Another in the line of books on South Africa that have followed Allen Drury's ``A Very Strange Society'' by seeking to explain the country (or in this case the Afrikaners) mostly by letting people talk. Goodwin, former Africa correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and husband Schiff (Politics/Oberlin Coll.), have a problem in adopting this technique, because most of their interviews were taped in the period before the Government of National Unity took office, a thoroughly disturbed period by any standard, and the book is filled with dire predictions and threats of what various parties will seek to do to prevent the black control that, as we now know, has actually been in operation for more than a year. (``We'll . . . give them a greater genocide than in the Third Reich,'' says one anonymous source.) With this caveat, the book in its four main sections (the Broederbond, the secret society at the heart of Afrikaner power; religion; the Afrikaans language; and the police state) contains some useful material. Perhaps the freshest is the section on the church, and the authors conclude persuasively that, far from the Afrikaner churches being at the forefront of the reform process, they seem to have followed sluggishly in the wake of government action. Similarly, the authors report recent but little-known research suggesting that religiosity among the Afrikaners is quite new. There are a number of other intriguing insights—that, for example, the Afrikaners are more British than Dutch in their ``way of living and of socialization, of thinking, of communicating.'' But while making it clear that Afrikaners are facing ``a far greater existential crisis than Vietnam was for the Americans,'' the authors provide little clue how these people, now living with a future that many denounced as intolerable, are likely to deal with it. Useful, often thought-provoking, but ultimately flawed and unsatisfactory.
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