A stream with clear waters, is this book.
When you read carefully you will see at times traces of muddy waters, coming to the surface. Turmoil coming from the outside world. Turmoil trying to find a place where there is no place. Turmoil enters a colourful community in the southern town of Cape Town.
The clarity is also a clarity of style. It is a joy to read a book by Richard Rive. What you read is what happens. This is not to say there are no scarcely hidden layers in this book. There are layers, clarity comes first. You see what happens. But I also hear what is getting at times to the surface or near the surface.
Richard Rive was one of the young boys in District Six, the famous community in Cape Town, South Africa. A community of a diversity of characters and backgrounds. The apartheid regime decided to bulldozer the district to make way for an all-white community. Rive describes a part of this community in the long run towards the onslaught. He focuses on a row of houses in Caledonstreet, near St. Marks’s Church, that plays an important role in the community. This row of houses is called Buckingham Palace.
Number 201 is nicknamed Casbah, a place where Mary, daughter of a pastor, who attends church on a weekly basis, runs a brothel. Number 203 has a painted name: Winsor Park, where Zoot and a bunch of guys live, who help Mary to defend order with difficult customers. Number 205 is the abode of the Abrahams, a muslim family with a few sons who are called the Jungle Boys, who are very protective of their female relatives. Number 207 houses the ‘I’ of the story, who is ten tears old, when the story starts in 1955. Number 209 has the privilige of housing the Knight family, the father is hairdresser with the nickname Last Knight. At Number 211 we find the church. The 0wner of the houses is the Jewish merchant Katzen who escaped nazi Germany and moved to South Africa.
This small community is a source of brothgerhood and sisterfight, or sisterhood and brotherfight. But in the end people realize they find life together in the harshness of life. At the end of the book the community has been shattered by the bulldozers. People are scattered, carrying with them the memories of a community that can not be replaced.
The book is divided in three part. The first one is a morning in 1955, the second and afternoon in 1960, the third an evening in 1970. Three steps that describe the uprooting of a community. The end of the famous District Six.
Richard Rive (1931 – 1989) had his career in writing and education cut short when he was stabbed to death outside his house in Cape Town. His legacy includes this beautiful book
Richard Rive – ‘Buckingham Palace’, District Six – 1986