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The word ""revolutionary"" suggests action intended to bring about significant change, but Fugard's third novel (her first to be published in the US) conveys the feeling of passivity, stillness, of people locked into roles which they move through as in a ritual. She has taken a currently hot subject, racially oppressed South Africa, and cooled it by removing her story to 1920 and telling it in a trance-like poetic prose through the first person of an introspective Englishwoman, a follower of the nonviolent doctrines of Tolstoy and Gandhi. The distinctively odd result will not be everybody's cup of tea, but it may be the understandable response of a sensitive while author in a country where the revolution will be made essentially by its black majority or not at all. The title character, Christina Ransome, is a revolutionary woman in that she refused to be shunted aside because of her sex. Although a Gandhi disciple before he left South Africa for India, she cannot help noting the servile position of Gandhi's wife, whom he married when both were children. When Christina's Indian lover himself takes a child bride, she feels betrayed, the more so because she can sense the girl's attraction as a sex object, pure and simple. After his death Christina retreats to a village in a semi-arid region and becomes the tutor of a handsome 18-year-old, defined in South Africa as Colored, meaning of mixed race. She intends the best for him, but it all goes wrong in their world dominated by the atavistic Boers. And it is he who pays the price for her high-mindedness. This mixture of politics, race and sex--heavily dosed with poetic writing--should be labeled: for ratified palates only.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1985
Publisher: Braziller