In This Review

Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary
Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary
By Stephen Clingman
University Of Massachusetts Press, 1998, 512 pp

The current president of South Africa's Constitutional Court works at a desk given to him by Bram Fischer (1908-75), once chairman of the Johannesburg Bar Council, scion of a prominent Afrikaner nationalist family, and underground leader of the South African Communist Party. This sensitive biography probes the contradictions in Fischer's unusual life, tracing the roots of his loyalties back to his upbringing and student days at Oxford in the early 1930s. Passages from Fischer's copious correspondence bear testimony to the qualities of his character that endeared him to both white professional colleagues and black political comrades. Fischer chose high-profile martyrdom in the mid-1960s, when the apartheid order was at its most impregnable, and died in prison serving a life sentence. In doing so, he gave South Africa's democratic movement one of its most enduring symbols of resistance and interracial solidarity. Clingman's book comes in time to draw on the recollections of Fischer's contemporaries while maintaining enough historical distance to offer a judicious assessment of his extraordinary role.