Book Review – Incognito: The Memoirs Of Ben Trovato

by Mark Verbaan (Macmillan) ISBN 9781770103887

Reading this memoir felt like drowning – in a good way. I went on a journey to a place I had almost forgotten. My memories of South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s range from black and white snapshots to garish Polaroid blurs. My emotions are varied, bruised and confused, much like the author’s.

Reading Mark Verbaan’s story took me back to a time when I stood on a station saying goodbye to the man I loved as he reluctantly went off to complete his military service. I relived the holidays of my youth in Durban and my university days at Wits in Johannesburg. I revisited the crazy, terrible life-and-death drama of Apartheid as the country imploded.

And then I got to know Mark Verbaan, whose experiences were also so very different from mine. I found out how he fell into journalism and television, after spending a few years bumming around Europe. He returned home and wrote for newspapers before he spent 10 years in Namibia with SWABC, where he survived bombings, death threats, and became an award-winning documentary maker. Back in South Africa, he was one of the first journalists to work for e-TV.

In between all of this, he manages to have one crazy damaged relationship after another. His life and loves are flavoured with enough impulse, alcohol and narcotics to ensure that none would ever succeed, although he does seem to have a loving relationship with his daughter.

We find out why he decided to write under the pseudonym Ben Trovato, and I enjoyed the stories surrounding this subterfuge. Verbaan is a talented reporter, writer, producer and news editor. This memoir covers a chunk of South Africa’s history, and it is also an entertaining read. I hope that he continues to write and entertain us for many years.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 19th August 2014