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Lesson Four

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					                                   Lesson Four
1. In the year 1960 the Union of South Africa celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and there
was a nationwide sensation when the one-thousand-pound prize for the finest piece of
sculpture was won by a black man, Edward Simelane. (1):
In the year 1960, the Union of South Africa celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, and
there was a great excitement throughout the country when people heard that the prize
for the finest piece of sculpture was won by a black man.
Golden Jubilee: Jubilee is the celebration of a special anniversary: silver jubilee (25th
anniversary); golden jubilee (50th anniversary) and diamond jubilee (60th or 75th
anniversary). nationwide: throughout the nation
Note that “- wide” is an adjective or adverb suffix meaning throughout, e. g.
nationwide; worldwide; communitywide; schoolwide
a sensation: extreme excitement or interest, e. g.
His speech produced a great sensation in the audience.
The new opera did not cause the sensation that had been expected.

2. His work, African Mother and Child, not only excited the admiration, but touched
the conscience or heart or whatever it was that responded, of white South Africa. (1)
His sculpture, African Mother and Child, not only won the admiration of the white
people for its artistic merit, but also deeply touched or moved their hearts and
conscience because the work made them see the injustice of racial discrimination and
the black people‟s yearning for a better life for their children.

3. It was by an oversight that his work was accepted ... (2)
It was by a careless mistake that his work was accepted, because as a black person, he
was not supposed to participate in the competition.
oversight: a mistake that you make by not noticing sth or by forgetting to do sth, e. g.
I didn‟t mean to leave the room unlocked. It was just an oversight.
By (an) oversight, the letter was sent unsigned.

4. The committee of the sculpture section received a private reprimand for having
been so careless as to omit the words “for whites only” from the conditions ...(2)
a private reprimand: a private criticism; a criticism that is not made public
reprimand: a sharp, angry and official rebuke (criticism)
so careless as to omit the words “for whites only” from the conditions: so careless that
they forgot to put the words “for whites only” in the conditions for entering the
competition

5. a very high personage (2)
a high-ranking official; an important person
personage: a person of distinction
Compare: person, personage, personnel, personality



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6. The committee then decided that this prize must be given along with the others, at
the public ceremony which would bring this particular part of the celebrations to a
close. (2)
to bring sth to a close: to end or conclude sth, e. g.
The government was anxious to bring the hostage crisis to a close.
The surrender of General Lee‟s army soon brought the Civil War to a close.

7. .. . but in certain powerful quarters, there was an outcry against any departure from
the “traditional policies” of the country... (3)
but in certain politically influential circles, there was a strong protest against this
decision as it was not in conformity with the traditional, apartheid policies of the
country... quarters: a usually unspecified group of people
I learned the news from some usually well-informed quarters.
He has won some support from business quarters.
outcry: a strong protest or objection
There was a public outcry against police brutality.
There was an outcry among the workers when the decision was announced. departure
from: a divergence from a rule or traditional practice
“traditional policies”: They refer to the racist policies which had been in effect for
many years. “

8. However, a crisis was averted, because the sculptor was “unfortunately unable to
attend the ceremony.” (3)
A crisis was avoided because to the relief of the authorities Simelane apologized that
he would not be able to attend the ceremony personally to receive the prize.
Notice that what is given here in quotes is the official announcement which was
probably not true, and everybody knew it.

9. “I wasn‟t feeling up to it,” Simelane said mischievously to me. “My parents, and
my wife‟s parents, and our priest, decided that I wasn‟t feeling up to it. And finally I
decided so too.” (4)
When Simelane said mischievously to the author that he wasn‟t feeling up to it, he
meant that he was going to pretend that he was sick and therefore he could not go to
the ceremony, and he knew that the author would understand that it was only an
excuse. The meaning became even clearer when he went on to say that his parents and
others “decided” that he wasn‟t feeling up to it. What they really meant of course was
that he should not go to the ceremony as it was too risky.
to feel up to: to be well enough to; to be capable of, e. g.
I don‟t feel up to a long hike.
I don‟t think Ann will feel up to it. She is not as young as she used to be.
mischievously: playfully; teasingly

10. “boys, I‟m a sculptor, not a demonstrator.” (4)
Majosi and Sola and the others were obviously well-known anti-apartheid activists.

