Shades of Exodus revolves around the true story of a South African family who flee the violence of South Africa only to fall victim to a vicious and bloody crime in Australia.
Once an outspoken critic of apartheid, David Levinrad now longs to return to the transformed 'rainbow nation.' His yearnings, heightened through life-changing events, takes us on a journey that tears at the soul and exposes our common humanity.
Is paradise always what it seems? And is there ever a way back?
ISBN 9781921869013 (Paperback)
296pp; 152mm x 228mm; Release date: 15 February 2011
ISBN 9781921869020 (ePub)
Captures the emotions of loss and rebuilding with poetic insight. SHADES OF EXODUS will resonate with all migrants – South Africans in particular – who have battled with themes of meaning, relationships, sense of place, and personal identity as they have moved to new worlds.
– Dr Robert Schweitzer
Associate Professor of Psychology
Queensland University of Technology
(and a migrant)
Shades of Exodus had elements of being my own autobiography. So many thoughts, sentiments, passions and yearning for the place once called home…..could one ever really feel the lucky country is home? Could one ever feel completely oneself here? These are questions I don't have an answer for?... Shades of Exodus has provided an intriguing and heart-warmingly enlightening read mixed with great depth and passion of the pulling forces between what is and what was… and many thoughts that had vaguely transcended my mind were there in printed form… The details and humour describing the personalities and their interaction was quite remarkable and entertaining… but also with the rather confronting but necessary parts of the book, I felt the fear and denial… All in all, congratulations on a deeply significant and most readable book.
– Glenda Fehler
Just wanted to say thank you so much for such a wonderful read! It is a really beautiful story – and very thought-provoking. For me, this is underscored by David Levinrad's story towards the end. I really felt like I was in his head and following his stream of thoughts. "Bladdy" well done!
– Angelique Oltvolgyi
– Congratulations. The book you have written truly conveys the complexities of feelings we, immigrants, feel here in Brisbane. Written with total objectivity, and really putting it all out there. A really good read!
– Anita Wurfl
Themes of exile and longing for home have been elements of literature as far back as Homer and The Odyssey. And world history has been fundamentally shaped by the often forced exodus of people from their homeland and displacement around the globe, such as the Jewish Diaspora and, in the nineteenth century, the Irish emigration to the New World of America and Australia. Shades of Exodus explores these themes in the context of a contemporary displacement, that of white South Africans leaving their country before and after the end of apartheid.
David Levinrad is a South African journalist so disturbed by the systematic violence and corruption of the apartheid regime that he emigrates to Queensland with his Australian wife Penny and their two young children in the mid-1980s. There they build a new and reasonably contented life in the suburbs of Brisbane, but the vitality and pulse of life in his homeland calls to something visceral within David, such that the urge to return and contribute to the rebuilding of South Africa becomes a vital force whose urgency he finds both difficult to suppress and to communicate to others.
He comes into contact with more recent South African émigrés, families who have fled what they see as the entrenched problems of AIDS, poverty and violence that have been unleashed in the wake of end of white rule. The clash between these different perspectives is underscored by two acts of brutal and murderous violence: one in South Africa that has influenced the departure of one family; the second involving the daughter of one of the emigrant families in suburban Brisbane, suggesting that such crimes can happen anywhere.
This is an important novel of interest not only to emigrant families but all of us who have been influenced in one way of another by the displacement of people into alien environments. The language is richly poetic in conveying the vital forces and connections that give one a sense of belonging. The struggles of the characters to make sense of their experiences and relate them to others make for a compelling narrative. Shades of Exodus constitutes a highly recommended contribution to a universal quest.
– Dr Geoff Danaher, Idiom 23 (Central Queensland University)
If I had your gift for writing I would put into words how I feel, but I can only say, WOW, WHEW, this book is amazingly written and so close to the bone.
– Amanda Shrock
Shades of Exodus tells the true story of a South African family who flee the violence of South Africa only to fall victim to a vicious and bloody crime in Australia.
The novel centres on David Levinrad, once an outspoken critic of apartheid. He now longs to return to the transformed rainbow nation.
His yearnings, heightened
through life-changing events, tear at the soul and expose everyone's common humanity.
– Australian Jewish News
I have found your book a most compelling read. I appreciate the depth of feeling… the transparency… and honesty.
