When Life is Like a Dream

When Life is Like a Dream

Phillip Methula

Format: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-3-99064-261-0
Release Date: 15.01.2019
On his last night in prison, Aladam, incarcerated for many years for his opposition to the system of racial discrimination and white domination in South Africa, dreams about the political struggles that have shaped the course of the country…
Main characters


Minor characters

Assistant grave diggers
Assistant tailors
Compound dwellers
Dirkus’ wife
Friend to Kobus’ wife
Grave diggers
Health workers
Hooded man
Kobus’s wife
Law firm owner
Madala’s cousin
Man’s wife
Miner’s wife
Namein’s wife
Old man
Police Chief
Rebel leaders
Resident’s wife
Strike leaders
The Chief
The driver
The drunk
Traffic officers
Truck driver
Workers’ leader
Young women
Young man



(At night. A cell in a prison on the island) (Aladam is lying in his bed)

Aladam: (Aside) The story is that there comes a time in the life of a people when they are left with no other choice other than to have to take a walk not so easy to make. It is at that moment that the true stretch of the people’s inner strength is tested, and its true reach tasted. All the while our people had been on a slow toil to bring their day to be free closer and closer but each time they took a single step forward the white man stopped them with his deadly force. Then there came that sudden moment when they burst into a bang of restless throngs and started to fight back. It was just a small scuttling scuffle of young school children at first but then it grew big until it reached a ruffling point where everybody was swept in and each bloody blow by the white man was answered by another bloody blow by the people. The two fighters suddenly saw their own deadly end swiftly coming and they decided to pause to talk to end the fighting. That is what has brought us to this moment today: The coming of the time to talk with the white man about our country!
I want to hear the glory of the little snore each boundary had last levelled. Bang bare still harms the best grovel bent where we walk through the right bend. Oh, what is this? Why these lines of mingled words in my thoughts? Am I falling asleep? Or have I already started dreaming? My thoughts look to have lost their straight and neat lines! I can feel a heavy slump of sleep coming to take its turn to lead the run of thoughts in my head. I have lost the hold of my wakeful mind. My dreaming head has taken the lead and it will go as wild and blind as my thoughts in deep sleep often do. Heavy sleep, I can hear you coming to thump my head into a daze. Heavy sleep, fall light upon my eyes for I want to tell my people the naked tale of my life just as it is boldly standing in my head now. Heavy sleep, give me a little moment to tell my story before your heavy swirls and whirls take hold of my thoughts to tell my story in their own twisted way as a crooked tale. When the bell is rung at five o’clock to wake us up with its usual rude ring, I want the story of my country to have been fully told in my dream.
The swirling and whirling thoughts of gusty dreams are about to take over in my mind, but they shall not reign for long before my bright and wakeful thoughts are aroused to rise and rule the early hours of the following morning. Heavy sleep, do not hold my head in your wild grasp for too long for fear that my story will be mere shreds that will leave no lines behind like wild dreams do. The story is that I want to tell my story to my people in full. I want to tell it in long lines. It is a story told in simple words that have swollen meanings. My story will not be liked by those who have no time to pause and think when reading it. Look, the full moon outside has lit the night in bright white light. This shall be a night of a long white dream. I wonder how many dreams this moon has seen coming into being and being broken into little pieces in all its millions of silvery years of wandering in the skies above.
Heavy sleep, spare me a brief break for I cannot fall into your dazing hands before I have read lines from a rousing poem that has kept me alive with hope many a dreary night in this prison from the past years. My child, who made you lie so low and red on this dust in the street? Mother with eyes swollen with tears and the chin hanging low in the midst of gaping stares, the fluttering run, the loud crashing crush and the wild yells of the falling, walking tall in the street and falling on the wall of walking throngs. Falling, and falling in the falling fall, the head is too heavy with thoughts of ghosts that stand on your way home. At last I am going home! Home, home, sweet home is where I am going. I am whizzing in the air as a wizard, whooshing in a swash of a white flush of waves, rising with a swishing splash, drowning in bubbling foam of the grey rumbling sea with floating home, going home to going home, with a whim of the whiff of hymns high in the air… home, home, home! (He falls asleep and goes out)


