Page 52. " I became a servant of Eros. "

 

Statue of Eros, Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Public DomainStatue of Eros, Louvre Museum, Paris, France - Credit: Jastrow

 

In Greek mythology, Eros is the god of love and sexual desire. He is associated with the Roman god, Cupid.

 

 

One of the most famous stories in mythology centres around the relationship between Eros and Psyche

According to the myth, the young and beautiful Psyche aroused the anger and jealousy of Eros' mother, Aphrodite. Acting under his mother's instructions, Eros went to Psyche with the intention of making her fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. Inevitably, Eros fell in love with her himself and secretly married her, although, not wanting to invite the wrath of Aphrodite, he never allowed her to see his face.

Events eventually conspired against them and they were forced apart. Although they seemed destined to live the rest of their existence in misery, Zeus intervened and allowed their eventual reconciliation.

Page 56. " the basket appears to sit on his head like a dunce's hat. "

 

Dunce's Hat
Creative Commons AttributionDunce's Hat - Credit: Candie_N

A dunce's hat or cap is associated with stupidity or inferiority. Traditionally, children who were considered to be lacking in intelligence or considered stupid, would be forced to wear the cap in the school classroom, thus singling them out by making them an object of ridicule.

The word dunce comes from the name, John Duns Scotis, whose teachings were a intrinsic part of learning during medieval times. By the 16th century his beliefs had fallen out of fashion and anyone who rejected the new ideas, and insisted on supporting Scotis, came to be labelled dunces by the reformers and humanists, who formed the core of the Renaissance revolution.   

Page 59. " A stopover in Oudtshoorn "

 

Ostriches in Oudtshoorn
Public DomainOstriches in Oudtshoorn - Credit: Bel Adone
A town in the Western Cape famous for ostrich breeding. It's one of the stopping off points on the scenic Route 62, a tourist route stretching through wine country, which connects Capetown in the West and Port Elizabeth in the East. 

 

 

Page 60. " When the commune broke up, the rump moving on to New Bethseda "

 

Sculpture at the Owl House, New Bethedsa
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSculpture at the Owl House, New Bethedsa - Credit: Robin Tweedie

 

New Bethseda is an isolated village in the Eastern Cape, which lies north of the second highest mountain peak in South Africa, the Kompasberg (Compass Mountain). 

 

It has become something of a tourist attraction in South Africa, due largely to Helen Martin's art-work, The Owl House, which houses a series of sculptures depicting a variety of images, with owls as the central theme.

Page 64. " He has another wife in Adelaide "

Polygyny (sometimes referred to as polygamy), meaning having more than one wife, is a traditional practice amongst some ethnic groups in South Africa, such as the Zulu and the Xhosa. It's more common in rural, rather than urban, areas, and is still regarded by many as an important part of their culture.

Jacob Zuma's third wife,Thobeka Mabhija
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJacob Zuma's third wife,Thobeka Mabhija - Credit: Richard Armstrong

Although the practice has been going on for many years, it was thrust into the headlines in 2010 when the new President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, married his third wife in a traditional ceremony

Polygamy is by no means a South Afican phenomenom, and is practised in many other areas of the world. However, it is interesting to note that the female equivalent of polygyny, polyandry (where a woman takes more than one husband) is a lot less common-place!

 

 

Page 65. " Qu'est devenu ce front poli, ces cheveux blonds, sourcils voutes? "

 

Title page of 'Le mystere de Francois Villon' by François Vaucienne
Public DomainTitle page of 'Le mystere de Francois Villon' by François Vaucienne

 

This line is taken from the poem written by François Villon, Les regrets de la belle Heaulmière (The Regrets of the Helmet-Makers Wife).

Villon, spent most of his life in trouble with the law and was eventually sentenced to be hanged in Paris 1463 after his part in a brawl. This sentence was eventually reduced to banishment, and Villon was never heard from again.

The title page of a play,The Mystery of Francois Villon, by François Vaucienne is shown on the right. The writer (real name Jeanne Battesti) had earlier written a play about Petrarch and Laura

Page 66. " It reminds me too much of Mao's China. "

Mao Zedong rose to prominence as the first Chairman of the People's Republic of China at its inception in 1939. He remained incredibly influential until his death in 1976, and was worshipped and feared in equal measure during his lifetime.

