The many history buffs and cricket enthusiasts who filled The Book Lounge earlier this month for the launch of Dean Allen’s Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein were enthralled by the story of James Logan of Matjiesfontein. The author, who is a talented lecturer and historian, shared his broad knowledge (replete with amusing anecdotes) about this intriguing slice of local history.
Michael Morris, fellow historian and journalist and the author of Apartheid, an Illustrated History, joined Allen in witty and engaging conversation at the launch. Welcoming the duo to The Book Lounge, owner Mervyn Sloman praised the book for it’s sheer beauty. “It is exceptionally unusual in this day and age to find a book where so much care has gone into the visual side, in a way that complements the storytelling,” he said.
“The text is filled with clean prose that is very well-written,” Sloman said. “Like the best storytelling you are drawn into the characters, the time and the place of this fascinating, little known aspect of our history, the intersection of war and cricket.”
Morris recalled the many email exchanges he had enjoyed over the years with Allen, whom he had known “digitally” as the editor of the Cape Argus. In his years working for the newspaper, Morris received many “intelligent, insightful, extremely well-written and historically fascinating pieces on some or other aspect of cricket”, a topic about which he claimed to know nothing. Morris said he had found Allen’s Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa every bit as engaging as his excellent articles.
The many years of research that had gone into the book also informed Allen’s PhD thesis, and both works have reached a timely fruition. “The timing of this publication is absolutely spot on,” said Morris, referring to the book’s opening paragraph which quotes Cecil John Rhodes. “In his singularly immodest way, this telling opening shows Rhodes reflecting on his own contribution and that of James Logan. Rhodes says he has met only two creators in the Cape, himself and James Logan!”
Morris was curious about why such an extraordinary character had not attracted more attention before now. Allen speculated about this: “He’s one of those characters that history has missed! Being a Brit I can say, had Logan achieved what he had on home soil, there’d be dozens of books written about him already. But that’s the beauty of South Africa. It’s like discovering gold!”
Dean Allen is a compelling speaker and his enjoyment of the work he has done over many years shines through – both in his exuberant presentation, and in the gorgeous book he has written. At the launch, Allen told one particularly memorable story about a “disappearing” suitcase encountered while he was researching for this book.
Many people in the audience bought copies of Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa and queued patiently for an opportunity to chat to the author while he signed their books. A lucky few managed to get out of town and accompany Allen on a spectacular tour of Matjiesfontein, the focal point of this book, the following weekend.
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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks while Dean Allen (@EmpireCricketSA) used #EmpireWarCricket:
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Adam Cruise recently spoke to Nancy Richards on SAfm Literature about his book, Louis Botha’s War.
The author and historian warns against idolising historic figures like Botha and Cecil John Rhodes, and while he believes “Rhodes must fall”, he argues that Botha’s statue ought to stay where it is.
“Louis Botha was a very interesting man, a very soft man, and his whole purpose in life was reconciliation,” Cruise says. The author argues that one has to understand the political climate of the day, adding that Botha’s biggest obstacle was figuring out a way to get disparate white groups (English and Afrikaans) to speak to each other.
Cruise explains why Botha sided with the British to deter the presence of Germany in Africa and he speculates how South Africa may have been different had the leader lived longer.
Listen to the podcast:
Ivo Vegter, author of Extreme Environment: How environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies and columnist for the Daily Maverick, has written an article about whether legalising the trade in rhino horn could save the species.
Vegter explains why dehorning rhinos or poisoning the horns do not deter poachers – they simply kill any rhino they find in order to make their own tracking process easier and to save themselves time and money.
The author summarises the two options available to reduce rhino poaching: “Reduce demand for horn by education campaigns, improve anti-poaching security measures, tighten law enforcement, and/or legalise trade.”
Read the article in which Vegter highlights the pros and cons of each option:
His killer argument, however, is this: a government-controlled central selling organisation is far more likely to win the approval of the delegates at CITES than an unrestricted free market. As much as I prefer my capitalism unfettered, he’s right. They’re all watermelons there: green on the outside, and red on the inside (to use James Delingpole’s provocative phrase).
The fate of the rhino hangs on whether these people can be persuaded. If that means making a compromise that appeals to socialists, statists and bureaucrats, then it seems a good compromise to me.
Dean Allen, the author of Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa, has just launched his new website.
For his very first blog entry on the site, Allen has chosen to share the story of his early life and how he came to live in South Africa.
In the post, Allen writes about how he made the transition from his “uninspiring” office job in his native Britain to a student of physical education at Stellenbosch University. This ignited his passion for South African history, and eventually led him to the doctoral study that informed Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa.
Read the blog post:
As an Englishman living in South Africa people often ask me how I ended up here. I am also often asked why I have dedicated much of my career to writing about the history of this fascinating place. Well, South Africa is in my blood. My love affair with the country began almost 20 years ago when I first visited Cape Town. The people and the place struck a chord within my soul and I have been returning ever since. It has been the focus of my life and career since those early days.
“You realise this is the kind of behaviour that causes people to tear down statues of your people?”
This was Darrel Bristow-Bovey’s recent exasperated response to an official from the United Kingdom government after he was told he would have to pay them R25 a minute to make an enquiry over the phone, after he had gone through significant turmoil on their website to apply for a visa to no success.
In an article for Rand Daily Mail Bristow-Bovey writes about how ridiculously difficult it is to obtain “the privilege of visiting the UK” which led him to make a “careless, oblivious joke” – the kind “you make when you stop remembering how privileged you are”. However, the horrific news from Durban, where foreigners were savagely murdered merely for being foreign, sobered up the author of One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, causing him to reflect on his life.
