “If the security police and military intelligence were allowed to continue their activities, including murder squads, unchecked, there was no way any of us were going to be able to help South Africa” (1104). Renwick verwys na “the lunatic fringes of the security establishment” (1384) maar die misdadige optrede van swart terreurbendes word nêrens deur Renwick veroordeel nie. Die naaste wat hy daaraan kom, is wanneer hy verwys na “the equally violent record of members of the security forces” (1874).

“The politics of the white community remained quite tribal” (582). Dit geld eerder vir die swartes, maar Renwick sê dit nie. Renwick wou graag by die UDF, “the future leadership of the country” (624), kruip, maar sy pogings is bemoeilik weens Thatcher se teenkanting teen algehele sanksies. Wat Renwick toe gedoen het, is om met Britse belastingbetalers se geld “over three hundred projects” (633) van ‘n filantropiese aard in swart gebiede van stapel te stuur. “We also had launched a US$20 million programme to provide scholarships for black South Africans. We also were giving direct help to a lot of church and community group projects in the townships” (725). Na dese kan niemand beweer dat die Britte nie weet hoe om op grond van ras swartes te bevoordeel en blankes uit te sluit nie. Ná Mandela se vrylating was die Britse gebaar “rescinding the voluntary embargoes on tourism and new investment. The other embargoes would continue, but it made no sense to discourage academic and scientific contacts with the liberal English-speaking universities, where we were supporting a number of black students” (1806).

“I also tried to establish friendships with a number of ex-Robben Islanders” (640) en ander swart politieke leiers. “A number of Robben Islanders became regular visitors to the embassy, as did a number of National Party MPs” (649), wat vir Renwick gehelp het om die Nasionale Party te rysmier: “Some at least among them could hardly fail to be impressed by the qualities of those the regime had condemned to years of imprisonment for their political acts and views” (657). Die (opportunistiese) politieke begeertes van swartes word “legitimate aspirations” genoem (824). Oor die “apartheidsregime” beweer Renwick “you [are] isolating yourselves” (915). Die ANC, PAC en Swapo se terreurbendes word nie terroriste genoem nie maar “guerrillas” (bv 1159).

Wat Renwick gedoen het, is om aktief gesprekke te voer met verskillende elemente ten einde die politieke magsoorgawe aan swartes te bevorder. Enersyds was daar die spreekwoordelike nuttige idiote in die Nasionale Party soos FW de Klerk, Pik Botha, Kobie Coetzee, Barend du Plessis en Dawie de Villiers, asook amptenare soos Gerhard de Kock, die goewerneur van die Reserwe Bank, en Neil van Heerden, die direkteur-generaal van buitelandse sake. Dan was daar linksgesinde Afrikaanssprekendes soos Jan Steyn, Willem de Klerk, Willie Esterhuyse, Pieter de Lange en Johan Heyns wat vatbaar vir Renwick se ondermyning was. In opposisiegeledere was daar bv Harry Oppenheimer, Helen Suzman en Van Zyl Slabbert. Suzman se siening van De Klerk word soos volg verwoord: “She saw him not as a starry-eyed liberal, but as a pragmatic, intelligent man who understood what needed to be done to secure the country’s future” (1403).

Afrikaanse joernaliste soos Ton Vosloo en Willem Wepener het gesorg dat Renwick se idees oor bv politieke regte vir swartes in Naspers se koerante gepubliseer word. Renwick “hand over sufficient funding for the paper [Weekly Mail] to survive for … three months” sodat Anton Harber sy kritiek op die “apartheidsregime” kon voortsit (794). Renwick se pro-swart inmenging in die Suid-Afrikaanse politiek het geen grense geken nie. In gesprek met De Klerk Renwick “raised also the issue of abolition of the death penalty” (1646). Op die vooraand van die Statebondskonferensie in Oktober 1989 Renwick “had used its proximity, unashamedly, to accelerate the release of Walter Sisulu and his companions” (1557).

