Shortly after Richard Rive finished this book, he was stabbed to death near his house in Cape Town. Cape Town was the town of his life. He lived there, his books reflect the town and especially the places where he lived and worked. I wonder if his book and the story it tells about his life was a lane that led to his final destination. But this is just speculation 0n my part.
The book is set in the year 1985 and divided in three parts. The first part is about the Mandela March on Wednesday, August 18, 1985. The second part is dated September 17, 1985 and tells about the decision of the government to close schools in the West Cape. The third part and date is October 15, 1985 and is named The Trojan Horse, about the violence of the government, targetting protesting students and teachers.
The main character of the books is Andrew Dreyer. He is a teacher at Eastridge Secondary School in Cape Town. In his younger years he was involved in political activities, but these days he wants to keep quiet. His son Brad does not understand the present attitude of his father, for he does not know about the political past of his father. Andrew prefers the solitude of his study. His wife Mabel finds her strength in her faith and her church activities. His daughter Ruth was named after the first love of Andrew, the cultural divide between Ruth and Andrew was too big.
From his study Andrew writes long letters to his old comrade Abe Hanslo, who has left South Africa and found refuge in Canada where he teaches at a university. Andrew recounts the events of the days and digs into their common past. The other activity of Andrew is to write notes about the ongoing events. Next to that is his attempt to write a book about what is going on. He sends copies of his text to Abe with the hope of receiving comments. These three independent streams of words are flowing towards unity and the question what is who and who is what. Where is reality and where is the attempt to describe that very same reality?
How long will it be possible for Andrew Dreyer, former activist, to stay in his study and his classroom without taking sides, or making a statement. Will he be able to be a man of words and words in letters and in a future book or will he be a man of action as well? His son disappears, without a trace. He starts a search, he gets into contact with his girlfriend Lenina (daughter of another former comrade), he attends meetings. All in an attempt to find his son who might be in danger.
Richard Rive has written another captivating book, written with clarity, with hidden depths. A beauty.
Richard Rive – Emergency continued – 1990