Having A Drink With Ernst HavemannSaturday, January 13, 2007
This blog and the next will pursue the theme of the previous one on drink.
In 1987 good magazines published fiction. Saturday Night published fiction. For their April issue they dispatched me to Nelson to photograph an author I did not know anything about. He was a mining engineer who had been born in a farm in Zululand, South Africa in 1918. His first language was Zulu. After her retired he began to write. He had come to be known in Canada because he had won the CBC Fiction Prize four times.
I arrived in my rented car from the airport, before noon and it almost became my undoing. The affable man told me I was going to stay for lunch and offered me a cocktail. During lunch we ate in a porch that overlooked Kootney Lake. The lake was right there and Havemann told me he liked to fish in his back yard. Lunch include several courses which were served with, "... this special white wine," and "...this superb red." Dessert came with port and and coffee was served with brandy and cigars. I was drunk. I photographed Havemann by his "pit privy". I loved how he pronounced it with a nasal twang. Then we carried the antique sofa outside and took his picture. He looked like a writer of the 19th century. When he suggested we have tea I was relieved. The tea would help me sober up. To my horror cold roast beef and egg sandwiches came with beer. There was no tea in sight.
By the time I photographed Havemann pulling a fish from the lake (he had offered to do it with a confidence I had never seen in any other fishermen) I was having a problem setting up lights and moving around. I managed to finish. Havemann said, "Alex I think you should stay for dinner and fly out tomorrow." I thought of pre-dinner drinks, dinner drinks, dessert drinks and... so I politely declined and I somehow made it to the airport in one piece.
As soon as I got home I purchased Havemenann's Bloodsong - And Other Stories of South Africa. It is one of my favourite books of short stories. Oddly, when Saturday Night published one of the stories, Tom and Beauty, they edited out the first two paragraphs. Here they are:
We didn't have videos and peace movements in those days, so what we talked about where things like who made God, and should you tell your father if your mother was cheating on him.
Arabelle Jones's mother cheated when she went to dances, but Arabelle didn't tell her father: it would just make him more downtrodden. He was such a milktoast, he wouldn't do anything except perhaps desert her and her mother, and Arabelle would miss him. Mr Jones was rich.