(At night. The President’s residence in the city) (Enter Nieman on a couch in his study)

Nieman: (Aside) I can make this country move. It is all in my hands. Looking at what is boldly flashed in the papers and loudly heard in the air these days, I can tell that my people are very angry with me. They think that I have given the country away, but I have not. I have only made it seem like I am giving it away and yet this is the best way to keep it. My people don’t see the things I have said and done with the same eyes as mine. Many of my people have read the lines of the poems that I have written over the years, but they read wrong meanings into them because they don’t know my true thoughts that lie hidden behind the lines of my poems. They read my lines with heads twisted by the raging fads and fancies of the day. I had hoped that the thoughts of the past would reign alive in my people’s thoughts to make them see the meaning behind my poems. Now I know that the past cannot always be trusted to come to the present on its own. It must be made to come.

Words, words and more words. That is what I shall use to right this wrong of the past. If I can show my people what I meant by what I wrote, they will see that I am not after all the wicked person that they have come to think I am these days. In the dim eyes of my own people, I wear a black face, feathered and tarred by their slurs and slanders. I want these wrong thoughts about me to be put right in every mind that holds them. I stand for the bright, white and wakeful thoughts that have kept us as white people in charge of things in this country as we followed our dream to keep this country white. At this time of the night, everyone is in deep sleep. I am the only one who is wild and wide awake with seeing eyes while others are blindly and deeply drowned in their sleep. Whoever is awake has the strongest hand to make things happen. Here I am, writing my full thoughts behind the lines of my poems for the eyes of my blind people to open. This is where my side of the story starts. It starts in the last act and will go to the beginning until the end.

Here, alone until the flash of dawn, I will stay awake, drowned in the flow of my long story as I bring it to life in written words. It is a story of how my people have stood against the might of all evils to live to this hour. It is a story told in the bold voice of my people and it will run until the start of the new brave act that I have taken. It is a story of how our country, seen to have grown too sick, shall be healed by a head. Words, words and more words. This is what we have, and we shall use them in a fight that will have no drips or drops of blood. Come, tomorrow, come! My battle plan has been drawn and I am ready to meet any man in word by word blows. (He goes out)


(At night. A passage in a prison in the island) (Enter guard, walking up and down the passage)

Guard: (Aside) Like the ghost of a person who has been killed by a brutal hand, here I am at this moment roaming in a rage up and down the passage of this prison without a moment to rest. I have been ordered to keep this passage under my guard until the first rays of the rising sun start arousing the country and the world from the long sleep of the night. My blankets are waiting restlessly for me at home to cover me in their warm hold in this cold night. But here I am, thrust on this lonely spot, angry and dangerous to keep watch over an old prisoner who will wake up tomorrow morning to take a long walk back home. (He goes out)



(An open ground in front of a cemetery situated near a place that was used as a concentration camp during a war that had ended eight years before) (Enter Namein, standing on a wooden platform in front of a large crowd of people sitting on the ground)

