Night Train Questions and Answers
by Martin Amis

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How do we know that the poem "Night Train" was probably written during the Apartheid era?

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I would say that the first clue that the poet, Fhazel Johennesse, is writing about the Apartheid era is when he asks the reader whether the darkness he is looking at is outside, or if it is his own reflection. This shows an awareness of the color of his skin. Skin color, of course, was the basis of discrimination under the South African laws of Apartheid.

The "whispering nagging smell of fear" which is referred to at the end of the poem refers to the fear that all people of color endured during these years. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time could lead to arrest. He states that he is haunted by the smell, which is likely due to having experienced or witnessed police brutality, unfair detainment, and racially-based violence time and time again.

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