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My Traitor's Heart (1989)

by Rian Malan

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5831129,175 (4.33)33
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR In '70s' South Africa, Rian Malan - descendant of the architects of apartheid, middle-class white boy, friend to blacks - went to work as a crime reporter for a local Johannesburg rag. There he encountered first-hand the horrors wrought by apartheid- the poverty, injustice and violence. After an eight-year exile, he returned to write this book. With gripping stories and in mesmerising prose, this is Malan's attempt to understand his country, its racial hatred, and his own tortured conscience.… (more)
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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Book club book. Never finished it but it's good - autobiography. Need to go back and finish it.
  IreneMulkeen | Mar 18, 2018 |
Many years ago I picked up this book and then put it down again, horrified and confused. Something that I read in it, and truly I cannot remember what, so shocked me that I put the entire thing out of my mind. It is an extraordinary book that took guts to write and even some courage to read again. Malan writes as a man whose heart has been torn open. He has chosen a rare path, applying honest inquiry and questioning all narratives, even the ones that allow us to sleep at night.
  Nycticebus | Sep 13, 2015 |
an interesting look at apartheid. Rian Malan looks at apartheid through the lens of an recently returned exiled expat who is attempting to answer the unanswerable question: why can't blacks (Aficans) and whites (Afrikaners) get along? There is no easy answer to Malan's question. The book written in 1990 discusses the height of the apartheid tensions during the mid-1985s appears dated and is in need of a sequel to the book. The world awaits to see what Malan has to say about apartheid.
  Alexanderp33 | Jun 25, 2015 |
At its heart this book has the problem, what to do when you utterly despise your racist father who advocates violence as a solution when you love him terribly, terribly much?

It isn't a solveable dilemma. Rian, who despite his upbringing, isn't at all racist, leaves the country so he won't have to face it on a day-to-day-basis, but eventually returns to his homeland, because it is his home, and learns to live with the discordance in his heart.

Some reviewers have seen it as a book about the end-times of apartheid, others as the views of the liberal son versus the hardliner father, full of anecdotes of ignorance, violence and hatred - from both sides. But it isn't really, or not to me. It is Rian Malan personal memoir packed with current affairs but really about the dissonance in his heart.

How could any of us come to grips with a father we despised for his responsibility for murders he justified in ways that were evil to us, and yet we loved him as a child loves a father?

I read this years ago, it will forever be fresh in my mind. ( )
2 vote Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1896720.html

A truly powerful memoir, partly telling Malan's own story as a lefty journalist of hardline Afrikaner stock, and partly also an introduction to the dialect and grammar of South African political violence, particularly of the 1980s (the book came out in 1990, when it was clear that change was coming to South Africa but not at all clear what it would be or even how it would come).

The accounts of the various atrocities carried out by South Africans on each other are pretty stark, but Malan's message is clear: this was a racial problem, not a class war (of course, he was writing before the fall of Communism), and the only ultimate choice for the Afrikaners and for South Afrtica's other whites was to surrender to majority rule, with all the risks and dangers it entailed - not for strategic reasons (though the security situation was not viable in the medium or long term) but for moral reasons.

Back in my student days, I had a couple of right-wing acquaintances who would mutter that Mandela was actually guilty or that the death rate from black-on-black violence was much greater than the death rate from whites killing blacks. These points might have been true but Malan makes it clear that they were irrelevant, in a system constructed by the people he calls "the mad architects of apartheid". It was noticeable that these views tended to come from Tories rather than white South Africans, who generally wished it could all be over soon.

Anyway, I learned a lot from this book, and will stew gently on the implications for similar situations elsewhere. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 26, 2012 |
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How do I live in this strange place?
- Bernoldus Niemand, from the Boer reggae song "Reggae Vibes is Cool"
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I'm burned out and starving to death, so I'm just going to lay this all upon you and trust that you're a visionary reader, because the grand design, such as it is, is going to be hard for you to see.
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WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR In '70s' South Africa, Rian Malan - descendant of the architects of apartheid, middle-class white boy, friend to blacks - went to work as a crime reporter for a local Johannesburg rag. There he encountered first-hand the horrors wrought by apartheid- the poverty, injustice and violence. After an eight-year exile, he returned to write this book. With gripping stories and in mesmerising prose, this is Malan's attempt to understand his country, its racial hatred, and his own tortured conscience.

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