Hout Bay author writes about spice of life

There is no end to the creativity that flows from the pen of Hout Bay author, singer, songwriter and poet, Regine Josephy-Stelzmann.

At the age of 73, she has published three volumes of poetry, two novels and a family biography written in German.

Her latest novel, Vera Asks How About 69 is a quirky read that looks at life and how to approach it after the age of 70.

The main character candidly talks about her life, past and present experiences, in a sincere, sexy and humorous way.

The book was launched last night, Thursday April 21, at an intimate gathering at the Hout Bay library.

Regine denies that the book is based on herself but said she had great fun writing and researching it.

“There may be just a little bit of myself in it,” she said, laughing.

And with her latest novel done and dusted, there is no time to waste, and her next project, a screenplay titled Mangezi, is well on its way.

Set in 1910, it tells the love story of two boys, one English and one Xhosa, in a time when their friendship and feelings for each other were taboo.

“I am very excited about this project. I have used a lot of Xhosa phrases in the dialogue, and the conversations between the boys are humorous.” she said.

Regine was born in Breslau, East Germany, in 1942 and fled to West Germany as a refugee with her parents at the end of Word War II.

She studied commerce, languages and fine art in Germany and France and worked for Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster for a while.

But it has not always been easy for this vibrant, outspoken and positive artist.

She came to South Africa in 1965 and started writing in English. She raised her children, an autistic son, 50, and a daughter, 46 ,who is a senior lecturer at Michaelis School of Fine Art, mostly alone after she got divorced.

“It was a difficult time for me but I am a very positive person. I believe in my creator and I don’t believe in harbouring hatred,” she said.

In her early years in Cape Town, she lived in Kalk Bay and volunteered at the then Kings Centre for the physically and mentally handicapped while caring for her autistic son.

“I volunteered there three times per week providing entertainment to the residents and singing and writing songs about them. They loved my music and I loved them. I was devastated when the centre closed and the residents were scattered in homes across Cape Town. They were like family to me,” she said.

She also became involved with other children who suffered from autism, and when the Vera School for pupils with autism was founded in 1970, she became a regular at the school, helping where she could.

Regine says writing is in her blood and she has always loved it.

“My great grandfather was ‘a dramaturge’ and my mother was a writer. She was an editor at a German newspaper for many years,” she said.

Her collection of poems, The Poet Sings, launched in April last year, was inspired after she read and sang unpublished poems while playing her guitar at an hour-long session at the McGregor Poetry Festival in October 2014 (“A poet on her own beat”, Sentinel News, March 27 2015).

Her first volume of poems, From Coal to Crystal was followed by Through the eyes of the Harlequin, and Feldpost 01047, a biography of her family.

The title was her father’s postal code number in the German military trenches in Ukraine in World War II.

He was killed in action there in 1943 when she was just one year old. The book contains the letters he wrote to her mother during the war.

She published her first novel, Christmas Trees in the Sky – set in Cape Town – in 1991 which was recently re-launched as Flares in the Sky.

The book was written on a typewriter and the cover is a photograph taken by Regine at the Festival Django Reinhardt in Saimois-sur-Seine, in north central France.

In her free time she loves to spend time at the Bay Harbour Market and the Lookout Deck.

“I go to the market on a regular basis and I love the music they have there,” she said.

Her books are available at the Bay bookshop in Mainstream Centre.

For more information about her work, call her at 021 790 3259.