100 Memorable Sporting Moments

Both by Peter Joyce (Zebra Press/ Random/Struik, each R195)

It’s a hazardous business buying a book for some-one unless you know that person really well. With Christmas coming, many books will be unwrapped with appropriate squawks of delight, idly fingered, then discarded. Nothing wrong with the book; nothing wrong with the recipient; just an expensive mismatch.

This is where miscellanies are so useful. Their eclectic selections cater for all tastes and no one needs to feel obliged to read them from cover to cover. However, their strength is also their weakness. Because of the ready market, many a cynical writer will knock together a volume and be assured of sales, if not of appreciation.

Here’s something different. Peter Joyce has compiled two meaningful selections. 100 Moments that Mattered covers a range of events that are said to have built South Africa, while 100 Memorable Sporting Moments reflects events that allegedly united the country.

I dipped into both volumes with pleasure, although at times it’s a bit too glib. One mustn’t take the subtitles too seriously. The killing of Hintsa can hardly qualify as something that built South Africa and the treatment of Papwa Sewgolum sadly didn’t unite the country. And because this is popular writing, perhaps we shouldn’t take all the “facts” too seriously either.

The person identified in a photograph as DF Malan is Gideon Brand van Zyl, and neither “Oom Boy” Louw nor any Afrikaans speaker could ever have said “Stand in a straight stripe”. It’s just a tired ethnic joke based on a misunderstanding of Afrikaans usage.

Oh, well. – John Boje