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Closing a Chapter on Joburg History

BALDWIN NDABA

THE CLOSURE of Boekehuis

Disbelief: Jeanette Fourie, a frequent visitor at Boekehuis, couldnt hold back tears while talking to Corina van der Spoel, who has managed Boekehuis in Melville, Joburg, for the past 12 years. In the background is shop assistant Daniel Viljoen.Pictures: Antoine de Ras. Credit: INLSA

was like a funeral.

The 12-year-old bookshop shut its doors just before 5pm on Saturday. The bookshop’s patrons came in their numbers to bid it farewell.

The bookstore in Melville, owned by Media24, was shut amid protests from thousands of people, including writers, journalists and social activists.

The media group cited a lack of profit in a poor economy as the reason for closing the store down.

Not even an online petition campaign created by journalist and writer Mark Gevisser persuaded the owners to keep its doors open.

Saturday’s event was emotional for those who had frequented the shop.

One regular customer stepped into the Boekehuis premises and headed straight to the establishment’s manager, Corina van der Spoel, and her colleagues Eunice Makume and Bettie Parsons, and said: “I came to say goodbye to Boekehuis.”

Those who had frequented the bookshop gave Boekehuis a human face – a face that was not supposed to die they way it did.

One of them, Cyril Souchon, recounted what he said had been refreshing visits to “this house of knowledge and access to information”.

He reminisced about a number of authors who had launched their books “at this august house – which was once a hideout for wanted struggle activists. It was a home to ANC activist Bram Fischer’s daughter Ruth and her husband.”

Souchon said he had learnt about the history of the cinema at the very same house.

Yesterday, Souchon had written a moving elegy to the bookshop on his blog, which started with the sentence “The Boekehuis has closed, it’s gone: Goodbye”.

The author of this piece also had the opportunity to shake hands with Fanie de Villiers (not the cricketer), who scribbled the history of Hillbrow under the pseudonym Kontrei Kleinboer.

De Villiers, who wrote the book Midnight Missionary, which focused on prostitution and night life in Hillbrow, also came to bid farewell to Boekehuis.

Saddened lovers of the bookstore were served cake decorated with black roses and the words “Goodbye Boekehuis. Thank you”.

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