Dreamland is the first self-published novel of former Steenberg resident Daniel Bugan.
It tells the story of Ivan October who has finally found his pas- sion cultivating a garden, named Dreamland, only to have the council evict him from the property.
With an estranged family, a past stained by alcoholism, and the threat of future homelessness at the hands of the council, Ivan chooses to fight not only for himself but for the dignity of his Lavender Hill community.
Mr Bugan lists literary greats Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene as well as South African author JM Coetzee as his prominent writing influences for style and subject matter. As Dreamland is his first novel, he wanted primarily to “write for the community and include themes that apply universally.”
“I’m quite passionate about changing thinking, changing behaviour through writing. I’d like to, if I can, contribute in some way to positively influencing the youth of the Steenberg and Lavender Hill communities,” he said.
Even though Mr Bugan has since relocated to Muizenberg, he remains tied to the community, having spent his entire childhood there.
“Steenberg is still a part of me, it motivates me and drives me. Nothing has changed,” he said.
Among the streets of Lavender Hill and the sparse lawns of Steenberg, Mr Bugan hopes to sow the metaphorical seeds of a garden with the help of his book. These seeds represent motivation, community outreach and engagement, and better mentors for the youth. If maintained diligently, Mr Bugan idealises this garden as an opportunity for the community to flourish and bloom just like the pro- duce.
“The main problem in Lavender Hill is lack of good role models for the youth. They idolise people like gang leaders. Life is dominated by the search for easy money. What’s needed is a change in mindset-effort into changing the normal. They need more opportunities and an environment to improve,” said Mr Bugan.
Ivan is an older man who has been taken to court by the council over stealing the city’s electricity supply. Additionally, his wife is asking for child support, he has a strained relationship with his children, and is on the verge of losing his garden. He embarks on a series of a failed attempts to appeal his eviction, planting gardens for his neighbours in the interim. He eventually loses his case and Dreamland is ultimately destroyed for good. However, the experience does not represent a total loss.
“Ivan has grown up and made mistakes. He’s an example of what can become of your life if you change it around. His garden was destroyed but the others he planted bloomed – the goal was to let others taste the accomplishment as well,” said Mr Bugan.
Ivan’s story is similar to so many others growing up in Lavender Hill and Steenberg and Mr Bugan hopes to bring much-needed hope to residents with his novel.
“People are so resigned to their circumstances, to hopelessness. They turn to drugs, to crime. They think there’s no way out. Hopefully through this novel I can show there’s another way to live a fulfilled, dignified life – but it will require immense responsibility, self-control, and effort. Influencing the youth is the most important because change starts with them. They could learn from Ivan through the mistakes that he made, and instead make the right choices,” said Mr Bugan.
Dreamland is not yet available for purchase in stores but interested parties can learn more about the novel and place orders on the Facebook page titled InPrint Media and Communications.
* Sterling Conyers is a visiting student from Mercer University in America who is completing a two-month internship at Cape Community Newspapers, which publishes Southern Mail.