I am not sure how I discovered the novel Moffie but I am sure glad I did. I downloaded it to my Kindle and fell in love with the writing and the emotion behind the story. Written by South African André Carl van der Merwe it tells the harrowing tale of what it was like to be a young gay conscript in the time of apartheid. It is inspired by his own experiences but fictionalized to an indeterminate extent.
I can’t remember another book in recent times that is written with as much passion, grit and unexpected tenderness. This book was not meant to be just a novel but also a tribute to those who survived the ordeal and the agony of being unwanted, mistreated and illegal. The author explains his motivation for writing the book on his website:
The book Moffie (a derogatory Afrikaans term for a gay man) is a result of my need to make sense of the madness around me while I was doing compulsory military service in South Africaduring the 1980’s. I had nowhere to turn for help or understanding – not to my parents, my Church or my friends; the Government had even criminalized homosexuality – and so it was my diary that saved my sanity. I documented my suffering, which was also that of so many others; our anguish at having to hide behind a façade, our desperation of wanting to escape or sublimate an inescapable orientation.
I have often thought of the suffering of those who were the primary targets of Apartheid, but not even during the darkest days of our history was it illegal to be black. Never would a black parent throw a child out of his house because of his ethnicity. Yet this was what happened to gay people. I needed to document the turmoil of a child going through puberty, awakening spiritually, but being pressurised into believing that, because he is homosexual, he is doomed to eternal hell.
Set during the South African border war against communism (in itself is a part of this country’s history that could be all too easily forgotten) I have recorded the atrocities that took place in ‘Ward 22’, where gay people in the Defence Force of the time were abused and tortured.
This is my contribution towards a world where we are not treated as second-rate citizens, but where we are seen and see ourselves as equal to all other human beings, as we were created.