The narrator of this long soliloquy--translated by the author of last season's Waiting for the Barbarians--is a South African black slave-woman who recalls her horror-filled past. Physically attractive enough to have been granted favored sexual status by her various male owners, the woman has also, however, been isolated enough to be terrorized by the brutality about her. And, while witnessing a massacre, she was so traumatized that she fled forever into madness--symbolized by the baobab tree, an old and hollowed-out spot where she now lives, cowering in fear. Afrikaner novelist Stockenstrom elicits a powerful sequence of images and moments from the slave-woman's ordeal: the power of ""passive"" sex; life among pygmies and slave bandits. But the skein-like lyricism of the prose, while vivid, too often seems over-literary, an unconvincing evocation of this woman's actual personality--which remains hazy, more words than flesh-and-blood. (""Oh, fear is by no means a connoisseur of events. He gobbles up everything. He crushes everything. He leaves no bloody trail behind because he stands still. Everything comes to him, feels drawn to him, and he knows it."") Intensely rendered work, then, but ultimately artificial and mannered--in language that seems to belong to the sophisticated white novelist, not the black-slave-woman narrator.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Faber & Faber (39 Thompson St., Winchester, MA O1890)