The publisher’s latest entry in the Women Writing Africa series: a postmodern tale of the new South Africa that brings a rich sense of allusion, irony, and the past to the dangers the hero, a Griqua descendant of the original Khoi inhabitants, faces when he finds his life threatened in an increasingly African nationalist milieu.
Referring frequently to writers as diverse as Joyce, Morrison, and Breytenbach, Wicomb (You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, not reviewed) demonstrates an easy familiarity with the local—especially the Colored—vernacular as she tells spins a yarn that’s part history, part political analysis, and part thriller. She picks up David Dirkse’s story in 1991, a year after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, as South Africans adjust to the end of apartheid. David’s Colored (mixed-race) mother-in-law, Ouma Sarie, now feels free enough to visit the renovated Logan Hotel, where she worked as a maid for 50 years. Her daughter Sally, a former guerrilla now married to David and mother of two children, is finding domesticity boring; not only that but she suspects there’s another woman in David’s life. Which there is: a shadowy, even symbolic, presence called Dulcie, a guerrilla who was tortured and raped by both sides. David, a dedicated freedom fighter still working for the African National Congress, decides to visit Kokstad in East Griqualand to research his family. There, he learns more about his Griqua ancestor Andrew le Fleur, who, seeing his land taken over by white farmers, led a rebellion, was imprisoned by the British, and then, once free, led the Griquas west into the desert. But David finds that the Struggle is not over: he has enemies, possibly in the ANC itself, and his name is on a hit list.
A provocative post-apartheid novel that raises troubling questions about the role of women, Coloreds, and other non-African minorities in the new South Africa.