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Original: The Master's Ruse
Romaner Afrika

Patricia Schonstein om sin roman:
In my novel, The Master’s Ruse, I have created an extreme country ruled by a military junta. Literature and freedom of speech are banned. Slavery has been reinstated to deal with refugees displaced by war or annexation of mineral-rich lands. The ocean is dead and the earth is suffering its own anguish of pollution and deforestation.

I describe the dead ocean figuratively, rather than scientifically. It is like a mass of black, molten velvet moving forlornly between the land masses, seeking meaning.
In these black waters float only memories of marine creatures, their bones, their gills. Vast lengths of nets drift like hungry ghosts. Within the embrace of gyres, circle tons and tons of sun-bleached, cadaver-grey plastics. Sometimes a thing of beauty is delivered to the fouled beaches – an urn or a carnelian bead.

Within the fiction, I set up a debate between two clandestine authors who discuss the concept of messianic energy. They ask of themselves: ‘If a messiah were to emerge, would such a being redeem humanity or the earth? Has humankind not trashed the sacred garden, the Eden, they were given? Do they deserve a second chance? Would a messiah not prefer to save the earth, the Garden, allowing it to return to its pristine glory, free of man and woman?

It’s a dark fiction. Three English language publishers turned it down as being too ominous. I was advised to write something ‘light’ and to release The Master’s Ruse later in my career, so as not to harm my trajectory as an emerging author.But I didn’t want to silence this work. I felt I had a responsibility to speak on behalf of the ocean and the life it contains.
Now, in the Gulf of Mexico, the world’s most damaging spill is disgorging up to 19 000 barrels of crude oil a day and, as I write,it is estimated that 151 million litres have already been released, fouling not only the water but also beaches, mangroves and intertidal zones.
The environmental damage is immediately visible, with oiled birds dying and tar balls washing up on shorelines. Satellite images show a growing oil slick and thousands of species, marine and coastal, are already at risk from the oil itself.
In previous spills, oil rose to the surface and was dealt with there. But the weight of this particular crude oil and the pressure created by the depth of the leak cause much to remain submerged in clouds of tiny particles, which will be carried afar on currents. In addition, millions of litres of dispersants have been sprayed in a frantic attempt to keep the oil off shore. These chemicals help to keep the oil submerged.Oceanographers and toxicologists fear that the Gulf’s entire food chain could be devastated, with no marine life in the region escaping the effects of oil and dispersants, creating huge death zones additional to the 405 already identified worldwide near inhabited coastlines. Damage will be catastrophic and unprecedented.

Afraid, I ask: ‘Will the oil just keep pumping out, filling the Gulf of Mexico, destroying this sacred place, where blue fin tuna come to spawn?Will the oil, our black gold, spill out from the Gulf and into the open ocean?
Will it be as I visioned it in my fiction?
Will this be the beginning of the unravelling of marine life?Will our children one day stand on dead shores, listening to the ocean’s sigh as it moves back and forth, under the guidance of the moon, lamenting the abundance of life it once bore?
Could we indeed kill the ocean? We, who build cathedrals and compose music?
I have no answers.
I am just so sorry.

[Patricia Schonstein juni 2010
Books southern Africa - the Internet Newspaper for SA Books]