“I went to Soweto to meet Walter Sisulu and the other released Robben Islanders … I told them that I had spoken to the government about the need not to interfere with the planned rally to welcome them back to Soweto … It was an emotional occasion to meet at last these legendary figures in the history of the ANC. None of the venerable gentlemen … looked very much like revolutionaries, though several were members of the SACP” (1574). “In his public statements following his release, Sisulu continued to emphasise the armed struggle. He also called for more sanctions” (1584).

Toe Kobus Meiring as die administrateur van die Kaapprovinsie aanstel is, “I asked him to promise at last to open the magnificent beaches to South Africans of all races. Kobus, whose own apartment at the Strand was on a still-segregated beach, needed no persuasion to do so” (1132). Weens verswelging deur swartes is daar deesdae op die gewildste vakansiedae in die somer in die Strand, soos in bv Durban, geen blankes op die strand nie. Dit is ‘n omgekeerde situasie. Blankes moes hulle tradisionele ontspanningsplekke aan swartes afstaan. Die nuwe omstandighede benadeel Suid-Afrikaanse blankes ingrypend maar nie vir Renwick wat knus in Engeland woon nie. Polities byderwets word dit geregtigheid genoem.

Renwick het Suidwes-Afrika besoek toe Suid-Afrikaanse troepe in Angola militêr teen Swapo en (ander) kommunistiese magte bedrywig was. Let op Renwick se bevooroordeelde invalshoek: “I was briefed by a half-mad South African colonel on the battle of the Lomba River … On the struggle against Swapo in Namibia, he took the view that victory was certain — but for the efforts of the enemy within. When I inquired who the enemy within were, he replied: ‘The churches, the trade unions and the teachers’” (1193). Renwick het nie daarvan gehou dat kommunistiese magte deur die Suid-Afrikaanse troepe opgehel word nie. “I asked the South Africans whether they did not think they were in danger of overreaching themselves. Johan Heyns inquired publicly whether it made sense to have men ‘defending South Africa’ two hundred miles inside Angola” (1211). Dus, voorspringaksies moet nie buite Suid-Afrikaanse grondgebied uitgevoer word nie; ons moes wag totdat terroriste ons land binnegedring en verwoesting plaaslik gesaai het. Die onafhanklikwording van Suidwes-Afrika word soos volg deur Renwick beskryf: “Namibia returned to legality” (1301).

Ná sy vrylating Mandela “needed some practical help from us. Not wanting to rely for his security only on the South African police, he asked us to provide training for his personal bodyguards, which we arranged for the SAS [British Special Air Service] to do. Later on, when he moved to his wife’s much larger house, he asked for our help in providing better privacy and security there” (1833). Die Britte kon nooit genoeg by Mandela kruip nie. Toe Mandela Brittanje en Amerika besoek het, het die goeie Britte vir hom gedoen wat hulle kon: “To give him some rest before going there [America], we planned to arrange for him to spend a quiet weekend in the English countryside with his great friend and colleague Oliver Tambo” (2076).

Die ander kant van die munt: Sou Renwick kritiek uitspreek op die grootskaalse diefstal van blankes se plase in Zimbabwe en sou hy die reeksmoorde op blanke boere in die nuwe Suid-Afrika veroordeel? Om so iets van hierdie eenogige Brit te verwag, sou myns insiens heeltemal te veel wees.

Ek dink Suid-Afrika sou beter daaraan toe gewees het as Renwick nooit toegelaat is om sy voete in Suid-Afrika te sit nie. Hy is egter vereer toe sy termyn as Britse ambassadeur in Suid-Afrika in 1991 verstryk het. “When I left, Wits University, on the proposal of Helen Suzman, was kind enough to award me an honorary degree ‘for services to the struggle against apartheid’. (The offer from the South African government of the Order of Good Hope I had to decline – on the same grounds Margaret Thatcher had declined the freedom of the city of Johannesburg)” (2585). Volgens Renwick was daar iets “that pleased me the most” tydens sy plaaslike ambassadeurskap: “It was possible to try to act as a genuinely honest broker … I left with an unaccustomed sense of humility” (2594).

