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Denis Beckett

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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Karl van Wyk Reviews Magenta

The only negative review I’ve seen so far…


Magenta is Denis Beckett’s first novel. Most will recall Beckett as the host of Beckett’s Trek, a television programme that explored contemporary South African life. This is also Beckett’s preoccupation in Magenta, as the novel’s protagonist, Bart Dunn, treks across Johannesburg, experiencing and discussing post- apartheid South Africa. What is unique about Bart is that he is politically optimistic despite living in a politically troubled country.

Unfortunately, several unwise artistic choices make the novel difficult to read. Beckett has chosen a style that is far too conversational and turns a potentially interesting novel into a disagreeable one.

At the beginning of the novel, Bart, a politically liberal white South African, discovers that an old political friend of his, Robert, has been murdered. This is the novel’s haunting force as it drives the plot forward and influences the characters’ actions. The character who seems most affected by Robert’s death is his son, Lud, a young right-wing extremist, who believes that his father’s death was the result of a BEE conspiracy. Kei, Roger’s mourning wife, is a woman whose friendship with Bart grows as the novel progresses.

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Sarah Hudleston Reviews Magenta

MagentaDenis Beckett uses his first novel as a way to convey his thoughts on the rights and wrongs of our country


AFTER writing 11 books, Denis Beckett, who has had a lifelong career as a journalist, television personality and raconteur extraordinaire , decided that a work of nonfiction to express his disillusionment with post-millennium, post-democracy SA would not do.

So he embarked on a three-and-a-half year project to say everything he had to say on the matter through the medium of the novel.

It would not have taken so long if he had not also had to keep earning a living while becoming a novelist. But he kept at it with a fervour that was only matched by his editor, Elana Bregin, who picked it apart and challenged just about every sentence.

Beckett always wanted to make a difference . He studied law and qualified as an advocate. But no sooner had he passed his bar exams than he decided to give it all up for journalism, working for The Star and The Rand Daily Mail, before founding Frontline, an avant garde magazine that poked holes in life in apartheid SA.

Magenta, his latest book and first novel, is a natural progression for him. “I always wanted to state a case and write it in a particular way so that people would read it,” he says.

“I am sure if I had written it as a work of nonfiction, nobody would have read it. So I spent a long time linking my case inside the story.”

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Jane Rosenthal Reviews Magenta

MagentaBeckett’s rollicking trek through Jozi

JANE ROSENTHAL – Oct 27 2008

When Bart, the protagonist of Magenta (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press), says he has better things to do than write a novel, he is told: “No you don’t. Novels broaden us, they nudge the world.”

And this certainly seems to be Denis Beckett’s intention with this startling and amusing addition to South African fiction. As readers who remember him from his television days will know, Beckett has opinions and ideas and loves to share them with people.

This he does in 500 rather uproarious pages; this is not a quiet novel, though it is full of some serious distilled meditations on life in Gauteng. The style takes some getting used to, mainly because it is unusual, but once into the swing of it it’s a lot of fun. Beckett sustains the narrative simultaneously with Bart’s inner commentary and asides. There is much inventive playing with words; the text is ironic, speedy and succinct, which was always Beckett’s distinguishing style, mixed with his idiosyncratic take on situations and his ability to present two sides of an argument.

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Sandra Gordon reviews Magenta (2 Articles): “I dare you to read it”

MagentaOn my rounds: Ebullient and self-deprecating

Published: 07 November 2008

Some of the media matters that caught the eye of Sandra Gordon: Denis Beckett’s book launch.

Attended Beckett’s latest book launch on 5 November. He was his usual ebullient, self-deprecating self. Even the stilted question and answer session hosted by Sunday Times book editor Timon Smith raised laughs.

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Garth Johnstone reviews Magenta

MagentaSA writer, print columnist, radio commentator and TV presenter Denis Beckett turns to fiction for the first time with Magenta (published by UKZN Press).

A colourful and clever thriller, the book is written in Beckett’s unique style, demanding readers keep their wits about them and stick steadfastly to the storyline as the plot develops.

From the outset, the writing in this 500-plus-page work is witty and sharp, and Beckett cleverly taps the circumstances, mood and psyche of many in South Africa today in developing his leading characters.

Described as ‘rambunctious, hilarious, thoughtful and enthralling’ by columnist William Saunderson-Meyer, Magenta is exactly what you’d expect from this provocative commentator on SA society.

- Garth Johnstone, Saturday Independent, Durban, 1 Nov

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