Mao Portrait at the Gate of Heavenly Peace
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMao Portrait at the Gate of Heavenly Peace - Credit: Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL

Having stepped down as Chairman after the collapse of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, which resulted in widespread famine and economic distress, Mao set about beginning a process of social change, which became known as the The Cultural Revolution. At the core of this revolution was a desire to crush what he saw as bourgeois elements in Chinese culture and create a more equitable society. 

Mao Poster and Merchandise
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMao Poster and Merchandise - Credit: Wesley Fryer

This revolution had an enormous impact on China and its people and inevitably led to a complete clampdown on intellectual freedom. People who did not agree with the government were intimidated, many areas of the arts were stifled and any good intentions the Cultural Revolution may have had were lost to many who felt they were living in a climate of, often violent, oppression. Nevertheless, almost at the same time, the cult of Mao was rising and pictures and paraphernalia were springing up all over the place. It's a cult that has continued right into the 21st century, as illustrated in this article.    

 

One of the most influential books of recent years about China is Wild Swans, by Jung Chang. The story is told through the eyes of three generations of women, and it includes a fascinating insight into life in Mao's China.

An article looking at the creation of the People's Republic, including video footage, can be accessed via this link.  

 

 

Page 69. " Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires "

 

 

This is a line from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a prose work by William Blake, set out in the form of biblical texts. The work can be viewed it as a satire on religious practice and belief systems and turns traditional ideas about heaven and hell and God and Lucifer on their head. Like the rest of Blake's works it was completed using relief etching or illuminated manuscipts and the texts were written on copper plates.

 

William Blake began work on a set of illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy in 1826, but died the following year, before they could be completed.

 

 

Page 70. " I thought cycads were illegal. "

 

South African Cycad
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSouth African Cycad - Credit: bato93

 

 

Cycads are a seed plant recognisable by their crown of green leaves and thick trunk. They are indigenous to the tropical and sub-tropical countries of the world, but are facing the threat of extinction. In South Africa over 31% of the species are classified as critically endangered and measures have been taken to try and clamp down on their illegal trade.

Page 75. " The commentary alternates between Sotho and Xhosa, languages of which he understands not a word. "

Sotho and Xhosa are both Bantu languages and, since 1994, official languages of South Africa. Sotho, as well as being the official language of Lesotho, is spoken in the Free State, southern Gauteng and to a lesser extent in the area surrounding Pretoria. Xhosa is the most widely distributed language in South Africa and is spoken in the Eastern Cape, the area where Lucy's farm is situated. Watch the video below, for a short demonstration of the Xhosa langauge and the click sounds which make it unique. 

 

In Disgrace, the football commentary alternates between the two tongues, as they are the primary languages spoken in the respective areas the teams represent.

The fact that David and Petrus are watching a match with commentary in Xhosa and Sotho, reflects the fact we are in post apartheid South Africa. Pre 1994, Afrikaans and English were the prime languages heard on television, and only after the ANC came to power was there a move make the TV channels reflect the languages actually being spoken.

Another important change, as far as language was concerned, came with the introduction of a new South African national anthem. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa in Xhosa), for many a years a song of protest and a symbol of defiance against apartheid, was incorporated into this anthem.

 

Page 75. " My team. Bushbacks and Sundowns. "

In the football (soccer) game Petrus and David are watching the two teams playing are the Umtata Bush Backs, from the Eastern Cape, and the Mamelodi Sundowns, from North West Pretoria. Although, as of 2011, the Sundowns retain their premier league status, Petrus' team the Bushbacks were relegated in 2006, before going into liquidation.

 

Soweto Football Match
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSoweto Football Match - Credit: digitalrob70

During the apartheid years, football in South Africa was a game played in the wilderness, as far as the rest of the world was concerned. It had first been suspended from competing in international competition by FIFA in 1961, then subsequently banned in the wake of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. However, at national level, football was not only an extremely popular sport but also played a significant part in the opposition of apartheid from within. Traditionally, football had a massive following amongst the black majority, and the sense of camaraderie created often led to alliances being forged, which could be carried off the football field and into the political arena. Games were even played by the political prisoners of Robben Island.

 

 

South African football fans
Creative Commons AttributionSouth African football fans - Credit: Octagon

 

In 1991, the South African football team were re-admitted to FIFA and went on to beat Cameroon 1-0 in their first competitive match. Immensely popular, the team known as Bafana Bafana (boys, boys in Zulu), are held up by many as a symbol of the new post apartheid South Africa.

 

 

For a more in-depth look at the history of football in South Africa, click here.

An article about football on Robben Island is available by clicking on this link.