Time of Truth
München: Kabel Verlag, 2003
Paperback edition: Piper, 2005
Journalist Pia Lessing who works for a daily newspaper in Hamburg is called to her father's deathbed. With his last breath he utters the name Zoë – the name of Pia's former South African nanny. Shortly afterwards, in 1996, Pia travels for her newspaper to a politically highly charged South Africa. There she has to report on the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that have just commenced in Cape Town and Durban.
Pia, who was born to German parents, left Cape Town as a four year old when her family returned to Hamburg. Within the context of the first hearings which Pia follows as a German journalist, she starts questioning her family history and her own past in South Africa.
She meets South African press photographer Jonathan in Bellville, a suburb of Cape Town. A tender love story develops against the backdrop of political upheaval. The "time of truth" starts in Pia's own life as well. Together with Jonathan she searches for her nanny Zoë and thereby gains insights into South African history. Pia hears of forced removals in townships, of racial hatred and oppression of the black and coloured population. During her search in the townships she experiences both gestures of help and friendship as well as those of rejection and contempt and doubts whether she will ever learn the truth about the apartheid system and her own history. Despite encountering some obstacles she eventually succeeds in a journey of discovery to her own roots and family secrets.