Originally published in 1972, and re-released in 2012 by Waveland Press, Alex la Guma’s In the Fog of the Season’s End centers on two precisely observed main characters, Beukes and Elias. It depicts the inhumane treatment of blacks during the pre-independence period of South Africa. La Guma is cautious, avoiding excess frivolous drama and yet passing across his message.
Beukes is married to Frances and has a daughter. A member of the secret independence movement in South Africa, he is in charge of the distribution of political leaflets. The story describes how he tries to evade the policemen as he distributes his materials from house to house. Like others, he must contend with the severe oppression in search of freedom in an unjust society.
In Beuke’s activities and the overall story, we see the Movement’s concerted yet almost futile attempt at a non-white liberation community. La Guma paints the horrible end result of rallies that gets out of hand. `A black preacher gave water to a man who moaned in shock, sitting in a puddle of his own blood, a toddler stood wonderingly over a heap of clothes. The child lay on her face and there seemed hardly a mark on her except when she turned over and they saw the exit hole the heavy slug had made in the chest’.
Elias on the other hand, also a very prominent member of the movement is caught and detained by the police. Savagely beaten and punished, he hangs on to his resolve not to talk or ever breathe a word about the movement. `Elias screamed, he had anticipated violence, but not this. Talk, talk talk his mind told him while his body jerked and jigged like a broken puppet….’ The scene reveals the deep loyalty of such few people who fought to make the liberation a reality.
Yet, the book seems to offer no immediate hope or promise of independence or comfort. It shows things realistically as they were before the independence; harsh, rugged and brutal.
Alex la Guma, the author of In the fog of the Season’s End, was a member of South Africa’s Communist party and he helped to organise the South Africa representatives that drew up the Freedom Charter in the 1950s. For this, he was consequently arrested and was among the 156 accused with treason in the famous Treason Trials. He fled South Africa in the 1967, moving first to Britain and eventually to Cuba, where he represented the African National Congress..