Die Britte het die Anglo-Boere-oorlog deur verswelging gewen. Sedert 1994 gaan Afrikaners gebuk onder ‘n soortgelyke verskynsel. Renwick se gedrag in Suid-Afrika herinner aan dít wat die Romeine van die Britte gedink het: “Neither brave in battle, nor faithful in peace” (Nicholas Ostler, Empires of the word: A language history of the world, London: HarperCollins, 2005/2010, 640p; Amazon Kindle $6.83, 5127).

Resensie: Intieme beeld van Saul Bellow deur sy seun Greg

Johannes Comestor

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) het in 1976 die Nobel-prys vir letterkunde ontvang. Oor hom en sy werk is al baie geskryf. Eers onlangs het daar welkome nuwe perspektief gekom toe Bellow se oudste kind sy herinneringe en ‘n ontleding van sy pa se werk gepubliseer het. Ek verwys na Greg Bellow (gebore in 1944) se Saul Bellow’s Heart: A son’s memoir (London: Bloomsbury, 2013, 240p; Amazon Kindle $16.39). Voortaan verwys ek na Saul as Bellow en na sy seun as Greg.

saulbellowsheartBellow het veral vanweë twee romans bekendheid verwerf: Herzog (1964) en Humboldt’s Gift (1975). Soos so dikwels gebeur, bv in die geval van Albert Camus (SêNet 10 Feb), kon Bellow na hierdie uitsonderlike verering nie naasteby weer dieselfde literêre hoogtes bereik nie. “The idealistic ‘young Saul’ became the pessimistic ‘old Saul’ … the optimism and hope I loved and admired in ‘young Saul’ were buried under anger, bitterness, intolerance, and preoccupations with evil and with his death, which lasted for the rest of his life” (Kindle 1693).

Greg het ná sy aftrede al sy pa se boeke herlees en veral probeer om die outeur se gees te verstaan. Op grond van eerstehandse kennis dui Greg aan hoe biografiese besonderhede neerslag in Bellow se fiksie gevind het. Vir Greg was dit geen maklike taak om oor sy pa, van wie hy soms vervreemd was, te skryf nie; ook nie oor sy eie en aangetroude familie, van wie baie nog lewe nie. Sy taak is verder bemoeilik deurdat hy geen toegang tot die Saul Bellow-argiewe kon kry nie. Die skryfwerk aan die boek het vyf moeisame jare in beslag geneem. “My ‘Pop’ deserves as full and as honest a written portrait as I can render” (108). “After rereading his soul-searching novels … I find a man trying to understand his inability to live in harmony with others and with himself” (2646).

Soos die boektitel aandui, gaan dit veral om Bellow se innerlike lewe. Hier volg ‘n voorbeeld van hoe Greg sy pa ontleed. “Along with fortune came fame. Initially refusing to become what he called a ‘ribbon cutter,’ someone who presides over public cultural events, Saul gained a reputation for being publicity shy. But the public eye also appealed. He enjoyed readings, any opportunity to joust with reporters, to respond to critics, and to make known his views on cultural and social issues” (1471). “Saul’s public persona had taken on a mythical quality, drawing people who were interested because he was famous, and feeding his already substantial self-centeredness” (1479).

Greg is ‘n psigoterapeut, in die besonder ‘n “child therapist; Saul commented that I had turned the misery of my childhood into a career” (1303). Sielkundige kennis en insig maak Greg uitnemend geskik vir hierdie projek, want Bellow was bekend daarvoor dat hy veral goed vaar wanneer hy oor die innerlike gewaarwordinge van sy karakters geskryf het: “the centrality of what my father called the ‘inner life'” (660). “The real action occurs inside human beings” (2655). Bellow het hierdie idee van die sielkundige Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) oorgeneem; Reich se “emphasis on emotion as an unadulterated expression of what is essentially human” (1132).

‘n Oorheersende kenmerk van Bellow se lewe is sy vyf huwelike, naamlik met Anita Goshkin (1937-1956), Alexandra (Sasha) Tschacbasov (1956-1959), Susan Glassman (1961-1964), Alexandra Tulcea (1974-1985) en Janis Freedman (1989-2005). Greg ken al Bellow se eggenotes redelik goed en sy ma, Anita (oorlede in 1985), uiteraard baie goed. “Sasha and I had grown close. Susan was pleasant to me, and Alexandra acted as another grandmother to Juliet,” Greg se dogter (2245). Oor Greg se verhouding met Janis skryf ek hieronder.

