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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Themba A Boy Called Hope
by Lutz Van Dijk
Age Range: 12+
This is an inspirational coming-of-age novel about Themba, a teenage boy growing up in Qunu, a rural village in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa which is a poor community ravaged by unemployment.
Themba has a dream of becoming a professional football player. He and his best friend Sipho kick a ball around together and then decide to set up a local football team. They enter a competition which allows them to play other teams in a Junior Tournament where Themba comes to the attention of a professional football coach who thinks he’s got talent.
Themba’s father was a political activist during apartheid and his mother has not heard from him for many years. When ‘Uncle’ Luthando comes to live with the family it has shocking and catastrophic consequences for Themba, changing his life for ever. Themba’s mother has to leave their village to find work in iKapa (Cape Town) and months have passed without word from her so he and his sister Nomtha decide to travel to the township of Masiphulmele in search of her.
Themba is given the chance to train as a footballer in the premier league and it looks as if his dream will finally be realised, but he has a terrible dilemma; whether to risk everything he has always wanted by revealing his terrible dark secret.
This is a beautifully sensitive novel by the German-Dutch prize winning author Lutz van Dijk. It deals with several themes – poverty, abuse and the HIV-Virus through the medium of sport. Football is a universal language that transcends many different countries and cultures throughout the world and Themba’s determination to succeed and his self-belief allow him to make the most courageous decision of all – to tell the truth.
Themba is now also an internationally acclaimed feature film that has won 11 international awards to date. See Lutz van Dijk's Damned Strong Love also reviewed on this website.