Title: Eugenia: Destiny and Choice
Author: Georgeos C. Awgerinos
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Debut novelist Georgeos Constantin Awgerinøs paints an epic love story and political thriller in EUGENIA: DESTINY AND CHOICE. The title character, Eugenia “Jenny” Corais, a Columbia University graduate, is an idealistic young feminist and intellectual who charts her destiny against such volatile backdrops as cabaret-era Berlin, America during the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, and the violent final days of colonial Africa.
With its potent combination of politics and romance, EUGENIA: DESTINY AND CHOICE resembles Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY, coupled with a tale of political intrigue that would fit comfortably in the novels of Graham Greene, John Le Carre or Stieg Larsson, and historical developments reminiscent of James A. Michener.
Awgerinøs’s title character, Eugenia, is complicated. Her idealism and social consciousness, the author notes, is tempered with “a compulsive curiosity for the weird, unusual, or forbidden. She aims at the light but she cannot resist the temptation of the darkness.”
Jenny’s co-protagonists include Dietrich Neuendorf, a charismatic and unyielding German human rights attorney haunted by his family’s past and his country’s history. He and Jenny quickly fall in love.
A third character, Desmond Henderson, attracts Jenny’s darker side. Despite his humble origins and abundant charm, Henderson has a deeply dark core. A former British colonial officer, he is the head of South Africa’s military industrial apparatus, linked to the high echelons of international corporate elite and secret intelligence. He is an immense figure who designs mass murder and forced relocations on spreadsheets and is involved in some of the most defining political acts of the 20th century.
But in this novel, even the most invincible have an Achilles heel. As Awgerinos puts it, “EUGENIA doesn’t romanticize power; rather, the book demystifies the powerful by exposing the intimate, vulnerable and disowned aspects of human psyche.”
Jenny, Dietrich, and Desmond cross paths and embark on a perilous journey together in an exotic African country, a wonder of nature that faces massive winds of historical tide and a catastrophic revolution.
“Through my characters and their interaction, I try to convey another view on love and sexual conflict, society, human nature and beyond-natural, democracy and collective mind control,” says Awgerinøs. “I also try to offer a historical account about a very volatile era in a turbulent region, Southern Africa.”
Awgerinøs hints that he is working on a sequel to EUGENIA: DESTINY AND CHOICE. Meanwhile, EUGENIA shows great potential to be adapted as an exciting and thought-provoking feature motion picture or TV movie.
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“Mr. Prime Minister, I urge you to reconsider your decision.”
The South African prime minister, a tall and imposing man with silver hair and a wide smile, dismissed the warning of his national security advisor.
“Dr. Duplessis, our republic is under imminent threat from within. I will never allow this country to be hijacked by a shadow government. In one hour, I will reveal to the parliamentary caucus what has been going on behind closed doors.”
“Never before has a public exposure of such marquee names come before the legislative assembly. This unorthodox approach is unheard of in the history of political affairs,” Dr. Duplessis commented, in his distinctive Wallonian inflection. He was a long-skulled, pale-skinned man of average build, no taller than five foot seven, with close-cropped gray hair, an icy stare, and robotic mannerisms. He listened as the prime minister went on with his rant.
“South Africa didn’t gain its independence from the British crown in order to subordinate itself to its military industrial complex. Apartheid was meant to protect the racial order in this country, not to become a self-destructive debt-spiral ploy.”
“Independence means the freedom to choose your own masters, Mr. Prime Minister, and racial order is a costly agenda.”
“This is the South African Republic, not South Africa, Inc.”
“It is the South African Republic, Inc. All states are corporate entities, monsieur, one way or another; this country is not an exception. With all due respect, presidents, prime ministers, even absolute rulers are the stage protagonists in the theater called politics; they are neither the writers, nor the producers of the show. This is a friendly reminder.”
The premier was aware that South Africa had become a “republic” because of Dr. Duplessis’s gerrymandering and intricate offstage diplomacy. He owed his prime ministerial chair to Dr. Duplessis’s byzantine machinations, but he would not yield to his trusted policymaker’s insolent innuendo and skillful pressure. When he spoke again, it was apparent that he had removed from his mind the last shadows of hesitation. The tone of his voice was conclusive.
“Dr. Duplessis, alea jacta est-the die is cast. The security operations units are on alert. The disarming of the Armée-Gendarmerie and the arrests of the Concession’s board members will begin once I commence my speech.”
“As you wish, monsieur.”
The PM relaxed his tone with his advisor; he became genial as usual.
“On Thursday, I will turn sixty-five years young. I have a family gathering at home. You will be there, Fabien, you promise?”
“Of course Hendrik, I will,” Dr. Duplessis responded.
The prime minister watched his advisor retreat. As he sat alone he stared at the antique clock across from his oak-paneled desk. He checked once more the printed page of his speech, which he had placed on the desk. Today he would make an announcement signaling a shake-up in modern history, and in the process he would settle some old scores. For a few seconds he visualized the reaction of the caucus: a standing ovation for his daring initiative. Pleased with this thought, he approached the window and watched the midday bustle of Cape Town, his beloved city.
Nestled in the southwest corner of the African continent, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with glistening coastlines and breathtaking views of Table Mountain, Cape Town, the parliamentary capital of South Africa, is a thriving metropolis with Dutch architecture, wide boulevards, colorful parks, and a flourishing business district. The city’s rich history contains an intriguing mix of European sophistication and Cape Malay exoticism that dates back to the seventeenth century, blended with subtropical African beauty.
