Raymond Wacks' White Lies Now Available
The Sixties in sunny South Africa were moderately swinging. Bands with their gleaming electric guitars competed creditably with their British and American idols in the pop charts. The country's isolation and Calvinist-inspired repression were only partial obstacles to the import of the permissive values of iniquitous western culture.
Most of the population, of course, lived under the cruel disenfranchised subjugation of a government whose role, in the words of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was the "preservation of the white man and his state." Poverty was everywhere - and yet nowhere - as the policy of separate development swept "non-Whites" into their invisible, squalid "locations" miles away from the leafy White suburbs.
Raymond Wacks was born and grew up in this dysfunctional society. His compelling novel, White Lies, is told through the eyes of Roy Freeman, a suburban Jewish teenager growing up in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s. By turns hilarious and poignant, the narrative traces Roy's loss of innocence and developing political consciousness, while his increasingly isolated country tightens its control over all forms of dissent, and the white minority imposes its policy of racial suppression and segregation.
The release of White Lies comes at an interesting time, when modern day South Africa continues its efforts to create a just society in the face of alarming violence and crime. As a black middle class emerges, a growing number of whites - ironically - now live below the poverty line. Many blame the African National Congress (ANC), the very organization that worked so resolutely to end apartheid.
The Jewish community in 1960s South Africa, part of the white elite, was deeply divided. Though many Jews played a significant role in the struggle against apartheid, some aligned themselves with the ruling white minority, a perplexing paradox so soon after the Holocaust.
"Divisions among the Jewish community are an important element in the book," says Wacks. "There is a recurring comparison between apartheid and the Third Reich. Being raised Jewish, I witnessed this parallel firsthand, and I often found myself at odds with family and friends who incomprehensibly supported apartheid. I found this hard to accept given the horrors that European Jews had so recently endured."