Site icon Christina Engela: Author

Only Yesterday


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  • Published: to be announced
  • Words:
  • Author: Theo Engela (Edited by Christina Engela)


  • Published:
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  • Binding: Perfect-bound Paperback
  • Author: Theo Engela (Edited by Christina Engela)

“Back cover about goes here.”

Synopsis: [Spoiler Alert]


Zoe Navarro, a young slum-artist, finds himself unable to stay away from or to forget his wealthy mother. She was born an Afrikaner and as a famous opera singer in Rome she met and married Allon Navarro, his father, who, she discovered only after Zoe’s birth in Rome, was not white. It had been a secret he’d guarded closely – though in Europe at the time it didn’t matter – but at home in South Africa, and between South Africans abroad, it had some significance. He delights in dropping the bombshell on her.

This fact combined with Allon’s brutality towards her, his blackmailing and, as she’d discovered after his suicide in Rome, his bigamous marriage to her, turned her motherly love for little Zoe into dislike and hatred. She could no longer bear the sight of him, as he reminded her too much of his father, so she shipped him out to Cape Town to a boys’ home and forthwith disowned him as a son.

Later, a throat malady had brought her opera career to an end, and at the commencement of World War II Zoe’s mother returned to her homeland, South Africa. There she met and later married Charles Saunders, a wealthy engineer who was subsequently killed during the war – but meanwhile a daughter, Louise, was born to Janine.

Zoe – the disowned unwittingly illegitimate, unknowingly colored son – only met his mother again in Johannesburg when he tracks her down after leaving the orphanage she’d stuck him in. The young man of twenty had become a slum-artist in the meantime, and wanted to reconnect with her – wanting to know why she hated him so. His mother wanted nothing to do with him at all, and told him to leave and never to come back – at the same time telling him his father was colored, and so he is too. She dismisses him as being of the same poor character as his father. The nationalist government was in power in the country, and she has a social position to maintain in a society obsessed with racial purity.

For fifteen years he visits her periodically at her beautiful home against her wishes, each time returning to his small flat paid for out of the small monthly pension his mother’s lawyer pays him. He immerses himself in his art in the pursuit of success and fame and fortune – and there’s a background of vice, prostitution and drug-pushing – but then, he can’t afford to live in a better neighborhood.

Now in 1965, at the age of thirty-five, Zoe meets a beautiful Afrikaner girl, Zella Rens, with whom he falls desperately in love and she becomes his mistress. They have a long, passionate affair, she unaware of his secrets – until she meets a wealthy young bachelor and deserts him. Zoe, in his despondency, drinks a great deal and always hopes to find Zella again.

Meanwhile, their mother’s bigamous marriage to a colored man in Europe thirty-five years before has caught up with her at last, and her worst fears are realized when she’s shunned and ostracized by her former friends and acquaintances in the cream of Johannesburg and Pretoria society.

Zoe’s half-sister meanwhile becomes involved with an Indian student – Louise falls pregnant and appeals to him for help as, under the prevailing immorality laws of the Apartheid government, she cannot marry a person of color. There is an abortion and Louise dies. Zoe’s mother, now feeling very lonely and heartsore, receives a letter from him, relents, and there is a reconciliation between them.

Meanwhile Zoe still hopes to find Zella. He does, in hospital, where she dies from bullet-wounds inflicted by her jealous lover. Through all this, Zoe strives to make a name for himself as an artist.

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