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Joseph Diescho: Troubled Waters

This may well be the second Namibian novel and it is not all bad for a country’s second novel. The story is simple and relatively straightforward. It primarily concerns two people. The first one we meet is a white South African, from a strong Afrikaans background and strong religious background, whose family clearly believe that whites are superior and blacks exist to serve whites. When we first meet him, Andries Malan is finishing school. He is soon conscripted into the army and sent to South West Africa (which will later become Namibia). However, instead of becoming a soldier, he will serve as a teacher to the black children as most of the African teachers have fled to join SWAPO. He mainly teaches religion (Christian, of course) in Afrikaans.

The other main character is Lucia (real name: Namvhura) Wanangera, who is also a teacher at the school. She is smart – too smart to get a husband, as she is educated – and has become a teacher in the school. To cut a long story short, she and Andries have an affair and she gets pregnant, both of which are totally illegal.

Diescho gives us plenty of background about the people of Namibia and their customs, the politics of the time and the rise of SWAPO. The influence – and hypocrisy – of religion are a key point (he interestingly contrasts hymns sung in Afrikaans and the language of the Namibians, with the meaning very different in both) and, indeed, makes strong contrasts between the whites and blacks, their customs and their speech. A fascinating novel from a culture that has yet contributed little to world literature.

Publishing history

First published 1993 by Gamsberg Macmillan