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Bless me Father

Mario D'Offizi

Publication Year: 2014

Bless Me Father is the true story of an incredible South African life. Born into a violent and broken family, and growing up in a variety of institutions, Cape Town based poet and writer Mario d'Offizi tells his remarkable, often shocking and ultimately inspiring life adventure - one that spans several decades in a country undergoing radical change. From his tough days at Boys Town to wild years in the advertising world, a stint in the restaurant business and a sharp edged journalistic adventure in the DRC, d'Offizi tells his critically acclaimed story with the unfailing sensitivity and warmth of a true poet.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright Page

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I found Bless Me Father an almost overpowering and emotionally draining read. This is a story of a rich, fascinating, but intermittently tragic life, told with scrupulous, graphic, and disturbing honesty. It is eminently readable and accessible...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 5-24

After 25 years as an advertising copywriter, and a few days from my 57th birthday, I was about to attempt a change in career and embark on a journey that would forever alter my life, my thinking, and the way I saw Africa and the world...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 25-35

‘Our Nonna mourned for your father, Lello, from the day he left home here in Palestrina until the day she died,’ Emmanuella told me. Emmanuella is my cousin, and I was visiting my father’s birthplace, Palestrina, a small, ancient town about 50 kilometres...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 36-38

One day, we were while holidaying at Munster on the South Coast, my father bought chocolates for my children, Paul, Gianni and Gabriella. He held the sweets out in his hands and invited the children to choose. They rushed to him. Paul, being the eldest...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 39-45

When we settled on the name d’Uffizi Pastabella for the restaurant Ian (my financial partner) and I were about to open, with my son Gianni as head chef and my daughter Gabriella as manager, I wrote to my cousin Renzo in Palestrina for the family’s blessings...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 46-53

“WALTZING MATILDA, WALTZING MATILDA, YOU ‘LL COME A WALTZING MATILDA WITH ME, AND WE SANG AND WE SANG, AND WE…” Sister Maggie’s voice rang out above the din and the chaos...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 54-57

Since my early teens, I have come eerily close to the presence of Herman Charles Bosman. John McIntosh, my English teacher at Boys’ Town had stirred my interest in Bosman and his writings, although I had only...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 58-75

While working as branch manager at Swannees gents’ clothing store in Wynberg, I would often sit at my desk and write poems, between my normal duties of managing staff and serving customers. One Friday evening, after five, I was entertaining a...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 76-85

Guy Murchie, in his book The Seven Mysteries of Life, writes that the ancient Chinese expressed ‘the hypothesis of God’ in their saying: ‘If you keep a green bough in your heart, the singing bird will come’. After the restaurant had closed, Paul and I marketed ourselves...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 86-94

I think that my lifelong love for percussion and the drums grew from the ‘… clikety-clack… clikety-clack …’ rhythm of mainline trains, as I travelled home at least twice a year by train from Boys’ Town, for the holidays. I travelled either to my home in...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 95-117

We explained to Pastor Enoch that we were meant to be met by Bishop Lamba. Lamba’s people and were now very concerned. I could feel that he sensed every fibre of fear and uncertainty that we were feeling. He said not to worry, that the church had a branch...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 118-145

I was managing Swannees’ clothing store in Wynberg, Cape Town, in the early 1970s. One afternoon one of the sales staff placed that afternoon’s Cape Argus on my desk. The headline read: FIRE DESTROYS BOYS’ TOWN. It was accompanied by...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 146-149

One afternoon a few of us were chatting with Father Orsmond in the commonroom. One of the boys asked Father Orsmond to explain the meaning of the word schizophrenia. He tried his best to explain, telling us that it was a progressive deterioration...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 150-154

When Danny Hendrickse died, in the mid 80’s, there was an article in one of Cape Town’s daily newspapers about ‘Danny Hendrickse … Cape Town’s Last Farrier …’ How Danny Hendrickse not only shoed horses, including the horses of the municipality, those big...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 155-159

‘Leslie, get the kettle on, and the pot on the stove for boiling water … quickly! You, Mario go to Aunty Okkie and get clean towels, as many as you can, not bladdy dirty ones, now hurry!’ Linda was lying on the single bed in a foetal position, groaning...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 160-166

When I arrived home one holiday, this time in Johannesburg, my mother was living in a one-bedroom flat in Hillbrow with ‘Uncle’ Henry. Lillian and Alba were living with them too. Henry had lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and landed up in the ward of...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 167-174

At first I did not hear the knocking on the door, the music from our portable radio was so loud. Carla, my mother and I were relaxing in flat No 2, Park Lane Mansions. Paul and Gianni were in bed. It was quite late. Carla asked ‘Is that a knock on the door?’...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 175-186

Goebbels took us both by the hand – the three of us holding hands – and began to pray. And babble in tongues. When he stopped, Matt asked him if he could say a prayer. This seemed to please him. And Matt began his performance. He...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 187-192

Like most of us, I had always heard about the power of the owl. As in ‘ … he or she is like a wise old owl…’ but I had never witnessed or experienced this until Craig’s death. Craig was my nephew, Lillian’s son. When Lillian died tragically, Carla and I paid a lot of attention to Craig and his brothers...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 193-201

‘I am torn between two masters, the shepherd and the wolf; between two mountains, in a valley that is green’. This is how I summed up and described my duality, my extremism, to my shrink. He had asked me to articulate or write...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 202-205

Like most South Africans I was shattered when the news broke about the assassination of Chris Hani on Easter Saturday, April 10, 1993. I watched the television news intently and read every newspaper. It was a sad day for the country. There were jitters...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 206-210

‘Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright, … round young Virgin Mother and Child …’ The melody of the carol resonated through the open windows, lifted up to the fourteenth floor where I was – and upward, to the heavens, I think, carried on the...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 211-215

He was tall, muscular, though wiry, and had a few gold-capped teeth. He was deeply tanned. His hair was what they call ‘kroes’ – short and tightly curled – and a few people said, never to his face, that he was part-coloured; which was pretty normal in Cape...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 216-225

Father Orsmond explained to me one day the role Boys’ Town was performing in my life, and in the lives of most of the other boys. He said that Boys’ Town was my surrogate parent. ‘So does that mean you are my other father, and that the nuns are my other...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 226-236

When we arrived in Chililabombwe we asked the driver to take us to a bank where we could convert the last of our money – R700 – into kwatchas. The bus would leave for Lusaka at 7am the next morning. It was 3:40 pm when we arrived at the Standard Charter bank. It...

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780992236304
Print-ISBN-13: 9780992228545

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2014

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