Namein: (Aside) Our people are here in their ragged numbers with chapped hands, wizened faces, wrinkled hair and scrawny bodies all from the harsh times they have live through. They are here to hear what tomorrow will bring them today. This is the moment we should not lose to face our black past. It must be told in black and white – plainly! There is not one more wink to waste. I must start speaking to them now. See what I mean?
(Addressing the crowd) At this brightest hour of the day, let this day be the start of a new dream that we will follow into a white future whilst leaving behind us the black part of our country. My people, I know that this is not an easy day for all of us. There is not a single one amongst us here today who has not had a loss from the stupid war of the past that touched every corner of the country with its bloody rage. We lost fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters and children. The painful thoughts of death that prowled the death camps where our women and children were impounded during the war, has left anger and bitterness in our hearts and dreams. Our people were made to live in death traps of barbed wires. Women and children were herded there in their helpless droves to die of hunger and crawling diseases. (Some women in the audience break into tears)
I am not saying these things to awaken the hurt that still lies deep in our hearts. But I am doing this to count our losses as a people and for all of us to know how much we have lost. That way, we can start learning how best we can live with our losses. That way, we shall be able to put our shattered lives together and start anew without forgetting the past. We shall not forget the past for, if we do, we shall not have any future. Our future, as our present, is founded on our past. See what I mean? (Loud applause)
My people, we are not here to cry again for we have cried for too long during the long three years of senseless fighting and killings in our country. Let us not let any tears in our eyes blind our sight of our bright future but let us make our past spur us into the future. I also want you to remember that although we lost hundreds of our farms; thousands of our people; millions of our crops and livestock, we never lost our unbroken spirit as a people. (Loud applause)
And that is the spirit that will take us into our future. Our brave men fought like heroes in the battlefield against a mighty enemy that was dressed in red. When dead bodies were counted, more bodies of the enemy in red uniform were found to have been killed than our own heroes in their ragged gear. Our soldiers came back home after the big war, crawling with lice and dirt but the moment has come to raise our people from their present poor fate into a grand state. (Loud applause)
As we remember the past, let us not forget the steel will that God gave us as a people to live on even as we were battered with heavy guns, starved to death by the scorching of our farms or imprisoned in the camps of death. There are so many questions that we cannot answer about why things happened the way they did in the past. But God has the answer and in time we will understand what lies behind His scheme of things that are beyond the grasp of our minds. Let us not forget God’s words that He said to us many times in the past. Remember, He told us that we are His chosen people sent to this part of the dark world to lead by our white light that He has blessed us with. (Loud applause)
My people, my countrymen, this is all that God has sent me to say to you today. It is to God and to you, my people, that today I am making this pledge about our future. Let this be the start of a life of a great people to come. I wanted us to start from this cursed spot to remember and leave behind the pain of our losses and not to carry them into our new country waiting to be born tomorrow. Let us walk past the past. (Loud applause)
1st Audience: (To the 2nd audience) The words of this man bring hope in our hearts. He speaks like a true leader of our people.
2nd Audience: (To the 1st audience) He is indeed a true leader. Remember, this man is one of our war heroes. He is a leader in whose hands we will always feel safe.
Namein: I am talking here about the black past threatening to swamp us to death. We have to cast it apart from us for us to be able to walk into our white future on our own.
1st Audience: (To the 2nd audience) What he has said is as clear as the line between black and white.
2nd Audience: (To the 1st audience) It is indeed true. He sounds like someone who has the power to make words move.
Namein: My people, don’t forget tomorrow. It is a day that will see our country becoming one in a union. The four provinces that erstwhile lay scattered each on their own are all going to be under one united country tomorrow. (Loud applause)
Come back in your swollen numbers tomorrow to the people’s square in the city to see the dawn of a new country breaking white. Go now, my people, and get yourselves ready for our great day tomorrow.
1st Audience: (To 1st audience) Let’s go and get ready for the big day.
2nd Audience: (To 2nd audience) It is a day none of us should miss. (They all go out)
Namein: (Aside) Our people needed to be taken past this painful point of their past. It is the only way that they can move with us into the future of joy starting tomorrow. It is good that I said what I said to them. See what I mean? It will forever remain boldly remembered in their heads. That is the power of words. It’s what you hear first that lasts longer than anything else that you will hear later. May my words cast a shroud of white light on everything else that is to follow? (He goes out)


(In the evening. A compound in the city) (Enter two compound dwellers, Gozolo and Zibulo)

