BLACK SWAN by Christopher Hope


Email this review


Lucky is a black 17-year-old living in a South African township in 1965. He's not all there upstairs; he lives in a private world that little except movies and radio-jingles touches. Then he's sent to a class taught by a visiting German missionary, a young woman named Ilse--who, though defeated by the black autistics and schizophrenics who make up the rest of the small class, finds that Lucky shows promise. It's limited, this promise, to a dream of flight--and when llse, in a stroke of genius, shows Lucky a film of Swan Lake, she hits pay dirt. But since Lucky has no self-consciousness, his walking around the township thereafter in mock ballet-gear earns him suspicion. (That he slept one time with Ilse is also something easily deduced.) llse is dismissed--then found murdered; and Lucky is swept up by black-liberation guerrillas as a singularly inept recruit. One gets the sense that this might be an early or partial work by the very talented Hope (A Separate Development, The Hottentot Room): there's a little too much incident and too much theme (the dance and the township squalor as antipodes) for this 112-page book, and they don't fold into the batter smoothly. But even here it's clear how interestingly keen a writer Hope is: his feeling for the township is graphic, and Ilse being a German reinforces the moral parallels that Hope has made in other works between South Africa and the hideous past Reich. Ill-gaited, spiky minor work, but--manifestly--from a major talent.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row