Sonkyker: Afrikaner in die verkeerde eeu | Autobiography: General
In 2008, at the age of seventy, J. C. Steyn surprises us with an autobiographical story. He presents his recollections as a Free State farmer’s son, linguistics student in the Netherlands, academic, journalist (Volksblad, Rapport), political commentator, poet, fiction writer and biographer of N.P van Wyk Louw, M.E.R. and Piet Cillié. He has also collaborated on the historiography of the National Press and has participated in projects to ensure the survival of Afrikaans.
For his recollections he relies on stories from his family, letters, newspaper articles, and books by kindred spirits, such as Hermann Giliomee, I.L. de Villiers, Piet Cillié and N.P. van Wyk Louw. He penetrates the Anglo-Boer War and the Rebellion, the change to a republic, the years when a state of emergency prevailed and constitutional negotiations up to today. There are positive as well as disturbing insights. In this way a nuanced image of the life of the Afrikaner emerges, of how the state of affairs is not and has not always been favourable to this cultural group, but like the sungazer from which the book takes its title – a timid and recalcitrant Free State reptile – Steyn and other Afrikaners take an incisive look at issues, going to straight to the heart of the matter. Rebellion and resistance are not excluded.
He dramatises nearly all the most important historical events so that they play themselves out again before you, and also gives lesser-known details. He surprises the reader with his own contribution or that of a family member. In addition to this we also have the “minor history”. What was everyday life like? What were the joys and sorrows of the Afrikaner at home, at school, in the workplace and at church? In brief: a cultural history treasure. He reveals numerous unexpected facets of his personality – these are amusing. Then there are moving stories about this mother who is portrayed as an unforgettable character: her battle with cancer and blindness, her affection free of sentimentality.
This is a book for his contemporaries who experienced these years and can now compare their impressions and experiences with his, and together with him find sense and meaning in them. That is not to ignore the nostalgic pleasure of the recollection. The younger generation will find an understanding of the past in Sonkyker, as well as insights into current developments. It is an indispensable document in which the Afrikaner’s culture, political convictions, and particularly his language struggle of the past decade are contained. This history has never been recorded in this way before.