Gozolo: Vuvuzela has spoken. He has given us the two things that he always does – the message of the decade and the chant of our time.
Zibulo: Who is Vuvuzela?
Gozolo: I can see that there is a lot of things in this city of gold that still lie hidden from your eyes and ears. Don’t you know Vuvuzela? There is no one here who does not know Vuvuzela – the blind one with sight better than those who have eyes to see. He is a man who lives in the dark depths of a cave in this city. His wisdom has a bottom that cannot be reached. Many people who visit him come back with eyes that can see better than before.
Zibulo: Why is he called by that name?
Gozolo: He was given that name by the people of this city who have visited him. At the entrance to his cave, there are water droplets that drip from the roof of the rocks in the cave. So, people think that it is he who sprinkles his visitors with water to wash their eyes open when they enter his den.
Zibulo: Does he know that he is called by that name?
Gozolo: I don’t know. But I doubt if he does because the people don’t call him by his name when they speak to him.
Zibulo: I have never heard of him before. You said he has said his message for the decade. What is his message?
Gozolo: He told us that ours are years of deep slumber.
Zibulo: And what does that mean?
Gozolo: It means we are still not awake to the world we are living in.
Zibulo: And the chant of our time?
Gozolo: These are words that everyone should know to help them find answers to the questions they have about life.
Zibulo: What are they? Say them.
Gozolo: Evil we white foreign
Ourselves goons blindness spirits
Take are block wreck
Us our your their
Nowhere enemies way dreams.
Zibulo: What you have just said is as unfamiliar to my ears as is the sight to my eyes of a white person without a hat on his head in this city. What is the meaning of all this? Is this not an idle jumble of words? They don’t make any sense to me. What does this all mean?
Gozolo: If you keep all the words in your head when you make a visit to Vuvuzela, then you will come back with a clear answer hidden behind them.
Zibulo: I wonder what answers lie hidden this twisted string of words.
Gozolo: One day you will be wiser, and you will know how to read Vuvuzela’s hidden answers. When you make a visit to him that day, he will tell you that all answers for the earthly questions you have lie inside you.
Zibulo: But what is the point of making a visit to him if we already have answers inside us to the questions we have?
Gozolo: It is for him to show you how to look deep into your own mind to find the answers to your questions. Many people don’t know how to do that. Besides, once he has shown you once, you will never need to go him twice or thrice. You will know how to find answers to any other question that you will come across in life.
Zibulo: You say answers to a question. Is there more than one answer to a question?
Gozolo: Indeed. There are more answers than the questions that are there on earth. The only thing is that we don’t look for them. But also, not all the answers we get wholly answer the questions we have. But we have to keep digging deeper into our minds like gold diggers and we will get better answers than what we had before. It is from our failures and not our successes that we get the urge to look deeper into our minds for answers to our questions.
Zibulo: The jumble of words that Vuvuzela said is no different from the twisted string of things that I saw in my dream last night. It left me worried and I wonder what it means.
Gozolo: Don’t worry about your dream for it does not mean anything. All it is doing is to show you the old things in your head and how they are strung together. It is looking back and uncovering old things that are kept hidden in your head.
Zibulo: But what is the point of dreams with fleeting scraps of things that flash with no order in our heads when we are asleep?
Gozolo: These wild thoughts are meant to stroke your mind into a long sleep that will make it hard for it to wake up soon. They give your mind a good rest to get its strength back to be able to face the new day when you wake up the following morning.
Zibulo: You are talking about things that make no sense to me.
Gozolo: They never make sense if you have not seen them. They will make sense when you think about them next time, now that I have told you. The truth is that without dreams, we will have dull and cluttered thoughts throttling our thinking for all the wakeful days of our lives and we will fumble our way through life like animals.
Zibulo: Do you know what? You live in your own world that I don’t understand.
Gozolo: This is the world that you will understand one day.
Zibulo: I wonder if I will ever understand it. I should be understanding it by now. This is what happens when life is like a dream.
Gozolo: It takes long to see but, in the end, you will be able to live with your eyes wide awake and open to the world that still lies hidden from you. Don’t worry. I will help you to open your eyes. You just wait and see what happens next. (They both go out)
4 Stars
Thought provoking with suspensese - 24.07.2022
Jeannie Matlhare

If black and white could think along these lines, we would have a better world for our children's legacy.

5 Stars
This is the best book ever - 24.01.2019
Abel Baloyi

I love it

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When Life is Like a Dream
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