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Bookstore where activist readers can delve into a surfeit of radicalism

SURPLUS Radical Bookshop owner Andre Marais

SURPLUS Radical Bookshop owner Andre Marais

Published Oct 13, 2021


Cape Town - A former Hanover Park teacher and decades-long collector of radical thought books is offering an alternative space and way of thinking in the form of the Surplus Radical Bookshop.

Until last year, Andre Marais from Hanover Park was a high school English teacher and now one of the few People of Colour bookstore sole owners in Cape Town.

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The quaint, eye-catching and gripping bookshop opened just four months ago at 302 Albert Road, Woodstock.

Marais said all the books at the bookshop have been collected by him over three decades.

“When I was an activist in the 1980s, it was always part of it – activism and reading always went together,” said Marais.

Marais was a student activist during the1980s and cultural activist thereafter.

“Reading and books is very elitist and it doesn’t have to be because it’s not elitist. I think just exposing people to books that are going to affect their lives is important.”

Books on solidarity movements, Marxism, anarchism, feminism, media, the esoteric, environmentalism, African history, radical fiction, poetry, art, culture, LGBTQIA+ and critical race theory fill every nook and cranny. Apart from the books by mostly local writers, vinyl music and art can also be found.

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“For us, and my generation, we educated ourselves with important books like this, with the urgency of wanting to transform the world. The privileged don’t want to do that, they want the world to remain the way it is and that is our trump card where we are going to educate ourselves and work through and understand what is happening in the world now. And to understand it and to change it.”

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Marais said he hopes to have book launches, debates and book clubs at the bookstore.

“I want activists, wanna-be-activists, potential activists and lonely and isolated activists to come together and to connect. I don’t want to be overly ambitious but that’s the vision and that is what is slowly starting to happen,” said Marais.

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“I can’t claim that I stock Wilbur Smith because I don’t. I stock Karl Marx and I stock radical books about the Middle East. It’s a very particular bookshop. Everybody is welcome but don't come here for Jodi Picoult, you won’t find her here,” said Marais.

“Radical means not being passive, being available to debate things. It’s people with the urgency of the now, saying that they’re not going to accept what’s going on now and are prepared to get together and to exchange ideas. And to support amid the darkness, the little bit of light that’s coming through.”

Marais envisions that the space will host yoga sessions, a cinema room, music concerts, art galleries and exhibitions, and a theatre space.

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Surplus is open to accepting donations in the form of radical and historical literature and art as well as financial donations to keep doors open.

Contact Marais on 083 886 7164 or via email on [email protected] for more information.

[email protected]

Cape Argus

The Cape Argus Starfish project aims to help encourage young people to steer away from crime. The project offers a platform for individuals and organisations to tell our readers what they do to empower the youth, and to share their knowledge. Email us at [email protected]