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Popular South African novelist Lauren Beukes became the talk of African literary Twitter when she asked Eugene de Kock, an apartheid assassin to leave a party organized by Sunday Times to celebrate writers longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Literary Prize.

She posted on Twitter:

Literary events are typically drama-free, right? Perhaps, the exception would be when a confirmed apartheid murderer tries to socialize with respectable literary folks.

You’re probably wondering how a prominent figure of apartheid brutality came to be at a literary event and how Beukes a.k.a Africa’s darling of speculative fiction came to be a party bouncer. Here is what happened.

According to BooksLive, de Kock came to the event on the invitation of his biographer, Anemari Jansen. Jansen’s book on de Kock’s apartheid past titled Eugene de Kock: Assassin for the State had been longlisted for the Sunday Times back in April. On May 14th, Sunday Times organized a private party to celebrate the authors and publishers of the longlisted books and also to announce the books that had made into the shortlist. The party was part of the line up of activities at the on-going Franschhoek Literary Festival in Cape Town.

In a sense, de Kock had a reason to be at the event. He was there to see his biography acknowledged and possibly selected as one of the shortlisted works.

But life, as we can all agree, is complicated. Having a reason or a right to do be at an event means little—especially when the person in question represents a history of violence and brutality that is still very fresh for many, especially for black writers in attendance.

De Kock represents all that is blood-curdlingly monstrous about apartheid. Little surprise that many attendance couldn’t stomach having him socializing among black attendees whose friends and families were probably victims of de Kock’s murderous past.

Someone had to say something, and Lauren Beukes did!

Here is what she told BooksLive:

“There were black writers and publishers who were visibly upset that he was there, some of whom were victims of his operation, who had lost family members. There was talk of staging a walk-out in protest and maybe we should have done that….I was angry that the writers should have to leave an event celebrating them.”

After conferring with other black writers at the event, Beukes and Thabiso Mahlape—the henchwoman of Blackbird Books—approached de Kock, who as you can see from the picture above is a pretty big guy. He had planted himself by the stairs. Beukes and Mahlape walk up to him. Coming face to face with him, Beukes said, “It’s inappropriate that you are here. People are in tears that you are here and I think you should leave.”

Without resisting or being difficult in any way, he responds: “Thank you for telling me.”  And then exits the event.

As you can imagine, not everyone is happy with Beukes. Her Twitter and Facebook pages were trolled with racist remarks by people who thought she had no right to give de Kock the bounce. They argued that de Kock had since “done his time” and apologized for his sins.

In defending Beukes, others have blamed Jansen the author of the biography for inviting de Kock.

“I am totally putting this on her… She should have had the foresight and sensitivity not to invite him,” says Karabo Kgoleng, a panelist at the festival.

What do you guys think?

 

*************

Post image by BooksLive

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Lauren Beukes Kicks Out Apartheid-Era Assassin from Literary Event” Subscribe

  1. Elfreda Tetteh 2016/05/26 at 22:52 #

    Blame should definitely fall on Jansen. What was she thinking??

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