Adv Johan Kruger, chairperson of the NWU Council, is a man of many talents.
My grandfather is a magician. This is what Mila, granddaughter of Adv Johan Kruger, chairperson of the NWU Council, tells the other kids in her pre-school class – and, of course, it's the truth!
It’s true for two reasons. Firstly, Johan really does do magic tricks, and secondly, he enchants with words.
A while ago, he appeared on the M-Net programme Kwêla to talk about his latest book, Die formidabele Ling Ho (The formidable Ling Ho). In order to write this satire – published this year by PenguinRandomHouse – Johan had to drape his magician's cape squarely around his shoulders.
The main character, Ling Ho, is a showman and cunning opportunist and travels the countryside, entertaining people with his magic tricks along the way. Without his glued-on moustache and bell-toed satin slippers, however, he is plain old Willem Landman.
Not unlike Ling Ho, Johan is quite at ease donning a top hat (with or without the rabbit inside), a shiny cape and magic wand.
"As young boys a friend and I practised magic as a hobby. Today I still enjoy doing tricks to entertain my grandchildren,” says Johan.
In this book he “magics” his way around the words to make fun of certain aspects of modern-day society. But, says Johan, although satire often comes across as witty and humorous, it characteristically masks a more serious undertone.
Still, it makes for easier reading than his previous two books, the themes and styles of which were much more serious. Die vloek (The curse) appeared in 2012. “The theme of the book could be summarised as the sins of the fathers still finding a way into the lives of the generations that follow,” says Johan.
Then, in 2015, Die dag van die Lord (The day of the Lord) saw the light with injustice, revenge and forgiveness as themes. It centres on the concentration camps of Lord Kitchener in the Anglo-Boer War.
“Both books feature characters who are lawyers. It comes easily, because I am familiar with that world.”
Johan's way with words started a long time before any of these books saw the light.
When he was younger he wrote a number of youth novels and a detective story. He also wrote short stories, some of which appeared in the Tydskrif vir Letterkunde (Journal of Literature) and were included in two volumes of short stories.
“I have always enjoyed writing as a hobby, but also as an outlet into a world far removed from the precision of law, which is my daily bread.”
His first youth novel appeared in 1981, and the other three followed more or less in the next three years. After a hiatus of many years, he resumed writing when he and his wife, Hester, retired to their small farm, Komarin, near Loskop Dam in Mpumalanga.
“I resolved to dedicate myself to writing. In this I succeeded only partially, as I still stand in as judge on occasion (too often!) and chair the NWU Council, which also keeps me quite busy.”
Johan loves making up stories for their four grandchildren – like the one about the two fleas in Lord Kitchener's beard. Read the text box to find out how the plot for this story was hatched.
Besides the possibility of a children's book somewhere in the future, Johan is currently working on three other manuscripts. “As soon as I have enough time, I will complete them,” he says.
Council chair, legal eagle, author, grandfather, and magician. As it turns out, Mila was right – her grandfather does do magic. What’s more: it seems that Johan's mastery of the written word and magic also extends to the art of life.
The NWU & U
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“On the cover of Die dag van die Lord is a picture of Lord Kitchener with his handlebar moustache. My grandchildren are still too young to read the book, but they wanted to know what the story was about.
“So I told them that it was about two fleas living in the moustache of the man in the picture. They insisted that I tell them the story of the fleas, and that's how Flippie and Floppie came into being. The two fleas have had quite a number of adventures thus far.
“Who knows, it may even become a children's book one day...”
- Johan Kruger, magician
NWU & U