– Ruth Kapernick
I think Shades of Exodus is beautifully written and I know the Segals, the Gersons and the Levinrads, I've heard their conversations and spoken some of their sentences myself! There is also an echo of Alan Paton and I remember the rolling African phrases and the subtle things that make a nation of people feel comfortable with each other, at home. Like all good books, Shades of Exodus made me think. I thought about David and his yearning for 'home'. And Hannah and how she couldn't come to terms with her new country. And what happened to Miriam... Your book touched many nerves! I think it is honest and brave and congratulate you on it.
– Daphne Tuttle
Barry Levy is a former South African journalist who moved with his Australian wife and two children to Australia in 1984 because of their abhorrence of apartheid. In 2004 Levy had his first novel published – Burning Bright, a story of young love, hate and child abuse, which was also translated into Italian. Levy's second book, As If! (Interactive Press, 2008), is a harsh, realistic and compassionate depiction of life on the streets for Australian kids.
Other publications include The Glazer Kidnapping, the true story of one of the kidnappers involved in the world's biggest kidnap of its time, which took place in South Africa in the mid sixties; a short story, "The Promised Land", published in At the Rendezvous of Victory, a compilation under the title of principal author and Nobel Literature Prize laureate Nadine Gordimer; and "The Souls from Nowhereland", a chapter in the recent compilation Should I Stay or Should I Go, which highlights the ongoing dilemma and argument around emigration for South Africans.
Levy has been a winner of the Australian Human Rights Award for Journalism - for a multiple series of stories on child sex abuse, domestic violence and homelessness; a winner of the Anning Barton Memorial Award for Outstanding Journalism (Central Queensland) – for a series of stories on child sex abuse (incest-rape), and a Walkley Awards Queensland State finalist – for his series on homelessness.
There is no spirit that does not come home.
David Levinrad bit his lip, pointed a finger into his chest, felt its white nail scratch in his flesh. He was sitting alone, in his living room, thinking without wanting to think about that old Zulu saying he had heard once. About those times. About that saying he had heard late one night, drunk as a skunk, in the townships. The saying that bit in his bones and yet thought would never apply. Not to him. Not to the great, untouchable David Levinrad whose parents believed, so help me God, South Africa was God's chosen country. 'Not a better, cleaner, more affordable country in the world,' they said. Often. 'Forget Jerusalem. Forget the USA. Forget the UK.' To live, there was only one country in the world: South Africa. That was the way they spoke. Exactly how they spoke. And David was determined to show them only one thing: the other South Africa. The flip-side South Africa. The real South Africa. The South Africa where the majority of South Africans lived, laboured, loved, died. In the townships, in the poverty-driven ghettoes set up by white South Africa.
That South Africa that was stuck in a quagmire of poverty, hardship, hunger, where people did not have to be murdered, because they starved to death from a lack of food. (They were murdered anyway – in one way or another.) That South Africa where a people laboured under job reservations – a government ordained restriction that saved the best jobs, wages, positions for whites. That South Africa that enforced people to carry 'Passes' – that restricted an entire people's movements to certain regions, towns, times, places.
That kept the country's white streets clean and safe. And worse than anything, that South Africa that enforced ignorance. That kept the vast majority of South Africa, which was black South Africa, for the most part out of universities, and buried in an erratic, chaotic, second-class education system. Yes, ensuring the black masses would remain as hewers of wood and carriers of water, as the great and revered architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, cast it in the nineteen forties. Yes, that South Africa that could be overturned. That would be overturned! That South Africa that could yet be filled with rising suns and pristine, gilt-edged moons. That South Africa that could abound with golden bush and cities and towns shared by all. Black and white. Equals.
The South Africa where he – David Levinrad – and his children could live forever. Without conscience. The South Africa that his parents would get up and run from.
David swallowed, felt the spittle like pins clustered in his neck. And yet, in the end, it was he who left. He who was unable to see it out. He who grew impatient. He who gave up – and his parents who died happy, peaceful deaths in the tranquillity of apartheid South Africa. Yes, yes, he swallowed again, feeling the sharpness of it in his neck, he who fled to prevent his children from going to privileged, all-white schools. He, who used his wife, his adventurer wife, Penny Hunter, an Australian with a silken paper-white face, who travelled to South Africa to see for herself, as a way out. Yes, he who urged her to take him into the great new world, the Land of Oz – and saw his children end up in all-white schools anyway.
