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Un-put-down-able…one of those one-off unpredictable things … an absolute masterwork. ―Stephen Gray

The relationship between truth and art in this novel is fascinating. Hassim’s marvellous, engrossing work held me from chapter to chapter, fuelling my interest in meta-fiction and the role of the writer as a historian. ―Tim Huisamen

An award-winning literary epic that tells the tale of three generations of South African Indians. We are taken into the labyrinthine world of Durban’s Grey Street, as important in the literary-political imagination of South Africa as Soweto or District Six. ― Mail & Guardian


Book information

ISBN:  978-1-919855-07-3

Trim size: 230 x 150mm

Binding: paperback

Page count: 528 pages

Imagery: tbc

Cost: R325.00

Genre: Historical fiction

Date of publication: August 2003



Hassim’s debut novel represents not only one family’s journey from India to South Africa, but also a valuable source of information about the experiences, struggles, feelings and thoughts of the SA Indian community  a history from the inside. This masterpiece of realism is set in Durban’s Casbah, with its underworld of gangsters, political activists, merchants, and the everyday struggle of poor urban life. The language is beautifully nuanced and richly poetic. It blends history, fiction, romance, politics and the idiom of the street in a potent manner.


Aziz Hassim

The late Aziz Hassim was a retired accountant in Durban. His debut novel, The Lotus People won the 2001 Sanlam award for an unpublished novel and was short-listed for the 2004 Sunday Times Literary Award. Spanning the events and moods of over a century, The Lotus People served as a form of catharsis for Hassim. While he called the cleansing process his ‘personal TRC’, he also wished to record a past he is convinced has disappeared forever.

Durban, and particularly the Casbah area, had a kind of ‘romance’ and bittersweet lifestyle during the 50s and 60s which, in spite of the apartheid laws (or because of them), lives on only in the minds of those who inhabited it at the time. The younger generations thought he was ‘making up stories’ when he told them about that area.

 ‘I also like to say to myself that we, all of us, need to know where we come from before we can know where we are going. This effort was a small step in that direction.’ Although he carried the novel within himself, it is not autobiographical by any means.  Instead, he calls it a product of the environment he lived in during those days. This book is now in its second printing.

 Hassim launched his next novel – the second in the trilogy –on 21 July 2009 in Durban. He was working on the third novel, Song of Shoba, and had nearly finished it when he passed away. Before his death, he published the story of Valliamma, the Tamil child martyr.