- Category: TOW 2011
Durban-born AZIZ HASSIM, now a retired accountant, spent most of his formative years fraternising on the streets in Durban's Casbah area. A predominantly Indian, yet also multicultural district, the Casbah area had a sort of romantic and bittersweet everyday life during the fifties and sixties, which lives on only in the minds of those that inhabited it at the time.
In his debut novel, The Lotus People, Hassim recounts the happenings of this era, its inhabitants and captures through this personal literary account, the overall atmosphere of the period. Although The Lotus People is by no means an autobiographical account, but rather Hassim’s close description of an environment in which he lived, the author foregrounds the impact the novel had on him, describing its purifying effect as his “personal TRC”. Described by South African author and poet Stephen Gray as an “unputdownable tale” and “an absolute masterwork”, The Lotus People won the 2001 Sanlam Literary Award for an unpublished novel.
In 2009, Hassim launched his second novel titledRevenge of Kali, whose narrative takes place in Durban's Warwick Triangle during the 1960's and 70's. With political overtones similar to those found in The Lotus People, Revenge of Kali tells the tale of indentured Indian South Africans and the infamous "Grey Street System", whereby Indians were forcefully segregated into group areas. A narrative that has come under some scrutiny for the title's allusion to the Hindu deity Kali, Revenge of Kali is a contemporary literary symbol of defiance of apartheid law.
In Hassim's provocative words, "While The Lotus People is a novel about what the apartheid regime did to the Indian community, Revenge of Kali is about what the Indians did to themselves."
Hassim is currently working on his third novel.
Revenge of Kali, 2009, Johannesburg: STE Publishers.
The Lotus People, 2002, Johannesburg: STE Publishers.