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Christians squirm over Noah novel

2012-03-05 07:39
Cape Town - A story about murder, violence and sex set aboard Noah's Ark during the great flood may upset some Christian readers when it is published in Afrikaans shortly.

Die Arkvaarders (In The Shadow of the Ark), written by Belgian novelist Anne Provoost, was first published in 2001 and has already made international headlines.

The book, which portrays Noah and his sons as murderers and rapists, is part of the high school syllabus in the Netherlands.

American critics such as Harriet Klausner and Faith V Smith said that although the book is well written, "it's not for everyone".

"Provoost's portrayal of these Biblical figures unsettles readers," said Klausner.

The book has been translated into seven languages and has won many literary prizes.

"Bible readers will take offence to the sadistic deeds of murder and violence, as well as the sexual undertone, in the description of life on the Ark during the flood," said Smith.

"It contains sexual detail which could have probably been left out."

Loaded sexual atmosphere

A loaded sexual atmosphere is depicted between Noah's son Ham and Re Jana, a teenager that Ham smuggled onto the Ark.

The story sees the 14-year-old girl bathing Ham and his brothers, Shem and Japhet.

Lesbian relationships and teenage pregnancy are also prevalent in the book.

According to Protea Boekhuis, the publisher of the Afrikaans version, it is possible that the book will be a prescribed reading in South African high schools.

Mr Nicol Stassen, Protea Boekhuis's CEO, said Provoost is one of the most successful youth authors of the Netherlands.

"One of her other books, Vallen (Falling), has been translated into nine languages. A successful film was made of it."

'A literary gem'

According to Mr Izak de Vries, Protea's marketing head, the novel is a literary gem.

"It's for the old and young. I do target adults in my marketing, but look at works such as Die Uurwek Kantel and Toorberg. They aren't books for teenagers, but both sold thousands in schools.

"In South Africa we have so-called "setworks" and then we have books that have been approved for libraries. We do indeed suggest books to the education departments. I will suggest Die Arkvaarders."

Stassen said "There's nothing in the book that young readers haven't seen on TV or in movies. Someone who's surprised by the themes or actions in the book hasn't read a teen book, or any book for that matter, in the last 20 years.

"It's perhaps a good thing if the some of the church elders read the book. In my experience, the people who would complain are those who don't read other books and aren't prepared to listen to others' viewpoints.

"The Bible contains a lot of sex and violence. There's nothing in Die Arkvaarders which isn't in the Bible as well."

'Polluting the holy book'

In contrast, Dr Isak Burger, president of the AGS, complained that the book "pollutes the holy book of Christians.

"It's irresponsible to prescribe such a book to scholars.

"It's disgusting, even though it's fiction. There are no references in the Bible or from any other source that justify this drivel.

"It was this kind of immorality and sexual abuse that led to God flooding the world.

"Because the faithful, just Noah and his family had not yet succumbed to this perverse lifestyle, that is why God chose them." 

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