Author Elwyn Bonhomme’s novel, Chasing of the Wind, is set in Happy Valley, in Wentworth, during the apartheid era.
Author Elwyn Bonhomme’s novel, Chasing of the Wind, is set in Happy Valley, in Wentworth, during the apartheid era.

A glimpse at the human side of living in apartheid

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jul 27, 2019

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Durban - Twenty years ago, Elwyn Bonhomme was hospitalised for two weeks and was so bored, he started writing a novel.

But then, his busy schedule as a headmaster took over his life once again and only this year, his novel, Chasing of the Wind, came to fruition and is scheduled to be released in the next few weeks.

It was a labour of love for the former schoolteacher turned novelist, now 73, who said the book starts in Happy Valley, a shanty town in Wentworth, in the sixties.

The story takes readers on a journey to the early years of democracy, up to 1996.

While the publishers, Micromega Publications, are putting the final touches to the book, Bonhomme, who lived above Happy Valley for 16 years, said the novel focused around his main character, Tembikile Faku, whose search for a better life drags him through a world of poverty, discrimination, racial abuse, adultery, deceit, hatred, violence, freedom fighting and resistance, that leads him to enduring friendship and redemption.

“There are many sub-plots through the novel and, in the last three chapters, I take the reader somewhere they did not expect to go. I think the message from the book is basically, do not judge someone until you know them,” said Bonhomme.

“After I shelved the book initially, and got it out and dusted it off in March last year, the delay of 20 years had given me so much more to include in my novel. While it is a novel, it is also based in historical fact, particularly with regard to the apartheid era and what was happening in Happy Valley,” said Bonhomme, adding he had used some real people from his past as characters in the book, while some were purely fictional.

Bonhomme’s family were moved from Overport to Wentworth and he said that, while his father was Mauritian, his mother was white but reclassified herself as coloured so that their marriage would be legal under apartheid laws.

The ramifications of this impacted on his grandmother’s pension, while his mother’s brother disowned her because he wanted to keep his white status.

It is these human stories, during apartheid, which have become the focus for his second book.

“A lot of people talk about the political side of apartheid, but we need to tell these human stories and how it impacted on lives, physically, emotionally and psychologically. In my second novel, I look at effects from the Group Areas Act,” he said.

Independent On Saturday

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