MY TRAITOR'S HEART by Rian Malan
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MY TRAITOR'S HEART

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, Malan, whose credentials are impeccable--a great-nephew of the prime minister who introduced apartheid to South Africa, and an exile at one point because of his refusal to serve in that nation's military--offers one of the most coldly realistic yet compassionate accounts of contemporary South Africa to be published in recent years. Using the example of a distant ancestor who fled the Cape in the late 18th century so that he could live with his slave mistress--thus flouting the barriers set up between the races--but who later was hanged by the British for his role in a rebellion protesting British leniency to the blacks, Malan reveals how this typically paradoxical response has been responsible for the present impasse. Blacks too have behaved in equally paradoxical ways, he shows. The behavior of both groups has all too often been provoked by fear: fear of race, of tribe, of change. Growing up in the 1950's, Malan rebelled against his Afrikaner heritage and called himself a Marxist. He worked as a journalist on one of the major Johannesburg dailies, making friends with many activists, black and white. After the 1976 uprisings, he fled to the US because he could no longer avoid military service and because he was scared of the changes coming, or the ""consequences of them not coming."" In short, as he says, he ran away from the paradox. He returned in the early 80's to a much changed place, but the paradox still continued. And it's this paradox that he sets out to explore by examining a number of cases involving violence--white on black, black on white, and black on black. His resolution is more metaphysical than political, but perhaps the latter will never succeed without the former in a country deeply religious despite its terrible transgressions Malan's colloquial tone gives this heartfelt confession of his fears, contradictions, hopes, and love a compelling immediacy. It is an important and timely book.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1989
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown