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Capsule Review

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness

In This Review

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness
By Pumla Gobodo-Madikzela
Houghton Mifflin, 2003, 208 pp. $24.00 Purchase

Amid the growing literature on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this book stands out for its articulate attempt to explain in layman's terms how the trc furthered the psychological process of national reconciliation through individual expressions of remorse and forgiveness. The author, a professional psychologist, was a member of the trc and also conducted dozens of hours of interviews with Eugene de Kock, one of the apartheid state's most notorious killers. If yesterday's victims are not to become tomorrow's oppressors, Gobodo-Madikizela argues, societies that have been through mass atrocities need a public process of defining and acknowledging moral responsibility and constructing, through language, symbols, and stories, a new sense of collective self-worth that can permeate public discussion of the past. A judicial process based on retributive justice alone does not suffice, she says, because it cannot adequately attribute blame to broader ideological and political forces, which created the social conditions conducive to the crimes committed.

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In This Review

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness
By Pumla Gobodo-Madikzela
Houghton Mifflin, 2003, 208 pp. $24.00 Purchase

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