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Muizenberg life and legends – good book material



Barry John Cohen is launching two books in Cape Town this week, one an autobiography and the other on the life of boxing legend Cedric Kushner. The SA Jewish Report caught up with him.

What drew you to writing books?

I had to close my golf museum at the Waterfront during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an interest in an English language school in Vietnam. At my age, there was no work. We were still locked up. So, I started to write for financial reasons.

How would you describe your style of writing and subject matter?

I have no real writing style. I see myself more as a technician than an author, and I enjoy the research. I simply tell a story that flows in simple language the reader can understand.

How do you choose ideas/topics?

What you know, understand, and what interests you should be the topic you focus on when choosing a subject matter.

What does it take for you to write a book?

Each book is different insofar as the length of time it takes to complete. You must do research first, and once I’m well under way, it’s hard to stop until completion. Readers like information, so footnotes help to make the book interesting.

What’s behind you launching two books in South Africa at the same time?

I’m launching four books at the same time. I’m not sure how it occurred. One was a book I had written and which was waiting for the outcome of a trial. Meanwhile, I got stuck into the Cedric Kushner story as it was easy because of my background and because I knew him. My autobiography was quick and easy, and helped pass the time, likewise the story of golfer Papwa Sewgolum because I had the knowledge and interest.

What did Kushner mean to you, and why did you write about him?

Kushner in my time was a local icon who appeared to be a thug. He was popular, and captained the Muizenberg Spurs rugby team. When they played Muizenberg Old Boys, up to 20 000 would go and watch. He was just a larger-than-life character who did crazy things.

What went into putting together your book about him?

As I’m presently in Australia, all I could do was trawl the internet for stories and photos, as well as write to all the Muizenberg friends for their incredibly funny recollections, as per the last chapter. I did make contact with some American friends, but they weren’t that helpful. Numerous Muizenberg friends sent stories, as they wanted his story told.

How different was the process of the Kushner book to that of Journey of a Muizenberg Boy?

Both Kushner and Journey of a Muizenberg Boy were topics I knew about. My career, inter alia, was music and sport, and writing them was like having a few beers at a pub and having a good chat with mates.

What’s your relationship like with Kushner’s family?

Cedric was with my sister at school and three to four years older than me, but always friendly when I saw him in the street or at the snake pit, and let us younger kids join in playing touch rugby on the beach. It’s only through the book that I’ve interacted with his older brother and sister.

As a boy from Muizenberg, why did you settle in Australia?

I left Muizenberg first for New Zealand and then Australia in 1978 to join my sister and brother-in-law, but returned in the early 1990s on holiday and stayed, returning to Australia with my kids 18 months ago.

What was it like coming back here?

I love the wildlife of Africa. There’s so much beauty. There was so much hope when Nelson Mandela came to power. Sadly, the goodwill has disappeared, even more so where the Jewish citizens are concerned. But if you ignore it and have the funds, it can be a great place to live.

What do you make of South Africa now?

Unfortunately, most political parties have lost their way, including the Democratic Alliance. I’m fortunate to have a number of really good prominent political friends who would make great leaders. The upcoming election may be a turning point depending upon possible coalitions and their ability to place trusted and knowledgeable persons in prominent positions, but I don’t think Jews will return.

Describe your relationship with the South African Jewish community.

I was never a regular shul goer after my parents departed, but lately, I formed a friendship with Rabbi Ryan (Newfield) and Muizenberg Shul, and went to some services. My kids went to Herzlia, but I’ll say no more!

Do you still see yourself as South African, or as Australian?

I’ll always be South African. When you’ve been a part of SuperSport and toured with the Springboks and then founded the Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, it’s in your DNA. I’m in Australia as my two kids settled there.

When you look back at your childhood in Muizenberg, what are the experiences you remember?

Those of us who grew up in Muizenberg had the luckiest childhood ever. We had everything and it cost nothing. Even collecting bottles and selling them at Crowders for pocket money. The beach, the holiday romances, the crowds we hung out with, the families all friends, touch rugby, playing cricket in the street, the Pavilion, surfing, and of course, the Empire bioscope. There’s an unbroken bond whether you were five years older or younger, and we all know where we are around the world and if we we’re lucky, we stay in touch.

What do your family think of your books?

There are actually seven books, and my kids haven’t read one! Renee, still in Hout Bay, read one. But I’ve had fantastic reviews from publications and readers alike, which has surprised the hell out of me.

Whose writing do you admire the most and why?

My books all have an element of research or my own knowledge, which is why I don’t regard myself as a real author. A real author, like those who write fiction, requires imagination, or there are really good novels based on history like those by Conn Iggulden, Wilbur Smith, or Bernard Cornwell. They are the real authors.

What’s next?

I’ve done my time in law, sport, entertainment, and non-profit organisations. At the age of 72, with kids of 23 and 25, who in their right mind would employ me? Maybe I’ll start painting again, or if I’m fortunate, write a book or two. There’s talk of a major movie based on my Papwa book. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Robin Welch

    Apr 24, 2024 at 11:27 am

    I was Head of Supersport from the beginning and boxing commentator so knew Cedric well. Would love to speak with Barry

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