Nicolaas Vergunst: Knot of stone

book cover: knot of stoneKnot of Stone is a multi-layered tale of historical detection; incorporating oral testimonies, recorded histories, official documents, letters, diaries, dreams and prophecies. As a novel, it presents a carefully crafted and insightful revision of actual events, offering a courageous departure from mainstream historical writing. Set against a contemporary backdrop, the main protagonists (Sonja Haas and Jason Tomas) travel through Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, then on to Holland and England before returning to South Africa. Via various roadside encounters, including the startling revelations of a sangoma (a healer empowered by ancestors), they reconstruct the past and their own identities, with divergent consequences. When the Cape of Good Hope was still revered as the Portal to the Indies - the Viceroy of Portuguese-India was led ashore, attacked, slain and hurriedly buried in a shallow grave. The murder of Dom Francisco d'Almeida remains a mystery to this day. Was it the fulfilment of a prophecy or an act of poetic justice? Was it a mutiny, an ambush or perhaps an assassination? If so, was it instigated by the King of Portugal or the Church of Rome? These are the questions which Sonja and Jason set out to answer. As the main focaliser, Sonja's inner conflict reflects a passage from doubt to hope, echoing the transition from a Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope.

N. VergunstAbout the author

Born in Cape Town of emigrant Dutch parents, Nicolaas Vergunst (1958) has worked as an artist, art teacher, designer, curator and journalist. After a career with the national museums of South Africa, he resigned to write 'Knot of Stone: the day that changed South Africa's history'. He has since lived in Kiev and Kinshasa with his wife Ellen, a Dutch diplomat and political historian. They now live in Strasbourg where she is the Netherlands' ambassador to the Council of Europe - dealing with issues of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They left the ASC library two boxes of books and pamphlets about art, history and anti-apartheid.


For more historical novels see the online catalogue.

Gerard van de Bruinhorst
December 2014