Henk van Woerden | Granta

Henk van Woerden

Henk van Woerden was a painter and the author of four novels, including A Mouthful of Glass. He spent his childhood in South Africa. Recently living in Amsterdam, he was highly regarded in the Netherlands, where he died in 2005.


A Mouthful Of Glass

Henk van Woerden

Translated by Dan Jacobson

A short, tough story of an assassin – the man who killed Hendrick Verwoed, the racist prime minister of South Africa, in 1966. Born in Mozambique of a Greek father and African mother, Demitrios Tsafendas was a man lost between the races, maddened by not knowing who or what he was. He thought he was white until his father abandoned him. He then discovered he was ‘coloured’. He spent twenty-five years wandering the world looking for a home, growing stranger and more desperate. In 1965 he arrived in South Africa and got a job as a messenger in the parliament building – a job reserved for whites. Then he bought a knife.