Greg toon aan waar en hoe hierdie vroue in Bellow se fiksie aan die orde gestel word, bv as die “protective love of women” wat hy ervaar het (591). “He knew that the softness he sought from women was central to his happiness” (598). “Saul married women who possessed some measure of the hardness that I see as necessary to be able to take care of him” (605). “Perhaps an explanation for Saul’s failed marriages lies in the excessively romanticized notions of love” (1967). “An inability to give and take love freely. I believe that to have been Saul’s greatest personal flaw” (2287).

Dit blyk dat Bellow soms sy romans gebruik/misbruik het om houe teen vorige eggenotes in te kry. “His published works gave him the last word” (2074). Erger, Bellow is nie vry te pleit van die moontlikheid dat hy geskei en getrou het om stof vir sy fiksie te versamel nie, of om in die regte stemming vir skeppende werk te kom nie. Byvoorbeeld, Herzog word beskryf as “a book filled with the misery of his second failed marriage” (2067). Skryfwerk was immers vir Bellow die belangrikste faktor in sy lewe: “Writing was his raison d’être” (97).

“He was, after all, a man who lived for a singular creative purpose” (2673). “Writer is the one-word descriptor on Saul Bellow’s gravestone, a final testament to a life where everything and everyone was subordinated to art” (2646). Bellow “chose a life of singular literary purpose and a lifelong pattern of selfish conduct that he could neither deny nor completely bury” (2190). Bellow se persoonlikheid word uiteraard ook duidelik in sy karakters weerspieël, bv “his narrators usually ignore the advice [of well-meaning friends] and follow their own misguided instincts” (1233).

Bellow het hom soggens afgesonder vir skryfwerk. “I understood that writing is hard work whether the results are poems or novels. I remember seeing Saul, winter and summer, emerge from his study with his shirt soaked through with sweat” (1500). In sy aanvaardingstoespraak vir die Nobel-prys het Bellow met verwysing na Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) gesê “art is an ‘attempt to render the highest justice to the visible universe'” (1666).

Bellow se ouers het uit Litoue via Rusland na Kanada verhuis, waar Bellow in Montreal by geboorte die naam Solomon gekry het, maar Saul genoem is. Sy ouer broers was Abraham, Morrie en Sam. “Vanity was something the men in the Bellow family shared, as they thought themselves handsomer and smarter than everyone else. This perceived superiority was often their self-entitled rationale for bending or breaking rules that displeased them. While Sam tempered his feelings of entitlement, Abraham, Morrie, and Saul ignored social convention and viewed people who held contrary opinions with barely veiled contempt” (404). “The boost to Saul’s vanity” word beskou as een van die motiverings vir Bellow se reeks huwelike (611).

Die Bellows het hulle in 1924 in Chicago gevestig. In 1933 het Bellow begin om aan die University of Chicago te studeer. Anders as sy ouers, wat sterk anti-kommunisties was, het Bellow van jongs af aangetrokke tot linkse politieke idees gevoel, bv “Trotskyite idealism” (728). Dit is ook hoe hy sy eerste vrou en mede-student, Anita Goshkin, wie se voorouers uit die Krim-skiereiland gekom het, ontmoet het. Albei het hulle van formele Joodse religieuse praktyke gedistansieer. As student het Bellow die boeke van Balzac en Tolstoy gelees, “sentence by sentence to see if he could improve on them” (445). “He was tutored only by the great writers” (2130). Bellow het homself beskou as “self-taught as a writer” (693).

Bellow het die graad BA aan Northwestern University in Evanston behaal, met Engels en antropologie as hoofvakke. In 1937 het hy met Anita getrou. Sy literêre deurbraak het gekom “by abandoning a fictional style designed to please academics in favor of a naturally flowing prose style” (773). Greg, “could not appreciate his books as literature” (1052). Maar hy noem tog Bellow se “observational capacities” en sy “magnificent descriptive capacities” (1964). Elders verwys Greg na Bellow se “lofty prose” (2670).

