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

THE LOTUS PEOPLE (article first published : 2002-10-24)

This week Adams Campus Bookshop and The Institute for Black Research, University of Natal, will launch The Lotus People, a first novel from Durban author Aziz Hassim produced by Madiba Publishers.

Aziz Hassim is a retired accountant and his debut 540 page novel, The Lotus People, won the 2001 Sanlam Literary Award for an unpublished novel. Spanning the events and moods of over a century, The Lotus People served as a form of catharsis for the 66-year old Hassim. While he calls the cleansing process his “personal TRC”, he also wished to record a past he is convinced has disappeared forever.

“Durban, and particularly the Casbah area, had a kind of “romance” and bittersweet lifestyle during the 50’s and 60’s which, in spite of the apartheid laws (or perhaps because of them), lives on only in the minds of those who lived in the area at the time,” he says. “The younger generation thinks I am making up stories when I tell them about that era. I also like to say to myself that we, all of us, need to know where we come from before we can know where we are going. The Lotus People is a small step in that direction.

Although he carried the novel within himself, it is not autobiographical by any means. Instead, he calls it a product of the environment he lived in during those days.

“Aziz Hassim's debut novel represents not only one family's journey from India to South Africa , but also a valuable source of information about the experiences, struggles, feelings and thoughts of the SA Indian Community - a history from the inside,” observes Rajendra Chetty (editor of SA Indian Writings in English). This masterpiece of realism is set in Durban's casbah, with its underworld of gangsters, political activists, merchants and the everyday struggle of poor urban life. The language is beautifully nuanced and richly poetic. It blends history, fiction, romance, politics and the idiom of the street in a potent manner.




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