The President’s Gardens Muhsin Al-Ramli Quercus 

The grisly opening of this book is the harbinger of things to come. 

Set in war-torn Iraq, the first paragraph describes how the village wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates – in a land without bananas. One belongs to one of Iraq’s most-wanted men. 

The secret as to why he has been beheaded lies in the scarred battlefields of the Gulf War and... in the President’s Gardens. 

Translated from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren this beautifully written, albeit tragic story, describes the horror of war – the carnage; the fear and also the shreds of dignity that are clung on to – with a tenderness and honesty that has been lauded as a masterpiece of Middle Eastern literature.

The Knock on the Door: The Story of the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee by Terry Shakinovsky and Sharon Cort Picador started in 1981 in Johannesburg, The Detainees’ Parents Support Committee (DPSC) was set up by parents, partners and the families of activists who were detained without trial and thus had no recourse to legal intervention. 

There were many in this movement, as described in this fascinating and necessary book, who had not been politically involved. Members of the DPSC stood on street corners with placards calling for the release of their children. 

They organised food, clothing and legal representation for detainees across the country. DPSC activists marched, petitioned, argued, wrote and protested for the release of all being held. They made public the brutal operations of the security establishment and helped to draw international attention to the atrocities being perpetuated against children – some as young as 9 – by the apartheid state. 

Some of the evidence amassed by the DPSC helped to lay the groundwork for SA’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It tells the story of the DPSC and how the anti-detention movement became part of a mass uprising that brought apartheid down on its knees. And it inspires in relating how ordinary people stood up against the scourge of racism and the abuse of power.