‘Smell of Apples’ author Behr dies

29 November 2015 - 02:00 By Staff Reporter

Tanzanian-born author Mark Behr died yesterday morning in Johannesburg after a suspected heart attack. His passing was confirmed by a close friend.

The 52-year-old, who grew up in South Africa, wrote three novels. The first, The Smell of Apples, was published in 1995, having first appeared in Afrikaans as Die Reuk van Appels in 1993.

The book earned him the Eugène Marais Prize, the M-Net Award, the CNA Literary Debut Award and The Art Seidenbaum Award from the Los Angeles Times.

In the book, Behr unravels apartheid South Africa as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy called Marnus, the son of an army general. The book is taught at universities around the world, has been translated and published in nine languages, including Hebrew, Chinese, German and Portuguese.

Behr quickly earned himself a reputation of tackling taboo subjects. His second book, published in 2003, told the story of a passionate sexual affair between a young pubescent boy and his male teacher.

During apartheid Behr was a campus spy at the University of Stellenbosch for the security establishment. In 1996, he made a speech at a writers’ conference titled “Fault Lines — Inquiries Around Truth and Reconciliation” and said he regretted those days.

“Something was wrong with my involvement with state security.”