Een van Bellow se kenmerke was sy neiging om kort-kort van woning te verander. In die 15 jaar wat hy met sy eerste vrou saamgewoon het, het hulle agtereenvolgend 22 blyplekke gehad. Greg noem dit ‘n “gypsy life” (530, 1254, 2614). Daar was ook ‘n ander verskynsel: “It did not take long for Saul to develop a taste for sex outside of marriage … Saul … adopted a belief that fidelity was a bourgeois ideology” (577). Greg verwys na “Saul’s chronic philandering” (714). Bellow het homself ‘n “serial monogamist” genoem. (605).

“Our father was always easily angered, prone to argument, acutely sensitive, and palpably vulnerable to criticism” (73). Bellow se pa, Abraham, “hated his softness and vulnerability” (518). “Abraham … formed a critical judgment of his youngest as an overgrown crybaby who had failed to absorb the lesson life taught him: the necessity for emotional toughness” (1046). Greg beskryf sy pa as “in many ways a kid who never grew up” (905). “Saul’s inner life had been affected by all the heartache he poured into the … novels that he produced” (1341). “Despite his lifelong inability to manage the effects of tender human feeling, it was at the core of my father’s being” (1566). “Emphasizing the literary lion overlooks the very human man and masks the essential soft side of Saul” (2676).

Bellow het in 1961 met sy derde vrou getrou. Na ‘n hele aantal tydelike doseerposte in Engels en skryfwerk aan verskeie universiteite is hy in 1962 deur die University of Chicago permanent in die Committee on Social Thought aangestel. Dit is ‘n interdissiplinêre doktorale studieprogram. Daar het Bellow die “intellectual companionship” terdeë geniet, bv van die “crusty Edward Shils” (1910-1995), ‘n bekende sosioloog (1454). Bellow het hom egter teen Shils se suiwer rasionaliteit verset en sy geestelike onafhanklikheid sover moontlik probeer handhaaf.

Greg is Bellow se oudste kind en die enigste wat hy by sy eerste vrou gehad het. By sy tweede vrou was Adam sy enigste kind en Daniel by sy derde vrou. By sy vierde vrou, die enigste nie-Jodin met wie Bellow getrou het, ‘n Romeense wiskundige, het hy geen kinders verwek nie. Toe hy 74 was, het Bellow in 1989 die vyfde keer getrou, met een van sy oud-studente en later sy sekretaresse, wat meer as veertig jaar jonger as hy was. By Janis, toe sy 40 was, het Bellow in 1999, toe hy 84 was en na 10 huweliksjare, ‘n dogter, Naomi Rose (Rosie), gehad. Dit kan ‘n oorstootdrie in beseringstyd genoem word. “Her birth caused a stir inside and outside of the family” (2395).

Bellow was en Greg is maar eienaardig. Albei het soms sielkundige terapie ondergaan; bv Bellow omdat sy huwelike misluk het en Greg omdat hy weens sy pa se mislukkings gevrees het dat hy nooit ‘n suksesvolle huwelik kon hê nie. Toe die hoogs bejaarde Bellow nie die huwelik van Greg se dogter bygewoon het nie, Greg “did not speak with Saul for eighteen months” (2463). Bellow se prokureur, Walter Pozen, het volgens Greg verkeerdelik beweer dat Bellow se verstand tot die einde helder gebly het, moontlik om te voorkom dat die geldigheid van sy testament betwis word. “I eventually considered Walter’s gratious assertion of mental clarity to be a preemptive attempt to mythologize Saul Bellow, the famous author, at the expense of my father, the man” (2565). Blykbaar het Greg tog ‘n goeie huwelikslewe met JoAnn. Hulle het in 1970 getrou en het twee kinders, Juliet en Andrew. Dit is begryplik dat pa en seun nie altyd goed oor die weg gekom het nie. Greg was as jong man reeds vasbeslote om finansieel en emosioneel so onafhanklik moontlik van Bellow te wees.

