My Traitor's Heart

In This Review

My Traitor's Heart

By Rian Malan
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990
349 pp. $19.95

In this extraordinary self-exploration, a white South African (liberal by temperament) confesses to his racial fears and to the almost unbridgeable divide he sees between blacks and whites at the tip of Africa. His book aims first at a panoramic view of the violence inherent in white-black relations as well as in blacks' dealings with each other. As he confronts his fears, the story becomes an exploration of whites' paranoia about the "darkness of Africa" in their black compatriots. Thus, as the narrative builds, we lose sight of the social causes of black violence and even of the urban setting where most blacks live and work, in a fascinated focus on tribally rooted terrors. No bigot and always brutally honest, Malan admits to his own racism, but the ultimate effect of his narrative, nonetheless, is to blame the victim.

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