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They wanted him to go to the ceremony for political reasons. But his response was
that he was only a sculptor and he was not interested in politics. He did not want to
make it a political issue.
boys: my friends

11. “This cognac is wonderful,” he said, “especially in these big glasses. It‟s the first
time I‟ve had such a glass. It‟s also the first time I‟ve drunk a brandy so slowly.” (5)
Brandy is an expensive drink that was usually consumed by well-to-do white folks in
Apartheid South Africa who would use a brandy glass and sip slowly. When a black
person like Simelane ever got a chance to drink brandy, he would usually use a small
glass and drink it quickly for fear that he might be seen and arrested by the police for
breaking the law. A brandy glass is a large one with a wide bowl and narrower top. It
is this shape so that the drinker can appreciate the aroma of brandy.

12. “In Orlando you develop a throat of iron, and you just put back your head and put
it down, in case the police should arrive.” (5)
When black folks in Orlando drank brandy, frequently they had to put back their head
and drink it up in one gulp in order to avoid police detection, and because brandy is a
very strong drink, you gradually develop a very strong throat--like a throat of iron.
Notice that according to apartheid laws, blacks could not remain in the big cities after
a certain hour at night. Orlando must be a small town where blacks live.

13. They gave a window to it, with a white velvet backdrop, if there is anything called
white velvet, and some complimentary words. (7)
They gave a whole window to the sculpture with a white curtain at the back and some
words in praise of the work. The curtain (backdrop) was made of white velvet, if there
is such a thing as white velvet.
Velvet is usually soft and smooth. But in this country of apartheid, it was hard for the
sculptor to associate the color is this shape so that the drinker can appreciate the
aroma of brandy.
“white” with such qualities as “softness” and “smoothness”.
Notice the sharp contrast of the colors of the backdrop and the sculpture. There is
something symbolic about it.
complimentary: paying compliments; expressing praise or admiration
Do not mix it up with the complementary, which means 补充的.

14. On my way from the station to the Herald office, I ... would only squint at it out of
the corner of my eye. (8).
the station: This obviously refers to the railway station. The sculptor lives in Orlando
as he is not allowed to live in the big city and therefore has to commute by train every
day.
the Herald office: We can assume that the sculptor works for a newspaper called
Herald.
to squint at: to look or glance to the side

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out of the corner of my eye: Notice in this idiom that it is “my eye”, not “my eyes.”

15. ... so I thought I‟d go and see the window, and indulge certain pleasurable human
feelings. (9)
So I thought I‟d go and see the window, and enjoy secretly some pleasant
feelings--feelings of pride for example for one‟s genius.

16. I must have got a little lost in the contemplation of my own genius... (9)
I must have become too absorbed or preoccupied about my own genius…

17. And you know, one doesn‟t get called “mate” every day. (10)
In South Africa, a black man does not hear a white man call him “mate.” They are
usually treated very rudely. But this white man was very friendly. Therefore he just
couldn‟t bring himself to say no to his invitation.

18. Well honestly I didn‟t feel like a drink at that time of night, with a white stranger
and all, and a train still to catch to Orlando. (16)
Well, to tell the truth, I didn‟t like the idea of having a drink at that time of night. It
was getting late, and I had to catch a train to Orlando before I got into trouble with the
police. Besides I would be drinking with a white stranger and would have to face all
the possible consequences.
and all: the whole thing; including everything or everybody mentioned, e. g.
My boss promised to provide me with a computer and all.
He ate the whole of the fish, head, tail, bones, and all.

19. “My flat‟s just round the corner. Do you speak Afrikaans?” (18)
(just) round the corner: very near
Afrikaans: a Dutch dialect spoken mainly by the white people of Dutch descent in
South Africa. The fact that the sculptor had spoken the language since he was a child
showed that although he was black he was well-educated. In this passage, there was
quite a problem for the sculptor as to what language he should use, as language served
as an important social status symbol.

20. I couldn‟t have told him my name. (21)
Why did Simelane say he couldn‟t have told van Rensburg his name?
It might be that Simelane had been acting as if he were admiring somebody else‟s
work of art and therefore it would be embarrassing to reveal his true identity. He did
not want the other person to know that he was indulging in admiring his own genius,
esp. after hearing the compliments of this stranger.

21. We didn‟t exactly walk abreast, but he didn‟t exactly walk in front of me. (22)
Is there any symbolic meaning of the sentence? Would it be a problem for them to
walk abreast? A black was not the equal of white so they would never walk side by
side as equals.