Greg het deurgaans sosialisme aangehang. In die jare sestig het daar tydens bv die burgerregtebeweging tussen vader en seun verwydering oor politieke sake ingetree. Bellow het meer konserwatief geword. Die vernietiging van die sosiale orde, soos weerspieël in bv die verval van New York City, het hom laat besef dat ongebreidelde vryheid gevaarlik is. Bellow het bewus geword van die “fragile state of the entire human endeavor … Saul worried that the future of civilized society was at risk … Angry objections to inequalities expressed by my generation, by women, and by blacks now in political power posed a threat to the twenty-five hundred years of Western culture Saul had studied and to which he had devoted his life. In the late 1970s and ’80s, Saul began to criticize the growing tide of political correctness in society and began to take conservative positions on matters of race and gender” (1761). “Saul took an increasingly negative view of the militancy among blacks in Chicago … Saul became increasingly cautious and troubled by the urban decay that was destroying the Chicago he fondly remembered” (1782).

“Saul had little sympathy with feminist ideas, the increasing presence of women in academia, or prominent women writers” (1816). Aan Candace Falk het Bellow gesê: “‘The only thing you women’s liberationists will have to show for your movement in ten years will be sagging breasts!’ Candace left the class insulted and cestfallen” (1824). “Dissatisfied with the intellectual quality of the work by women and black applicants, he fought against their grants. And Saul offended everyone when he publicly asked: ‘Who was the Tolstoy of the Zulus?'” (1802).

“My father was now siding with the thinkers he had once challenged, promulgating a set of answers and solutions to problems, both social and personal, that I found distinctly patriarchal, authoritarian, and hierarchical” (1858). “More than anything else, I attribute the changes to disillusionment and disappointment – disillusionment that the Marxist ideas in which he had placed so much faith had become a rationale for murderous totalitarian dictatorships, and disappointment in the failure of art to transform the world into a less materialistic place” (1697).

Bellow het in sy latere lewe sy Joodse wortels herontdek, veral na aanleiding van die Arabier-Israeli-oorlog in 1967. Hy het gevrees dat ‘n tweede Holocaust kon plaasvind. Maar steeds “my father found little solace in organized religion” (1716). Hy het vaagweg gehoop dat sy siel dalk onsterflik kon wees. “The once rebellious and irreligious son now found favor in the wisdom of the older generation and in the Jewish roots from which he had distanced himself during my formative years” (1796).

Teen die einde van sy lewe “Saul saw the Marxist beliefs that had fueled his philandering, bohemianism, and permissive parenting as shameful errors” (2053). Daar was by hom ook “revised versions of family life that omitted his painful relationship with his father.” Bellow “came to speak about Grandpa with a fondness that surprised me” (2057). “No aspect of Saul’s past conduct became more shameful to him than having distanced himself from his Jewish roots for over thirty years out of Marxist conviction, as a part of his literary apprenticeship he considered necessary, and because religious observance so little moved him” (2089).

Nadat hy die vyfde keer getrou het, was Bellow se jong bruid Janis aanvanklik die toonbeeld van onderdanige sorgsaamheid. Na mate Bellow al hoe ouer en weerloser geword het, het Janis haar posisie toenemend versterk om haar sin te kry. “Soon Saul was represented by a new literary agent, a new lawyer, and new financial advisers. In the end Janis was installed as Saul’s literary executor, a new will was drafted … and the inheritance Adam, Dan, and I were told to expect was, at a minimum, halved. We were excluded from any posthumous financial benefit from Saul’s literary estate” (2374).

Greg opper besware oor wat oor hom in James Atlas se Saul Bellow-biografie (2000) geskryf is. Janis het gesorg dat Bellow se gemagtigde biograaf, Zachary Leader, toegang tot die Saul Bellow-argiewe kry, maar nie Greg nie. Greg moes toe vir sy boek noodgedwonge grootliks op sy geheue staatmaak. Maar Greg het aan ons ‘n intieme beeld van sy pa gegee wat geen biograaf hom kan nadoen nie.