AN ACT OF TERROR by André Brink


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 A pretentious megabook with mega themes from South African novelist Brink, already somewhat overtaken by events in South Africa and elsewhere. At the heart of the story are Tom Landman and Nina Jordaan, a young couple with impeccable Afrikaner credentials, who join a group plotting to assassinate the State President. When the attempt fails and Nina is killed trying to escape, Tom goes into hiding. As Tom, haunted by the death of Nina, tries to evade the security police headed by a fanatical brigadier, he recalls the seminal events that led to their decision to resort to terror. He meets free-spirited and courageous Lisa, another rebellious Afrikaner, who accompanies him on his long and perilous flight through the Cape countryside to the border. The police are always close behind, though the journey provides opportunities for leisurely encounters with certifiable types--the religious obsessive father, treacherous on principle; the loyal family retainer; and the simple but good self-made man. The pursuit ends in a fiery climax in which much is resolved, but the book doesn't end--not yet. To add more heft to an already big tome, Brink, who has frequently interrupted a basically exciting suspense story with self-conscious and labored discussions of when terror is justified, a sort of Ethics 101, now adds what is virtually another book: Tom Landman, somewhere in Africa, gives a ``tribal history'' of the 13 generations of Landmans in South Africa, conveniently allowing Brink to explore Afrikaner preoccupations and their place in Africa. Set in 1989, before the release of Mandela and the end of communism, the story, however compelling the scenes of police brutality, seems already dated--which wouldn't matter if characters weren't relentlessly trendy stereotypes illustrating equally trendy theories. Disappointing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-74858-0
Page count: 848pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1991


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