Picturesque and prosperous though it might have been, Cape Town was not a paradise for all. The eye of the conscientious traveler in 1966 would observe, from stores to parks to the sandy beaches, two signs, in Afrikaans and English: “Slegs blankes/whites only” and “Slegs nie-blankes/non-whites only.”
Seven miles into the sea across the panoramic Table Bay was Robben Island. It appeared a tiny idyllic islet, which one might have guessed was a fisherman’s retreat; but such was not the case. Once a leper colony, Robben Island was one of the most infamous penitentiaries on earth. And yet, it hosted no penal convicts but instead, civil rights activists, some of them with world-renowned names: Govan Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma.
Just ten miles to the east of the majestic capital there was another world that most Capetowneans did not know existed: a district for natives only, which no whites except the police could enter. There, the neighborhoods of Langa, Nyanga, and Guguletu resembled more a massive dumpster than a sprawling suburbia. Newly built project buildings that reminded one of barracks sat beside wooden shacks with tin roofs. African women washed their clothes in rusty bins with boiled water outside their slum dwellings. Their children, most barefoot, played soccer with tin cans in dirt alleys with numbers for names, such as NY1 or NY4, which stood for native yards, as the city called these dusty, unpaved lanes.
It was 2:15 p.m., Tuesday, September 6, 1966, when the prime minister of the South African Republic made his entry to the House of Assembly to deliver his speech.
While he took the podium, a man with Mediterranean features dressed in a messenger’s uniform entered the building. He crossed unchecked through the heavily guarded lobby and approached the podium. Within seconds, the messenger pulled a dagger out of his jacket and stabbed the prime minister four times in the chest. Parliamentary members rushed to pin the assassin to the ground, while the PM’s blood gushed from the gaping wounds in his chest. An ambulance rushed him to the Groote Schuur Hospital, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
Later that day, television and radio stations around the world announced the staggering news. From nations opposed to the apartheid regime came lead stories declaring: “Demetris Tsafendas, the son of a Greek immigrant and an African woman from Mozambique, assassinated Dr. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the prime architect of apartheid.” Conversely the local media stated: “A mentally disturbed extremist assassinated the father of white South Africa, motivated by hatred and rage.” The African underground press was jubilant: “Tsafendas inyanga yezizwe—Tsafendas, the healer of the nation!”
That evening witnessed an unusual commute in front of the ministerial houses below the campus of the University of Cape Town. Cars carrying government officials and parliamentary members came and went. It was after midnight when the gates of a palatial mansion opened, and three stretch limousines with black-tinted glass made their exit. The convoy moved slowly down Belleview Road, encountering little traffic. Police patrols created a strong presence that night. In the second car of the motorcade, two men sat in the back of the limousine. One was a short, plump gentleman in his sixties. After looking nervously at the car following them, he reached for the limo’s bar and took a bottle.
“Thirty-year-old Glenfiddich, Mr. Henderson? I know it’s your favorite,” he said and poured some into a shot glass.
“I’ll have tobacco instead, Minister,” his companion replied with a conspicuous English accent. He was a towering man with broad shoulders, a wide face with a prominent jawline, and a thick mustache. He resembled a nineteenth-century British colonial military officer. Oddly, he wore a safari pith helmet, like a jungle explorer ready to hunt his prey. He lit up and silently puffed on his cigar. He sat comfortably, apparently enjoying his smoke. At one point, he too glanced back to face the limo that was following. The headlights illuminated his face, showing a man in his late forties with harsh features and piercing dark eyes.
“What a night, Mr. Henderson.”
“It was a great night, Minister,” the big man with the pith replied, puffing his fat Havana.
“Now that the obstacles have been removed, the door is open for the government and the Southern African Development Concession to sign the agreement. The armaments production executive board will be replaced, and within a week the shopping list will be on your desk, Mr. Henderson.”
The Englishman stared outside the dark window, momentarily in thought.
“Minister, the signing of agreements is not enough. The Concession is part of South Africa’s apparatus, and we need our territory secured. We cannot intervene every time some careless bureaucrat in your administration oversteps or defies our initial arrangements.”
“What do you have in mind, Mr. Henderson?”
“The Southern African Development Concession needs ironclad legislation that secures our role in this country’s future. You did it with the Oppenheimer gold and diamond cartel; you will do it with us too.”
“That was the situation five decades ago, when this part of the world was the Wild South. This is 1966.”
But the Englishman didn’t seem in the mood to brook refusals.
“Rhodesia and South Africa will always be the Wild South. Africa is made by monopolies for monopolies; the Concession would have to refuse anything less. Without the Southern African Development Concession, apartheid will fall swiftly like a shack in a gale. You know that as well as I, Minister.”
The driver continued moving on the barren road. His burly build and crew cut made apparent his role as secret security rather than a mere chauffeur. Henderson puffed his Havana contemplatively while he rolled past the closed stores of Belleview Road. The South African minister of defence and national security refilled his glass.
“Are you sure you don’t want some malt?”
“I never mix liquor and business; and this is business, Minister.”
“I’ll make the arrangements tomorrow morning. Be assured that from tonight we enter a new period of friendly cooperation for both sides.”
Henderson seemed pleased with the minister’s conclusive reply. He looked at his watch.
“It’s already one o’ clock. I need to be back in Rhodesia in two hours, but I enjoy myself every time I am in the Cape, especially tonight.”
About the Author
Geórgeos Constantin Awgerinøs, author of EUGENIA: DESTINY AND CHOICE was born and raised in Athens Greece. He lives in New York City.