Editor, journalist, author and poet Jeremy Gordin was stabbed to death in his home by intruders who traded his life for his car and his television set. Those who knew him thought of him as worth a whole lot more than that.
In a recent letter to his adult children he implored them to leave the country, pointing out that crime and violence now cast a “gigantic shadow” over the country. Apparently he had been burgled twice in the weeks before his murder.
Jeremy was no coward. He did not take the burglaries as a reason to flee to live in a security cluster where he would have been safer. He would also not have meekly given in to the thugs who came to rob him. He would certainly have fought back. His death may have been the result. One hopes that he left marks on them that will never be erased.
It was not the first time that leaving South Africa had become an issue to him. As a young man in apartheid years, he had entered a marriage of convenience to enable him to work in the United States. It seems that his motives then were two-fold, both to gain experience and to put some distance between himself and the apartheid world. While he lived and worked in that country his wife of the time was in South Africa, collecting experience of a different kind.
I met Jeremy for the first time when he was appointed editor of the South African edition of Playboy. His first words to me were “Why is an Afrikaner like you writing novels that get banned in South Africa?”
“Despite my names,” I told him, “I grew up in an English-speaking home and am not an Afrikaner.”
He grunted and went on to the subject that truly interested him. “What do you want to write for me?”
In the event, I wrote a long piece on spending June 16, 1974 in the Katlehong township. A certain Winnie Mandela and an associate by the name of Peter Mokaba were holding a rally in the football stadium and an antagonistic Zulu impi was roaming the township, looking for heads to crack. It was not a good day to for visiting and Katlehong was not a good place for social calls. It was exactly the kind of thing Jeremy wanted to add spice to the Playboy confection.
He read the piece and his only comment was, “So what are you going to do for me next?”
He was no stuffed shirt. When his female staff members pointed to the fact that all the nudes in Playboy were female, he posed for one himself. One of the women who had raised the matter said of his picture, “Not bad for a guy who doesn’t work out.”
During our twenty-year stay in Parkview Johannesburg, Jeremy was something of a neighbour, occasionally, very occasionally, paying visits. I remember him as a good human being, taking no nonsense, but filled with compassion and a profound sense of justice. I hope the sons-of-bitches who killed him live to regret it.