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22. “I wanted a bookshop, like that one there, I always wanted that, ever since I can
remember. But I had bad luck. My parents died before I could finish school. ” (25)
Did van Rensburg‟s background have anything to do with his appreciation of the
sculpture?

23. I said unwillingly, “Yes.” Then I thought to myself, how stupid, for leaving the
question open. (27)
Simelane thought it was stupid of him to leave the question open. If he had said “no,”
that would have ended the subject. Now that he had said “yes,” this stranger would
naturally want to know how far he had gone. Answer the question in such a way as to
lead to further questions.

24. I was glad to see that the entrance lobby was deserted. I wasn‟t at my ease. The
lift was at ground level, marked Whites Only. (34)
I was glad to see that there was no one in the wide entrance passage. I was a bit
nervous.
to be deserted: with no one present
to be at one‟s ease: feeling natural and comfortable; without any embarrassment or
discomfort lift: (chiefly British) an elevator (AmE)
Similarly flat is also used chiefly in British English. In American English, apartment
is more often used. English in South Africa is British English.
ground floor: also British English for what the Americans call the first floor
Notice that Simelane was ill at ease in a place where he was not supposed to be. That
was why he was glad that the lobby was deserted and why he was so anxious to get
moving and away from that ground floor.

25. ... and looked at me with a kind of honest, unselfish envy.
and looked at me in a way that showed that he sincerely envied me. He was not
jealous of my education.

26. On the other side were the doors, impersonal doors. (¡ª!I)
impersonal doors: The doors looked impersonal because for one thing, they looked all
the same, this being a cheap apartment building. They had no names or signs on them.
impersonal: showing no emotions or feelings
Notice that the white man was friendly enough to invite Simelane to have a drink, but
he was not ready to invite him into his home.

27. “Sorry there‟s no brandy,” he said. “Only wine. Here‟s happiness.” (38)
He was sorry that there was no brandy, for brandy is generally considered more
expensive stuff.
Here‟s happiness: Let‟s drink to your happiness. Van Rensburg was proposing a toast.

28. I wasn‟t only feeling what you may be thinking, I was thinking that one of the
impersonal doors might open at any moment, and someone might see me in a “white”

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building, and see me and van Rensburg breaking the liquor laws of the country. (39)
You may be thinking that it was an insult to have me drink in the passage instead of
inviting me into their apartment, to sit down and drink properly. Yes, I was feeling
that way. But there was something else. I was also afraid that one of the cold,
unfriendly doors might open at any moment and someone might see me in this
“whites only” building, drinking with a white man and breaking the laws on drinking.

29. Anger could have saved me from the whole embarrassing situation, but you know
I can‟t easily be angry. Even if I could have been, I might have found it hard to be
angry with this particular man. (39)
I could have simply left then and there angrily and thus freed myself from the
awkward situation. But you know, I‟m not the kind of person who can easily get angry.
Even if I could, I might have found it hard to be angry with this particular man. He
seemed so nice to me.

30. ... “You know, talk out my heart to him.”(42)
You know, talk to him heart to heart; tell him everything in my mind freely and fully;
pour out my feelings to him

31. ... but not for all the money in the world could I have said to her dankie, my nooi
or that disgusting dankie, misses, (43)
Under no circumstances could I have said to her dankie, my nooi or that disgusting
dankie, misses.
Apparently, both “dankie, my nooi” and “dankie, misses”, something like “Thank you,
my lady”, were considered proper in this context for blacks. But Simelane would not
talk like that. He had his dignity. On the other hand, he could not speak English
because the woman was speaking Afrikaans. So finally he took his chance and used
an expression so polite in Afrikaans that he could have been knocked down for
forgetting his place as polite language was supposed to be reserved only for the white
people.
high Afrikaans: Afrikaans spoken by educated white Africaners

32. ... so I took the risk of it and used the word mevrou, ..., “Ek is a dankbaar,
Mevrou. ” (43)
Mevrou: Madam, a title of respect, clearly inappropriate for a black person to use Ek
is a dankbaar, Mevrou: This must be a very formal form of address.
Obviously, Simelane was caught “between a rock and a hard place.” As an educated
person, he had a natural refined manner and was inclined to use more formal form of
address, but as a black, he was not supposed to.

33. ... and van Rensburg, in a strained voice that suddenly came out of nowhere, said,
“Our land is beautiful. But it breaks my heart.” (43)
Van Rensburg suddenly appeared and, in a worried voice, said, “Our land is beautiful.
But it breaks my heart.”

