Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Times review by Michela Wrong
A Fork in the Road: A memoir by Andre Brink
Harvill Secker, £17.99
When a society is criticised by outsiders, its members wince but shrug their shoulders. “What can you expect from strangers?” is the feeling. When the attack comes from within, no such indulgence is shown. “He was one of us,” runs the refrain. “He should have known better. Traitor.”
That distinction is what makes André Brink's career so impressive.
Like his fellow South African writers J.M. Coetzee, Breyten Breytenbach and Athol Fugard, he came from within the Afrikaner laager. No one could have been expected to have a greater, or more sympathetic, understanding of the us-against-the-world mindset of that inward-looking community. Yet Brink shrugged off his inheritance to denounce apartheid, thereby ensuring the premature closure of his plays, the banning of his novels and decades of surveillance by the South African Government's security police, the Special Branch.

Born into a God-fearing Afrikaner family, he had the red dust of rural South Africa under his nails. Brink's father was a small-town magistrate - bastion of the white Establishment. Sundays orbited around church, boyhood games were inspired by biblical parables. His allegiance to the white cause seemed virtually preordained, and hewas actually initiated - alongside F.W. de Klerk - into the Broederbond, the Afrikaner secret society that saw itself as the rightful source of the nation's future leaders.
Read the rest at The Times online.

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