And in the end he had to convince himself it was the army he was running from, army camps, the compulsory South African army that called into its ice-cold, unbowing bowels every white South African teenager. The army that, with nowhere to hide, he had served in for nine months as a boy, fresh from school, and thought he was going to die with disgust and guilt. The army that called its white people up for compulsory three-week and sometimes three-month training camps every year, camps that he had found every excuse under the sun to keep away from, even undergone a fictitious hernia operation once, and once left the country and gone into hiding when that proud white army called him up to serve in the great battle for Angola in the mid seventies. Yes, the army that upheld apartheid. That kept order. That kept the townships and ghettoes shaped square and always in need. That stood there, always, R1 rifles in hand and screaming metal beasts, the great hunking steel tanks known as 'hippos', on the ready to put down uprisings. Yes, yes, it was good reason. Very good reason. To end the questions that kept running back into you: Why should I remain? Why should my children have to grow up in this nefarious place and endure apartheid, albeit the white privileged end of it? Why should my Australian wife have to go through all this heart-damaging lifestyle of fighting an oppressive system and not really seeming to get anywhere?
Why should I have to serve in an army I was dead-set against? Nearly eight years in from the great Soweto school children's uprising of June Sixteen, Nineteen Seventy-six that saw hundreds of kids killed in a vicious and mephitic spew of police bullets, was anything changing? Was I, were we all, hitting our heads against a brick wall?
And then he left, head staring in front with a grin, eyes looking back, oblique, and only months later it all exploded. Without warning. The latter half of Nineteen Eighty-four. George Orwell could not have predicted it more precisely. The people rising up against Big Brother. The country on fire. And somehow, somehow, it seemed too soon. To go back. Penny happy. Children happy. Life happy.
'Give it a while,' she said. 'We've only just arrived. The fires have only just ignited.'
And David agreed, it was her turn. Her turn to experience home.
He looked on from outside. Swallowed. Felt the spittle dry.
The years passed, the holes grew bigger, the battle against apartheid continued with great leaping flames; the immigrants arrived. The immigrants from his country, arriving and arriving and arriving. The suitcases getting fuller and fuller and fuller. And slowly they were all becoming his friends. All of them, he swallowed, feeling the spittle like shale splinter in his throat, finding reason to believe. In their journey. In their flight over from the bottom of Africa to the very tip of Antipodes. All of them telling him it was over. That country, their old country, was over. Eventually the tribes would rule and fight forever.
And he heard in their conversations talk of old times – how everything, the fruit, the sweets, the prawns – tasted better there. And in the same breath he heard them at braais – only they called them 'barbies' now – deny missing anything about that old place. Home. Yes, he remembered it, remembered swallowing tightly for them; how those people were once so proud of their homes. Of their suburbs. The big, solid brick of them. The lush gardens. The perfect sprays of colour. Hearing them, it irked. It irked. It brought tears.
David sat back, wiping his forehead, almost forgetting the sweat on it from an unbearable humidity, a thick dampness that sat in the groin and under the arms that was Brisbane. He flicked the droplets of salty water in the air, into the here and now: Australia. Seeing his life writing on newspapers – on poverty, domestic violence, incest rape, family dysfunction, stories about Australia for Australians. This place where so, so many migrants, so, so many Australians thought those problems mere fabrications. Myths built up to engender and maintain a welfare system. Knowing, despite the lifting of the carpet, something in him was not quite connecting, not quite seeping in through the hot, telling pores. That his head was merely a device, a form of printers' ink going through the motions.
And he saw across the waving ocean that place, that little place at the tip of Africa where those same problems he was concocting here were so very big and huge on the landscape. Where those same problems existed not just in the here and now, in stories that you wrote for a crust and to put furniture in the living room, but on a profound, almost inexplicable blood level. Yes, he recalled, it was like those stories were a touching of souls, a touching of souls between victor and defeated, between perpetrator and victim. Everything urgent, everything quintessential. Like words could shake a country, could bring down a government, could shift the axis on which all life revolved. Yes, yes, stories that dug deep into the chest and bit into the soul.
And then the great change came – April Nineteen Ninety-four happened – the end of apartheid. And David watched from his Red Hill home in Brisbane even more fellow countrymen arriving. Many, many more. Saying they could not live there.
It was not the black government. It was not the new freedom. It was not the new, wonderful rainbow nation. It was the violence, the AIDS, the poverty, the lack of health care. And they too said it was over. That country was over. Everybody was getting out.