SIMON Kantor, the chief protagonist in David Bloomberg’s novel Simon’s Destiny, runs a successful fishing business in Cape Town. He is "good-looking, intelligent and athletic", lives in Constantia, drives a Lexus and is an active member of the city’s Jewish community. He is married to "shapely brunette" Melissa, and they have two sons; a chip off the old block, David is a rising star in business, while Norman is something of mystery to his father. He has black friends, some of whom are dancers.
Despite Kantor’s alleged intelligence and his rich and varied life — he travels a lot, plays golf, occasionally pays women for sex and tells his lawyer, Darius, to leave his attractive secretary alone because "she’s on my things-to-do list" — he’s somehow managed to preserve a narrow perspective about what democracy may or may not mean in South Africa.
"Darius, you know I’m not a racist. I don’t wish any harm to black people, but I tell you one thing — I’m also not their saviour," he says, before going home to his family and their Rhodesian ridgeback dogs, PW and FW.
What follows is a lengthy politico-business and family story, centred on Kantor’s belated coming-of-age as he evolves from naive and blinkered white South African businessman to orchestrator of one of the country’s most racially integrated companies. The journey is not without humour, tension and a few unexpected twists. Among other things, Kantor learns to accept that Norman is gay and that his work as an activist is as important as being a businessman.
Simon’s Destiny is Bloomberg’s fifth book but his first novel. He also wrote Chain Gang (2011), My Times (2007), Won’t Forgive … Can’t Forget (2006) and Meet The People (1975). Although the former mayor of Cape Town, lawyer, businessman and theatre director now lives in Lugano, Switzerland, he remains a frequent visitor to South Africa. His latest book is as detailed in content as his nonfiction work and he has clearly taken time to research things such as fishing licences, different cultures and HIV/AIDS.
Two things, however, bothered me about the book. First, I disliked Kantor so intensely after the first few chapters that nothing he did or experienced later made me feel any different. Second, although the book didn’t bore me, I could have done with less detail.
Bloomberg is a meticulous writer. Little is left to the imagination, which can work well for nonfiction. This novel, however, is too dense with detail and the story would have been more powerful if it was written more concisely.
That said, Simon’s Destiny contains several South African truisms that will make you smile and many characters that you’ll recognise among colleagues, friends and family. Moreover, the book is quite rare in that it tells the story of a transformation deal that actually ends well!