1300 36 33 32

On 9 June 2003, a 43-year-old coloured man named Magadien Wentzel walked out of Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. Behind him lay a lifelong career in the 28s, South Africa's oldest and most reviled prison gang, for decades rumoured to have specialised in rape and robbery. In front of him lay the prospect of a law-abiding future, and life in a household of eight adults and six children, none of whom earned a living. Jonny Steinberg met Wentzel in prison in the dying months of 2002. By the time Wentzel was released, he and Steinberg had spent over 50 hours discussing his life experiences. The Number is an account of their conversations and of Steinberg's journeys to the places and people of Wentzel's past. Wentzel had lived a bewilderingly schizophrenic life, wandering to and fro between three worlds: the arcane universe of prison gangs, steeped in a mythology of banditry and retribution, where he was known as JR; the fringes of South Africa's criminal economy, where he lived by a string of stolen names and learned the arts of commercial fraud; and his scattered family which eked out a living in the coloured ghettos of the Cape Flats. "The Number" visits each of those worlds in turn. It is a tale of modern South Africa's historic events seen through the eyes of the country's underclass. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is neither a story of passivity nor despair, but of beguiling ingenuity and cool cynicism. Most of all, the book is an account of memory and identity, of Wentzel's project to make some sense of his bewildering past and something worthy of his future. When Steinberg met him, Wentzel was embarking on a quest to retrieve the name he had been given at birth. He was also beginning the daunting task of gathering together the estranged children he had sired into a nuclear family. It was an eccentric and painful venture for a man with his past, but it has led him to construct an account of himself that begs to be told.

Buy Number book by Jonny Steinberg from Australia's Online Bookstore, Boomerang Books.

Book Details

ISBN: 9781868422333
ISBN-10: 186842233X
Format: Paperback
(125mm x 200mm x mm)
Pages: 440
Imprint: Jonathan Ball Publishers SA
Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers SA
Publish Date: 5-Sep-2005
Country of Publication: South Africa

Other Editions

Reviews

» Have you read this book? We'd like to know what you think about it - write a review about Number book by Jonny Steinberg and you'll earn 50c in Boomerang Bucks loyalty dollars (you must be a member - it's free to sign up!)

Write Review


Author Biography - Jonny Steinberg

Jonny Steinberg was educated at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is the only South African author to have won the Sunday Times Alan Paton award for literary non-fiction twice. He has worked as a journalist for Business Day and a collection of the best of his columns, Notes from a Fractured Country, was published in 2007.

Books By Author Jonny Steinberg

Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg

A Man of Good Hope

Paperback, January 2016
$18.24
Little Liberia by Jonny Steinberg

Little Liberia

Paperback, January 2012
$16.41
Three Letter Plague by Jonny Steinberg

Three Letter Plague

Paperback, December 2008
$20.06
From Comrades to Citizens by Jonny Steinberg

From Comrades to Citizens

Hardback, April 2003
$315.52