Bristow-Bovey goes on to write that a reading of A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg, and the realisation of the harsh reality for foreigners in our country, makes it hard to keep your heart from breaking.
Read his article:
“Credit card details, please, sir.”
My wife heard my bellowing from the other room. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
“I’m the victim of xenophobia,” I replied.
It was the kind of careless, oblivious joke that you make when you stop remembering how privileged you are. The next day I felt ashamed, because the news started coming in from Durban.
Max du Preez has written an article for News24 about King Goodwill Zwelithini’s inescapable responsibility for the recent spate of xenophobic violence in South Africa.
In the article, the author of A Rumour of Spring: South Africa after 20 years of Democracy, discusses Zwelithini’s “reckless statements on foreign nationals” and the ways in which he is allowed to evade their consequences.
Du Preez reports that Zwelethini is paid six times more than any other traditional king or chief. He says that forcing the king to “live more humbly” would go a long way in curbing his inflamed and inflammatory hubris.
Read the article:
Fewer than two out of 10 South Africans see King Goodwill Zwelithini as their king. And yet we taxpayers pay him about R60m per year to keep his bloated household going and he behaves as if he really is the national monarch who is above the law and our constitution.
South Africans should not simply sweep Zwelithini’s reckless statements on foreign nationals, the most obvious trigger of the latest wave of xenophobic attacks, under the carpet. Any influential public figure guilty of such provocative, irresponsible utterances should be forced to face the consequences of his actions.
“Was Paul Kruger ’n dom, skelm woestaard, of ’n wyse, waardige staatsman? Dit hang af van wie jy lees en wat jy wil glo.”
Só het Max du Preez onlangs in ‘n rubriek vir Netwerk24 geskryf na aanleiding van die protes oor die standbeeld van Cecil John Rhodes op die Universiteit van Kaapstad-kampus.
Die A Rumour of Spring: South Africa after 20 years of Democracy-outeur skryf dat geskiedskrywing meestal subjektief is en hy verduidelik dat die mites rondom Rhodes, Shaka Zulu, die Khoi-Khoi, die Voortrekkers en Umkhonto we Sizwe dikwels neergepen word deur onbetroubare getuies.
“Die probleem is dat ons begrip van die geskiedenis ons siening van die huidige en die toekoms beïnvloed,” skryf Du Preez.
Lees die artikel:
Geskiedskrywing is meestal maar fiksie.
Die debatte rondom simbole en geskiedenis die laaste tyd het weer gewys hoeveel “weergawes” daar van ons geskiedenis is. Die meeste mense verkies om die weergawe te glo wat hul eie groep in die beste lig stel.
Dit is nie net ’n Suid-Afrikaanse probleem nie. As jy byvoorbeeld die Palestyne en die Israeli’s oor die historiese gebeure van hul streek uitvra, kry jy voorstellings wat wyd verskil.
In Anni Dewani: A Father’s Story Vinod Hindocha shares his daughter’s story, the highs and the lows, with author Shekhar Bhatia, opening up about the devastating loss after her senseless and highly publicised murder while she was on honeymoon in South Africa. Her husband, Shrien Dewani, was cleared of all charges relating to her death.
The Star has shared an excerpt from this book in which Hindocha recalls his first ever trip to South Africa – one marked with grief as he came to collect Anni’s body – and the next few trips he had to make to attend Dewani’s trial. He writes that “to hear that the man who married your daughter had a secret sex life with other men is nothing short of horrifying” and relates his reaction and heartache for his late daughter.
Read the excerpt:
I saw some members of the media shaking their heads in disbelief as others wrote reports on their laptops and mobiles, some updating the world through Twitter. Most people in that courtroom would probably have felt some sympathy for me because of this utter deception.
But I was more heartbroken for Anni. She was as innocent as they come and she had been taken in by this Shrien creature. Her softness and sweet, unsuspecting nature would have been a pushover for Shrien. I now knew why he had rejected her by refusing to sleep with her. He was into men and Anni would have had absolutely no knowledge or suspicion of this.
Matjiesfontein Village would like to invite you to the launch of Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa.
As Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa is a book about Matjiesfontein and its colourful history, the launch will be a special one.
The launch and signing will be on Saturday, 18 April, and Allen will lead a historic tour of Matjiesfontein on Sunday, 19 April.
To receive a 10% discount on all bookings for the weekend, quote “Dean Allen Book Launch”.
Don’t miss out!
Louis Botha’s statue outside Parliament in Cape Town was smeared with red paint recently in the ongoing debate around the relevance of pre-democracy figures being displayed in public spaces.
Who was Botha and what challenges did he face in a specific period of our country’s history? How does his legacy affect the South Africa we live in today? Was he a hero, an arbiter of peace, or just another oppressor?
Namibiana Buchdepot has shared an excerpt from Louis Botha’s War by Adam Cruise, which investigates the country’s involvement in World War I on the side of the British, a mere 12 years after the end of the South African War.
Read the excerpt:
Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. As a dominion of the British Empire, South Africa was automatically drawn into the conflict. The news of a European war could not have come at a worse time for Botha. It was a mere twelve years since the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging which brought an end to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, a bitter conflict that pitted Briton against Boer, and the wounds still ran deep. The Union, made up of two former colonies and two previously independent states, was itself only four years old and already the Afrikaners were fighting among themselves over the path the new country should take. Botha’s own policy was to pledge reconciliation between the two disparate groups of whites, the one English, the other Afrikaans, but his fellow countrymen were still smarting from defeat at the hands of their traditional foe.