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Thank you to Leon de Kock for accepting and persevering with the mammoth task of translating this book; and for the ingenuity, sensitivity and thoroughness with which he did it. Thank you to the editors, Sally Abbey, Sarah Shrubb and Andrew Gordon and the other members of the Little, Brown team who were involved in the production of Triomf in the UK; Hettie Scholtz and Dineke Volschenk; to Pippa Lange for making this possible.
Thank you to Wendy Matthews for her sustained empathy throughout; to Ena Jansen for advice and support; to John Miles and Gerrit Olivier; and especially to Cobus Nothnagel for firm backing during the writing process. And for his freshwater pearls! Without him and without Wendy — and without the Old South Africa — Triomf would not have been possible.
1. THE DOGS
It’s late afternoon, end of September. Mol stands behind the house, in the backyard. As the sun drops, it reaches between the houses and draws a line across the middle button of her housecoat. Her bottom half is in shadow. Her top half feels warm.
Mol stares at all the stuff Lambert has dug out of the earth. It’s a helluva heap. Pieces of red brick, bits of smooth drainpipe, thick chunks of old cement and that blue gravel you see on graves. Small bits of glass and other stuff shine in the muck. Lambert has already taken out most of the shiny things — for his collection, he says. He collects the strangest things.
Gerty’s at Mol’s feet, sniffing at the heap. Must still smell of kaffir, she thinks. Gerty drags out something from between two bits of cement and drops it at Mol’s feet.
‘What is it, Gerty? Hey? What you got there? Show the missus!’
Mol picks it up. It’s a flat, rusted tin. Looks like a jam tin. Kaffir jam! Sis, yuk! She throws it back on to the heap.
She picks up Gerty and looks across the length of the bare yard. The yellow lawn stretches all the way up to the wire fence in front. Lambert says it’s just rubble wherever you dig, here where they live. Under the streets too, from Toby right through to Annandale on the other side. Rubble, just rubble.
The kaffirs must’ve gotten the hell out of here so fast, that time, they didn’t even take their dogs with them.
A lot of their stuff got left behind. Whole dressers of crockery. You could hear things breaking to pieces when the bulldozers moved in.