Rounded Rectangle: FACT BEHIND FICTION
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A section from

‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II






‘There are heroes and there are monsters, but most of us are ordinary mortals caught up in events too turbulent for any of us. Perhaps when the battle is over, all we will inherit will be the ashes of a once beautiful land.’


Wilbur Smith’s 1987 novel – Rage, is the third in the ‘Courtneys of Africa’ series. Though the title represents the underlying anger in the black community during the worst years of the ‘apartheid’ regime in South Africa the story is played out through the adventures of the incredibly wealthy Courtney alpha-male of the time.


Shasa Courtney has the money, the power and the flair to put both to hedonistic use. He drives a Jaguar and a Rolls-Royce, flies his own plane, controls many businesses, and is a powerful political force. His wife hates him but other women can’t get enough of him. In true Wilbur Smith style Shasa is an ace hunter and thrives in conflict. Each of his four children draw strong emotions from him, but his strongest bond is with his mother – Centaine Malcomess.


With everything going for him, Courtney is a man with his fair share of problems and faults. His philandering ways and uncouth business and political style have alienated him from his wife, which is just the beginning of his problem. Shasa must exile his favourite son for having the same character flaws that he himself has, and buy over another son’s employer only to realize that his political beliefs aren’t widely accepted by his offspring. His political belief itself is put into question when he finds himself aligning with his opponents.


The setting of the story in the year 1952 is crucial to the plot, because as much as the story is about Courtney, it is also about his connection with two other men. Moses Gama – a black man and outspoken political opponent of the government and its apartheid regime, and Manfred De La Rey – a man who shares the same love for political power as Courtney, but wasn’t born into wealth and had to earn his keep differently.


The lives of Moses and Manfred are intertwined with Courtney’s, and change during the course of the story. Unbeknownst to Courtney he shares his wife with one man, and his mother with the other. How does the man survive these personal tragedies and trials, all the while enjoying the occasional hunting expedition with his sons, nor ever once failing in his commercial dealings or philandering conquests? Just like only Wilbur Smith’s protagonist can.


Underlying Themes


The novel which is set in post-war South Africa gives a view of life in the apartheid regime, how the black population was marginalized and how words like ‘racial segregation’ and ‘Population Registration Act’ really played out in the lives, loves, dreams and fury of the black population.


Real people like Prime Ministers of South Africa are portrayed in small but strong supporting roles. And incidents like gathering of the mob and indiscriminate police firing in the town of Sharpeville are incorporated seamlessly into the story.


Neither the protagonists, nor the antagonists are clearly defined as good or evil. While Courtney is the ‘hero’, his politics reveal a dark desire for power, and his beliefs are the same as those around him - indifference to the black majority at large. Though he has the foresight to be politically opposed to the government in power in the beginning of the story, even his views are clearly racist. In him Wilbur Smith has given an honest portrayal of a powerful but flawed man.


Moses Gama as the main antagonist is a formidable enemy. An intelligent man and sound strategist, betrayal and ill-fortune are his undoing. His story is that of a tragic hero, which is what he would have been except for his extremism.


Another theme that Wilbur Smith explores in the story is the new replacing the old, and how even the strong only survive for a while. The gritty nature and paradoxes of life become apparent through the course of the novel in which there are no clear ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. This theme is played out in the many relationships that are portrayed between husband and wife, parent and child, and brothers and sisters.


While Courtney is the main character, the novel dedicates a great deal of time to the stories of other characters in the book. It is easy to lose the way in the book without losing the essence of the story - the story of people in one of the great conflicts of modern times.




ASSEGAI: Wilbur Smith


All Copyrights reserved by the Author/Publisher of the book.




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