The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.

Jacques Strauss

The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.
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The Dubious Salvation of Jack V.

Jacques Strauss

Even as an eleven year old I had a strong sense that the universe was setting up nasty traps for me, all sorts of really horrible ways to die in which (and this is the crucial point) I would in some way be complicit in my own demise (and this before I had done anything to warrant this particular anxiety). I have always been shit scared of the deranged universe and it’s not really that stupid and irrational…it gets all of us eventually. It’s 1989, and in the dying years of the Apartheid regime, eleven-year-old Jack Viljee considers himself the centre of his world. The son of an Afrikaans father and an English mother, wedged between a strident older and favoured younger sister, Jack allies himself with the family’s beloved maid, Susie. Plagued by portents of doom, Jack nevertheless has firm views on race (complex), politics (straightforward), poofdas (inoffensive), God (dangerous), sex (bewildering), sisters (disappointing), parents (unfailing), Zulus (frightening) and the KGB (cunning). His Afrikaans family are wanting in a number of respects: they have too many children, let the maid keep chickens in the backyard, buy tomato sauce in ten litre vats and cover their furniture in plastic. Still, there is no doubt they could wipe the floor with his soft English relatives. Either way, at his new school he knows that he is set on an inexorable path to Englishness. Life is simple. But the comfortable domesticity of the Viljee household has been upset by the arrival of Percy, Susie’s fifteen-year old son. Percy - young, bored and full of rage - makes everything awkward and embarrassing for Jack. After one particularly humiliating event, Jack betrays Susie and learns that even the most childish act can avalanche beyond his most outlandish imaginings. The world, it turns out, is not so simple.

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