The Road To Mecca

By Athol Fugard

Reviewed Feb 21, 2020 on The Litt Review.

I read this on a plane, after being given a copy by a friend. I haven’t read any South African plays, and very little literature. Besides some Afrikaans words here and there, what most seemed alien to me was the conservative aspects of the Boers in general. If you juxtaposed this book into a conservative town somewhere in the south in the 50s or 60s, it would probably be very similar to how I read it.

This was an interesting play. I would like to see it; I don’t think I got all of the nuances from reading it on the page. I don’t particularly see the interactions between Helen and Elsa, the young woman, as that interesting, and I don’t think that Fugard fully fleshed out Helen’s reason for making her statues - her Mecca, as it were. I, of course, hated the minister, and wasn’t sympathetic to him very much (using ‘love’ as his reason was odd). And some of the writing was halting - Elsa’s note about her abortion, in particular, seemed unnecessary.

I think it could have been more spare than it was. Some of the characters just went on and on. I don’t know if we listen that well in real conversations. But it was a good play, all told.

My favorite line in it actually came from Balzac: “The desert is God without mankind.” I like that.


sundowner, n. informal, chiefly British an alcoholic drink taken at sunset.
dominee, n. a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.
baas, n. a supervisor or employer, especially a white man in charge of coloured or black people. South African, often offensive
“Selling coal to Newcastle”, ph. Selling things to those who already have enough
bluestocking, n. often derogatory. an intellectual or literary woman
regmaker, n. a drink taken to relieve the symptoms of a hangover
doek, n. a headscarf. S. African
kloof, n. a steep-sided, wooded ravine or valley. v. explore kloofs as a sport. South African.

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