A South African tragedy
JOURNEY TO ETERNITY: Victim of Apartheid: a novel
by Eric Carman
(Melbourne: Hewstone Books)
Paperback: 232 pages
Rec. Price: $24.95
Available from Hewstone Books, 67/211 Wellington Pde South, East Melbourne, Vic. 3002.
Professor Carman’s novel is set in apartheid-era South Africa, in the dying years of the Afrikaaner regime. The author’s 10 years spent working in southern Africa, eight of them in Lesotho, gives his novel a sense of gripping reality and danger.
Journey to Eternity is the story of a young South African couple, Dan Morris and Sandra van der Graaf, who meet while studying at Oxford in the 1970s, marry and return to live in Lesotho, a small nation totally surrounded by South Africa. David’s study of Bantu culture in neighbouring South Africa brings him into close contact with black students.
The story, told from the viewpoint of the participants, recounts how Dan Morris discovers that his students are being spied upon by the Bureau of State Security, the secretive government agency which conducted an unofficial war against opponents of the apartheid regime.
Dan is asked by a banned white woman, Louise Bayley, to assist her to escape into neighbouring Botswana. With evident reluctance he agrees, and is quickly engaged as a courier and becomes a link between black resistance students and the white opposition to the Government.
At the point when Louise Bayley is about to escape, her husband is assassinated, enmeshing Dan Morris further in the political struggle in the country.
The action now turns to the trial of a black resistance member who is charged with the assassination of Louise Bayley’s husband. Dan Morris decides to attend the trial, in which the evidence is slanted heavily in favour of the prosecution.
As they wait for a verdict, Dan Morris is caught up in further efforts to rescue people seeking to flee South Africa.
In the meantime, his wife Sandra, who lives a rather lonely life in neighbouring Lesotho, is befriended by a senior British diplomat, who after carefully “vetting” her, reveals that the British Government knows of her husband’s activities in supporting the resistance, and urges her to help her husband.
When the trial concludes, the outcome is a pleasant surprise. Yet the heavy hand of the regime extends into the farthest reaches of society, bringing the story to a tragic dénouement.
This is a compelling account of what apartheid did to many people in South Africa.