He says he wrote the story because he was inspired by the exploits of the Voortrekkers.
They say he trashed the memory of an entire generation of Afrikaners – so they symbolically burnt his book on a braai.
The book, Canvas under the Sky, by first-time writer Robin Binckes, a racy 335-page bodice-ripper in its second print run from local publishers 30 degrees South.
It is billed on the front cover as “an epic historical blockbuster… the sex, drugs and volkspele of the Great Trek”, and its hero, a 17-year-old called Rauch, has sex with everyone from his father’s freed slave to his stepmother, smoking dagga in between as the trekkers venture into the interior from Grahamstown.
It was all too much for the members of the Herstigte Nasionale Party and their leader Andries Breytenbach, who ceremoniously burnt the book at a gathering at their Pretoria offices recently.
Breytenbach, who says he’s been associated with the far-right political party ever since it was formed in October 1966 to fight the advent of black majority rule in South Africa at the expense of an Afrikaner white minority, said he was particularly aggrieved at Binckes’s interpretation of the Voortrekkers as a bunch of sex-crazed licentious ruffians, keeping “Hottentot, San and Khoisan mistresses”.
He said the HNP, with a claimed paid-up membership of 5 000 people and best remembered for its anachronistic leader and founder Jaap Marais and his predilection for raising budgies – among other things – was still fighting against what he bemoaned as the revision of history and the diminution of Afrikaans, particularly in classrooms.
“We are already being represented as oppressors and land grabbers. Now Binckes’s book presents our ancestors as leading smutty, perverted lives, rather than the God-fearing ordinary people that they were.”
But Binckes said he’d written the book out of admiration for the trekkers, long portrayed as dour Calvinists fleeing the British colonial authorities’ insistence that they free their slaves. He based it on his experiences as a tour guide taking overseas tourists to the Voortrekker Monument.
“I’ve been working as an historical tour guide between Joburg and Pretoria for the past 10 years, and I wrote the book out of admiration for their story. It’s a really wonderful story that hasn’t been told for quite a long time. I wanted to inject flesh and blood, feelings and passion into characters who had effectively been cardboard cutouts until then.”
His research was so detailed, he said, that his publishers commissioned him to do a non-fiction history of the Great Trek, which he has just finished.
Binckes’s publisher, Kerrin Cocks, confirmed that the non-fiction account would be published by September or October. It’s working title is the Great Trek Uncut.
“We are doing a 300 000-word book that’s massively sourced and referenced – including the smoking of marijuana and the promiscuity.
“I don’t know how something like this will chip away at the Afrikaner culture. I certainly don’t think the Voortrekkers were fragile by any means. They were solid, tough and courageous to do what they did, but they were human beings,” she said.
The problem was that their exploits had been mythologised by subsequent generations.
“The Afrikaners gave them god-like status and took away their human qualities,” Cocks argued.
ll of this will only add grist to Breytenbach’s mill.
“Based on what Binckes wrote in his novel, we’ve got a major problem with him taking tour groups to the Voortrekker Monument.
“What’s he telling them, if his book is anything to go by?” Breytenbach asked.
“I’ve got no confidence in this so-called historical account that’s coming up.”
Binckes is puzzled by the outcry. “I didn’t know the HNP still existed. Who would have believed they’d burn my book?”
Breytenbach denied that Binckes’s life was in any danger. “Ag, nee, man, he’s mad,” he said. “We’re not militant people. We’re just angry about what he’s written and wanted to make a symbolic gesture saying just that.”