Marlene van Niekerk: Triomf (Triomf)


The latest addition to my website is Marlene van Niekerk‘s Triomf (Triomf). This is a very funny novel about a poor white South African family, that is totally dysfunctional. They live in the suburb of Triomf, specially built for poor whites on top of a bulldozed black shantytown, Sophiatown. The Benade family consists of Mol, her husband, Pop, her brother Treppie and her thirty-nine year old son, Lambert. Lambert is epileptic and therefore has never held a job. Nor has he had any sexual liaison, except with his mother, who early on had realised that sex was the only way to calm him down when he had one of his fits. Poor Mol also has sex with her brother and finds having sex with three men tiring but does not seem concerned about the morality of it. Lambert, who can be prone to violent outbursts, is good at scavenging useful things from rubbish bins and dustbins and good at repairing things. One of the running jokes is his continual repair of the mailbox, which he has built out of scrap metal and affixed to the gate. It gets knocked down and damaged on a regular basis, as Pop or Treppie hit it with their decrepit car. The only real plot is the lead-up to Lambert’s fortieth birthday, for which he has been promised a woman by his parents and for which he and Treppie repair two broken-down fridges in his bedroom, so as to store food and drink for the woman. However, much of the book is a series of very funny scenes, such as Lambert celebrating Guy Fawkes night by almost burning the house down and burning himself or by getting into a fight with the men next door as he spies on their wives sunbathing (he is an inveterate Peeping Tom). The family stumbles through life, with Mol and Pop the generally innocent victims of the erratic behaviour of Treppie and Lambert. Yet, somehow, they just about survive, leaving us with some wonderful literary characters and some superb-story-telling.

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