South Africa. Ben DuToit, a Johannesburg Afrikaaner schoolteacher
and church elder, with married daughters and a teenager son,
sympathizes when the son of his school's black janitor, Gordon
Ngubene, is detained by authorities and later declared dead.
Gordon's inquiries into the death lead, in turn, to his own arrest
and subsequent death (ruled a suicide, but clearly - to Ben - a
murder); so decent Ben feels that Gordon's death deserves at least
some further delving-into. The result is predictable: Ben is
gradually milled down. The Special Branch searches his house, taps
his phone, reads his mail. His solacing friendship with a young
woman journalist, Melanie Bruwer, is uglified when his one and only
night with her results in blackmail photos sent to wife and boss.
Eventually he's forced out of marriage, work, and church. And a
fatal "accident" - hit by a car in the street - is the logical
finale to a heroic interest and fidelity that's been too
discomforting to the powers-that-be. . . . What Nadine Gordimer's
characters take as inherent knowledge - the South African state's
repression and, if need be, terror - Brink makes explicit, with an
unfortunate sacrifice of character plausibility: the Special Branch
villains are cardboard; the British-passport-holding Melanie is too
vague (is she a guerrilla contact?); and the blacks who support Ben
- knowing that he can get at least a foot in official doors that
they can't - sometimes seem more like portents than people ("All I
know is something big and bloody has started and nobody knows what
the hell is going to happen"). No subtlety here, then, with less
texture and color than in Rumours of Rain (1978), which remains
Brink's best work to date. But, as an honorable good/bad fable,
this rather shaky fiction carries the moral weight of all
right-minded work from South Africa's turmoil. (Kirkus Reviews)
Ben du Toit is an ordinary, decent, harmless man, unremarkable in
every way - until his sense of justice is outraged by the death of
a man he has known. His friend died at the hands of the police. In
the beginning it appears a straightforward matter, an unfortunate
error that can be explained and put right. But as Ben investigates
further he finds that his curiosity becomes labelled rebellion -
and for a rebel there is no way back.
|Country of origin:
||196 x 129 x 20mm (L x W x T)
||Paperback - B-format
General & literary fiction >
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