Sven Lager

My summer as a whale: A South African story

Sven Lager
Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2007
317 S.
ISBN 978-3462037838
(Original paperback edition)

"My summer as a whale" by Sven Lager who lives in Hermanus as a South African by choice, is about twenty-something Matthias from Berlin who has to do community work in the town of Sommerdal in the Western Cape, South Africa. Matthias was arrested as a shop thief and is supposed to be cured of this habit by caring for adults with Down syndrome (affectionately called “Downies”) in this town. The home is run by dropouts and old sixty-eighters from Germany.

Apart from his work at the droll institution, Matthias discovers the Cape: he explores the coast with his surfboard, undertakes shopping and clubbing expeditions to Cape Town, visits penguin colonies – the entire tourist programme.

In a neighbouring township, he meets Zola, a South African girl and they fall in love. Zola, who speaks German fluently, longs for a life in Germany. Two worlds come together and despite a common language they could hardly be more different.

Through Zola, Matthias gets to know everyday life in the township and is confronted with problems such as HIV, poverty and crime. The "New South Africa" reveals its multifaceted self to Matthias – light and dark side both. The question that arises is how one can find oneself in such a diverse country and build a relationship.

    Sven Lager:
    Mein Sommer als Wal: Eine südafrikanische Geschichte
    (My summer as a whale: A South African story)

    This "South African story" as the subtitle of Sven Lager's youth novel indicates, is actually a South African-German story. Although the action takes place in the Western Cape in South Africa, the town of Sommerdal in which he protagonist Matthias stays, is a "shady realm of German Culture".More ...