Title: Spanner in the Works
Author: Pat Fahrenfort
Genre: South Africa Memoirs
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2012
ISBN 9781415201688 / ISBN 978-1-4152-0168-8
Softcover, 15 x 22 cm, 224 pages
Spanner in the works, Pat Fahrenfort's story, is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary in that her experiences in the workplace are surely part of the collective experience of many working-class women in twentieth-century South Africa. The family pressure on her to leave school at an early age in order to find work and bring home an income, however meagre; her unending struggle to find and retain a job; the aggressive and overt sexuality in workplace encounters are all the stuff of many a poor girl's "career". More specific to the experience of coloured women workers in South Africa were the colour distinctions she found in the workplace. There are, after all, few working-class women who can move from a Standard 7 education, factory work and a short spell as a cabaret dancer to reading Wilhelm Reich, reporting for a newspaper, serving as the secretary to the Professor of Politics at UCT, writing a matric exam in her thirties, taking a university degree in Sociology, assisting the team writing of South Africa's post-apartheid Constitution, acting as PA to the Speaker of the National Council of Provinces in its post-apartheid Parliament, and retiring from her post as deputy director in the Ministry of Labour when she found it "tedious". From the outset Pat was determined to succeed and, as her memoir shows, does so through a combination of intelligence, guts and sheer audacity. This story is a truly heart-warming one of triumph over adversity. The author tells it with a keen eye for the absurd, and writes her observations in robust prose.