FROM THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY by J. M. Coetzee

FROM THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the numbered entries (1-266) of her diary, Magda, a stunted, homely ""jagged virgin"" festering on her widowed father's isolated sheepfarm in colonial South Africa, records her frustrations, her fervors, and the grand guignol consequences of farm foreman Hendrik's marriage. ""I must not fall asleep in the middle of my life,"" she cries, and she is certainly wide awake when she blasts a hole in her father while he's dallying with Hendrik's brown child-bride. Once the fly-trapping body is at last buried (Hendrik won't help), the mistress-murderess and the Pinter-like servant couple triangulate oddly, suspicion and anger (she has no money to pay them) layered with lust: Magda, ""a sinister old child full of stale juices,"" conspires with Hendrik in her own rape, eager to explore ""the unfamiliar world of touch."" There's no strong resolution to this tale--Magda pays for her crime with increasing loneliness and demi-madness--and the social aspects of the colonial setting are assumed rather than illuminated. But Magda's voice is hard to shut out; except when her dark fantasies become too rococo (as when she sees her feces ""embrace and sleep and dissolve"" with her father's), her whimpers of self-pity and exultant shouts of revenge make a singular noise, small and joyless but all her own.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row