How to be white when you’re no longer centre of attention? When you no longer even matter? How to be white when everyone’s patience runs out?
These existential questions are addressed in Hagen Engler’s third novel, the satirical farce In The Maid’s Room. Other crucial learnings are how to buy weed, how to handle a “brown mouse” and how not to rhyme 16 bars about wanking.
Disco Dave is a South African hipster on the Port Elizabeth social scene, such as it is. His dreams of media moguldom evaporate before his eyes as the scene becomes blacker and his understanding of it more tenuous.
Hard-up for bucks, he moves into the Maid’s Room on his property and rents out the main house. Sizwe arrives and swiftly sets about taking over Disco’s life. He impregnates his ex-girlfriend Jazz, founds a rival media company and slides into a job Disco had his eye on.
The blacks are taking over! Disco finds a black girlfriend, but even that doesn’t stop it. Desperate for relevance, he has to get famous somehow. But who even needs white celebs any more?
While his fellow non-blacks embrace wilful ignorance, hippy oblivion and gangsterism, Disco knows just enough to know he doesn’t know enough. As South Africa finally becomes a black country, he finds himself asking, what about me?
In The Maid’s Room is a scruffy, hilarious shambles of an episodic novel set in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, that trendsetting bellwether of national change.
It’s about the surfer, stoner culture of the Bay, but also the slow ignominious death of white entitlement. There’s also lank pomping.
When your prospects go to hell in a haversack, when you develop a sneaking suspicion you might be a racist… well, that sucks. You might as well smoke weed, shag half of PE and show your balls on TV.
Hagen Engler has, co-written, ghost-written and edited more than ten books. In The Maid’s Room is his third novel. He is the former editor of a doomed consumer magazine, a white guy from PE and no longer the big deal he used to be. So you see now.