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Red in the Rainbow by Lynn Carneson Launched at the Book Lounge

Lynn Carneson

The launch of Red in the Rainbow: The Life and Times of Fred and Sarah Carneson by Lynn Carneson saw another fabulous unfolding of ideas and reminiscences for Cape Town’s book events calendar. The author, who has produced a searing account of growing up as the child of “named” Communists, was joined in conversation by The Book Lounge‘s proprietor, Mervyn Sloman. He welcomed Red as another vital contribution to the growing record of recent South African history.

Red in the RainbowSloman recalled meeting Fred Carneson in his mid-70s some years ago. He said, “In that brief meeting he was simultaneously humble, self-deprecating and inspiring. I found this book incredibly affecting. I don’t mind admitting that I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I came to the end. Despite all they endured, the spirit of your parents was never actually broken. They were never ultimately defeated by their terrible ordeal of suffering at the hands of the apartheid state.”

In an intensely personal account of her family’s suffering, Lynn Carneson spoke of her father’s month-long interrogation, torture and sleep deprivation. He slept on a cell too small to contain a bed where a very bright light shone 24 hours a day.

Many years later she discovered a bundle of letters, tied together with a piece of string. These letters had been written while he was in solitary confinement for over 13 months. The family only ever received two of the letters he’d penned. The rest remained unopened and unread.

“He was allowed a pen and paper, which sometimes he was given, and sometimes he wasn’t. He wrote to me, my mother, to Ruth and to John,” said Carneson. Yet curiously, these letters were never read by Sarah, his wife. “When I looked at them, I was struck by the outpouring of how someone comes to terms with being badly tortured. He broke down for having signed, even though he never betrayed anybody. Yet he never forgave himself for breaking under the pressure.”

Carneson spoke of cracking the codes contained within the letters. Metaphors couched in poetic descriptions of planting new sunflowers and caring for the goldfish in the pond were references to spies fishing for information and instructions to seek new recruits.

The author acknowledged the many comrades present at the gathering – those who’d helped her mother with shopping, with caring for her younger brothers and sisters. She said, “There isn’t one person here who wasn’t damaged by apartheid. Nor is there one person who hasn’t been healed because we won.”

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    July 22nd, 2010 @22:16 #
     
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    I so wanted to come to this launch. Really looking forward to reading this one.

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