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out of/from nowhere: happening or appearing suddenly and without warning, e. g.
Mr. Jones was driving too fast on the expressway when a police patrol car appeared
out of nowhere and stopped him.
A stone came from nowhere and hit him on the head.
our land: our country
to break ones heart: to make one extremely sad

34. And I thought the whole thing was mad, and getting beyond me, with me a black
stranger being shown a testimonial for the son of the house, (51)
Why did he say the whole thing was mad and getting beyond him?
testimonial: a formal statement affirming the character or worth of another person
Van Rensburg was the son of the house, and the woman was praising him in front of a
black man, and a stranger at that too. This obviously was very abnormal, and
Simelane was bewildered.
to get beyond sb: to become difficult for sb to understand

35. All of us were full of goodwill, but I was waiting for the opening of one of those
impersonal doors. Perhaps they were too, I don‟t know. Perhaps when you want so
badly to touch someone, you don‟t care. (63)
All of us were full of warm and friendly feelings toward each other, but I was hoping
that one of those doors would open and someone would come out and see me. Perhaps
van Rensburg and the others were hoping the same thing, I am not quite sure. Perhaps
when you want to reach out so eagerly, you don‟t care what might happen.
Notice that at that moment everybody wanted to forget their racial difference, but the
invisible barrier was still there.

36. We drove up Eloff Street, and he said, “Did you know what I meant?” I wanted to
answer him, but I couldn‟t, because I didn‟t know what that something was. He
couldn‟t be talking about being frightened of Orlando at night, because what more
could one mean than just that? (67)
We drove up Eloff Street, and he asked, “Did you know what I meant?” He wanted to
make sure that I understood him. Being a black, I knew very well that he couldn‟t be
talking about it being dangerous in Orlando at night. He was saying that it was
dangerous to break the Apartheid laws by showing up in Orlando at night. What else
could he mean other than that? I knew he wanted understanding and further
communication. I wanted to answer him, but I couldn‟t, because I didn‟t know what
he wanted me to say.
Clearly, the long separation between the whites and blacks made it impossible for
them to communicate in depth.

37. “You know,” he said, “about our land being beautiful?”(69)
The unfinished words are: but it breaks my heart. Van Rensburg wanted Simelane to
know that he felt sorry about their country‟s Apartheid laws.
Notice that throughout the conversation, van Rensburg was expressing his concern

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about the sad situation the country was in, and he thought that the black man probably
would not understand. The truth of course was just the opposite.

38. Yes, I knew what he meant, and I knew that for God‟s sake he wanted to touch me
too and he couldn‟t; for his eyes had been blinded by years in the dark. And I thought
it was a pity he was blind, for if men never touch each other, they‟ll hurt each other
one day. (70)
Yes, I knew what he meant, and I knew, too, that he really wanted to touch me. But he
couldn‟t, for he had been influenced by racism for so long that he was now unable to
see the truth and behave accordingly. And I thought it was a sad thing, because if you
don‟t understand each other and don‟t care for each other, some day you will hurt
each other. Racial prejudices are bound to lead to terrible sufferings for both sides.
touch me: It probably doesn‟t mean „physically touch‟ but „get close to in spirit.‟

39. And it was a pity he was blind, and couldn‟t touch me, for black men don‟t touch
white men any more; only by accident, when they make something like Mother and
Child. (70)
And it was a pity he could not see the truth and couldn‟t open up completely to me
and embrace me as his brother, for black people could only touch them by accident as
in this case. They would not have had the chance to be moved by the sculpture
Mother and Child if it had not been for the oversight.

40. ... and my inarticulateness distressed me, (72)
and my inability to express myself upset me; The fact that I could not clearly express
what I was thinking made me upset.
“ ”„ ‟
41. “Thank you for the sociable evening.” (72)
a sociable evening: an evening characterized by pleasant, informal conversation and
companionship

42. ... but I was thinking he was like a man trying to run a race in iron shoes, and not
understanding why he cannot move. (75)
But I was thinking that he was much like a man trying to run but couldn‟t because he
was still not completely free from racist prejudices which were dragging his feet like
iron shoes. And the sad thing was that he still did not know what was preventing their
land, which otherwise was so beautiful, from becoming a country that would not
break his heart. The wall was in his own heart.

43. When I ... told my wife, she wept. (75)
Why did his wife weep?




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