For the uninitiated, in 2016 Barry, a respected lawyer, writer, comedian and short-film maker, published Nigiri Law – a surreal mini-thriller that was politically incorrect from start to finish. Barry conjured up a cast of characters whose bizarre behaviour kept readers in stitches. It then went on to become a black comedy classic, filled with humour in the extremes.
In 2019 Barry, again wearing his writer’s hat, returned to the literary world, with his latest work of fiction, Goy Vey – A Gentile’s Guide to Judaism.
On 1 October 2019, Barry took the novel to Skoobs book store, at Montecasino, JHB, for his inaugural Gauteng launch. The event was attended by an intimate crowd, which generated an impressive number of book sales, confirming its success. Notable people in attendance were Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and RJ Benjamin, both of whom were fresh from their 2019 Joy of Jazz performances. Both Sipho and RJ gave a resounding endorsement of the book. Sipho remarked that you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the book. “It is a book about the current South African reality regarding families, from all walks of life.” He also urged people to read more, as he is now doing. “Books, regardless of subject, offer a wealth of perspective and knowledge not easily gained in other pursuits. Taking time to better understand those around you, can only be a good thing, and Goy Vey does that with brilliant wit and wisdom.”
For anyone familiar with Barry’s work, his latest novel does not disappoint. With its host of original, yet strangely familiar characters, Goy Vey’s appeal is universal, guaranteed to charm readers, regardless of culture or background.
“We should not have to look overseas for our entertainment. We do have so many good South African stories to tell, everyday stories about people and their lives, outside of the misery and pain of endless political scandals and depressing news,” Barry says. “Yet South Africans seem to embrace political scandals and depressing news. I cannot understand why? It’s like an emotional rubbernecking of sorts”.
“So, with this in mind, I wrote Goy Vey – a story about the lives of two separate families – a Jewish family and a non-Jewish family, a so-called ‘Gentile’ family, who finally come together for a Shabbat (Friday night) dinner, which goes horribly wrong,” he shares.
Goy Vey is really a book for everyone – it is a South African story. There is no political message in it. “There is no agenda,” Barry points out. “It is as much about Jews, as it is about non-Jews, as it is about white people, as it is about black people.”
“It’s about peeling back the layers of everything that makes up a family in the modern age in South Africa, yet it could be placed anywhere else in the world. I say we need a non-political South African story about everyday life, for no other reason than entertainment,” Barry asserts.
Goy Vey is just that, a story about things on the inside, being very different to the way they appear on the outside. About how we might think – “just look at those bourgeoisie, middle class, white South Africans, they have everything: money, success, looks, family, love, good marriages”. But the reality is, if you peel back a few layers, it’s really just one or two steps away from complete disaster.
“We should open up to each other, and not be afraid, we should embrace each other and learn about each other’s idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, and not be frightened to share. Through sharing, we learn understanding and enjoyment. Barry stressed the need for integration in South Africa – for relationships and friendships that go beyond culture and background – for authentic modern-day real connections between people.
“This is what Goy Vey is all about,” Barry concludes. “It’s urgent work here in our weird and strange country, which is still divided after so much time. It’s about cohesion, about life in a multicultural society, where I can go to different parts of the city and experience different things, meet different people and have fun and laugh.”
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