Dalene Matthee’s Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child), which tells the story of an abandoned white child raised by a coloured woman in the Lange Kloof near the Knysna forest during the 19th century, is arguably one of the most well-loved Afrikaans novels ever published. Since it first appeared in 1985, readers have been captivated by this deeply moving tale of a young man looking for the answer to the age-old question: “Who am I?”
The universality of the themes the book explores, namely that of identity, racism, inequality, a mother’s love and human impact on the environment, has meant that it has seen various film and stage adaptations through the years and found a readership far beyond its initial Afrikaans roots. Thus far it has been translated into, amongst others, English, German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Slovenian, and even Hebrew.
Now one more language is about to be added to this list, with the Arabic translation rights to Fiela se kind having been sold to Mahrousa Centre for Publishing, a Cairo-based publishing house, in a deal brokered by Catrina Wessels.
Mahrousa is a well-established name in Egyptian publishing and has published around 600 Arabic titles to date. It has also been responsible for translating 50 titles from 10 different languages since being founded in 1986. Mahrousa’s focus is on promoting a diverse subject matter, ranging from cult fiction and philosophy, to contemporary politics and psychology – the perfect fit for such a many-layered novel as Fiela se kind.
It speaks volumes about the staying power of Dalene Matthee’s work that her books continue to find fertile ground in which to grow their readership. The fact that Fiela se kind is now being translated into a language as far removed from Afrikaans as Arabic, thirty-five years after its initial publication, is a true testament to its longevity and the broad appeal of the message it conveys.
Praise for Fiela se kind
“Everything a novel can be: convincing, thought-provoking, upsetting, unforgettable, and timeless.”—Grace Ingoldby, New Statesman
“Fiela’s Child is a parade that broadens and humanizes our understanding of the conflicts still affecting South Africa today.”—Francis Levy, New York Times Book Review
“A powerful creation of time and place with dark threads of destiny and oppression and its roots in the almost Biblical soil of a storyteller’s art.”—Christopher Wordsworth, The Guardian
“The characters in the novel live and breathe; and the landscape is so brightly painted that the trees, birds, elephants, and rivers of old South Africa are characters themselves. A book not to miss.”—Kirkus Reviews
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