A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

literature
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

IRON LOVE (article first published : 1999-11-18)

To write a South African novel in 1999 and set it in a white, single sex boarding school before the first World War might seem to be an invitation to critics to raise the spectre of political correctness. But Kloof-based Marguerite Poland is unrepentant. Her novel, Iron Love, was inspired by a photograph which showed the St Andrew's College rugby team of 1913 - a group of 15 Grahamstown schoolboys of whom seven would be dead within five years, killed in the war. It is a haunting image.

Poland's central character is based on one of her relatives - Charlie Fraser, a schoolboy hero and star fullback in the photograph. In the book, and in reality, he died at the Battle of Latema Hill in German East Africa in 1916. The novel paints a picture of a hermetically sealed, male society, where deep bonds are formed and the world outside hardly intrudes - at least until the casualty lists start to come in. "I know people will ask, 'Where is the rest of South Africa'," says Poland. "But it wasn't there for the boys either. Their lives were bounded by the eternal boiled pumpkin and who were the hot shots."

One of Iron Love's main themes is silence and redirected tenderness. In a memorable scene Charlie's mother, handing his photograph album to a friend of her son's after his death, shows her favourite picture - Charlie holding some puppies. "Aren't they dear little dogs," she says. It is her way of saying much more. Members of Poland's family who remembered the real Charlie's mother never knew she had had a son. "At that time, when someone died, no more was said," says Poland. But, like the character in the book, the real mother went and polished her son's memorial in church every week.

Poland says she will be angry if criticised for writing about the private school system. "I get tired of having to be accountable for everything I write," she says. "I feel it's fascist to be told what I can write about, and I get angry about being labelled, particularly when I'm called a middle-class housewife." This is certainly inaccurate for an author who between her last two novels was awarded her PhD by the University of Natal.

Iron Love by Marguerite Poland is published by Viking and is on the Publishers' Choice list for 1999.




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart