Piet Bezuidenhout (peet be-ZI-dehn-howt), a native Afrikaner (of Dutch descent and white), originally a farmer, later a bus driver, and now in his mid-forties and retired. He lives with his wife, Gladys, in Algoa Park, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In his quiet life of retirement, Piet takes long walks into the veld to collect and classify aloes—hardy, cactuslike plants that can survive in an arid and hostile environment. Spectacled and studious, gentle, and sensitive, Piet is a lover of words, ready at a moment’s notice to recite the works of his favorite English poets. Piet was recently very active in local politics, vigorously opposing the South African policy of apartheid. After police repression destroyed the Liberal Party, however, Piet retired from his political activism. He nevertheless remains a moderately hopeful man, convinced that social injustices can be remedied and that the world can be made a better place.
Steve Daniels, a bricklayer, a mason, a former political activist, and Piet’s closest friend in the struggle against apartheid. Forty-two years old and Coloured (of mixed racial blood), Steve has just been released from jail and is no longer willing to fight for social change in South Africa. Deeply humiliated by his arrest and interrogation, as well as still under a banning order that makes it impossible for him and his family to...
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