My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience - Rian Malan

I won’t give this book a rating. I don’t know enough about South Africa and the history of Apartheid to know which parts of Malan’s book may or may not be on point.

However, I can say that – despite my abhorrence of reading account after account of violence and killings – I am glad I read this book.

Writing in 1988/89, Malan tried to come to terms with his feelings about South Africa, and he shares his thoughts in way that seemed quite open, and often is not flattering with respect to his own actions, and even less so with respect to the actions of his family, one of whom has gained fame as being the architect of Apartheid.

Malan doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t generalise, which is another reason, I guess, that the book is stuffed to the brim with the stories of the lives and deaths of so many individuals.

What I do take away from the book is a sense of complexity, of arbitrariness, and of impotence that South Africans must have faced in the late 1980s/early 1990s in the face of a country of many cultures, many faces, many value systems, many agendas, that I can only imagine as nihilist chaos.

My Traitor’s Heart was not an easy read, but it certainly was thought-provoking.


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