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Bitter Fruit

3.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  706 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
With the publication of Kafka's Curse, Achmat Dangor established himself as an utterly singular voice in South African fiction. His new novel, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award, is a clear-eyed, witty, yet deeply serious look at South Africa's political history and its damaging legacy in the lives of those who live there.

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Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 2nd 2004 by Atlantic Books (first published 2001)
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Oct 15, 2015 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit I struggled with this one. Overall, it was an interesting read. The characters were well drawn and the story was compelling. And it seemed like an insightful piece of South African history.

But the author's writing style was...well, bizarre. There was this early fascination with farting -- the sound, the smell, it was distracting. And everyone seemed to be involved in, or contemplating, incest. Everyone. Then there was a chapter where the author seemed obsessed with smells: dogs, monk
Mar 24, 2011 Zoë rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really touched and inspired me, beginning as it does with a couple who have to revisit the wife's rape by a South African police officer during Apartheid. Dangor creates a sympathetic but unsentimental portrait of the wife Lydia, who suffers Catholic guilt and becomes more and more estranged from her husband. It is most powerful though in its portrayal of Mikey, the son of Lydia's rape, and increasing preoccupation with violence. The message of the book is that violence has long-lastin ...more
Mrs. Joseph
While I felt that the book had potential and there was some beautiful language, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It was an interesting look inside human pain and struggle, and the complicated ways we all deal with trauma. It moved painfully slow at times and I found it hard to become invested in most of the characters. I would not recommend this book.
This novel is like a slow waltz among contextual elements of relationships, struggles and expression in Dangor's bitter South Africa. I love its slow rythm so much, it is so powerful, so meticulous and analytical.
Hope Erin Phillips
Feb 10, 2016 Hope Erin Phillips rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I hate quitting a book. I especially hate quitting a book that I was looking forward to reading based on reviews. I absolutely can not continue reading this book. I got to the point in maybe the first or second chapter where the husband is trying to tell his wife that he suffered just as much as she did when he witnessed her rape and I SWEAR to GOD if I hadn't been on publilc transport i would have THROWN the book bodily away from me. As it were I shut it and promised myself I would not make mys ...more
Jul 29, 2015 Tajah rated it really liked it
This book drew me in so fast. In places it reminded me of Carter, with the way it dealt with taboo sexuality.
The personal responses to the end of the apartheid govt and the new govt that followed it felt by each character was felt keenly as the book progressed, and even though only 2 of the characters were young teenagers for a sizeable time in this book, the reader felt EVERYONE grow up and mature (in the way that society expected them too, or against it.)
Such an interesting read, I won't forg
Sep 08, 2010 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
This was a week of learning about South Africa. I really didn't know anything before this except that they had this apartheid thing and Nelson Mandela was from there. The book explores some history of the struggle for equality, but is more focused on the here and now and the aftermath of apartheid and the anti-apartheid movement.

Overall, it was a bit depressing. Not because it was about extreme racial segregation and mistreatment, but because all of the characters in this book were depressed. T
Jul 10, 2013 Paula rated it liked it
Como o titulo indica... amargo. Tem um ambiente obscuro sem ser fatalista. As personagens vivem juntas, mas todas confinadas ao seu espaço(s) e momento. Gostei da liberdade que o fim nos transmite... mas apenas para uma das personagens. As outras libertaram-se dos outros, mas não de si mesmos.
Fica um gosto amargo no fundo da boca ao ler-se um livro tão cru, tão real, visceral, que expõem o interior de cada um dos personagens, que nos faz sentir repulsa, pena... ódio...

Mas está certamente dentro
Athena Kennedy
in post-apartheid South Africa, the Ali family's broken relationships are on display in this miserable little novel. The Bitter Fruit of the title is Silas Ali's warm beer of escape, white Kate and Julian's newborn democracy in which they are no longer wanted, and, most especially, Lydia Ali's son Mikey, born after her rape over 19 years ago.

Achmat Dangor's expression of all of this bitterness is in the various troubled sexual activities, encounters and desires of his cast of characters. They in
Donald Schopflocher
As the Rainbow Nation emerges from the struggle, it strives to transcend the horrors of its violent apartheid past. Dangor here relates in painful detail the unravelling of a family prominent in the struggle and connected to the Truth and Reconciliation process unable to embrace it. Awash in ambiguity, politics, sexuality, religion, and confronting themes of race, betrayal, identity, revenge, this tragedy ultimately ascends into mythology. Gripping.
Roxana Dreptu
The book felt extremely weird at times, and some of its reoccurring themes were aggressive and hard to grasp. What I particularly hated was that the back cover of my edition gave away most of the important plot points. I really don't understand why is this a thing. I had no trouble in keeping up with the characters, but I felt at times that their voices were roughly the same. I would have enjoyed more contrast.
Nov 16, 2015 Maëva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We'll learn, all of us, to live in our spheres of silence, not saying the unsayable, denying everyone the pleasure of seeing us suffer the divide virtue of the brave new country: truth.We have to learn to become ordinary, learn how to lie to ourselves, and to others, if it means keeping the peace, avoiding discord and strife, like ordinary people everywhere in the world."
Julia Thomas-Singh
It's a tough book to read, as will be discovered from the very first scene. The imagery is absolutely stunning -- both when the moment is dark, and when it's beautiful. Dangor does not shy away from experiencing both ends of the spectrum, though he does prefer to stay at the dark. In the process, urgent questions are asked, beginning with the first one: how can you forgive? South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission may in theory be a noble one, but in practice, how? By the end of the bo ...more
Barb Newman
Jan 11, 2014 Barb Newman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book. It taught me a lot about life in South Africa. While it's a small part of the book, it was hard to read about the types of events that happened during the apartheid. One tragic incident in particular changes the trajectory of a young couple forever. As the layers of the story are revealed, we learn about the great strength of the people that endure.
Jun 25, 2007 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gnarly book about post-apartheid South Africa and the desperation people felt, leading them to incest, rape, and murder (to name a few). Similar to what others have said, it felt conflicting to get too involved with the characters as the setting was beyond anything I have personally lived through. However, I still found Dangor's writing style to be captivating, which was necessary to finish a book with such uncomfortable subject matter. I felt compelled to finish: people live in that t ...more
Ezekel Alan
Aug 19, 2012 Ezekel Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given a 5 star but for the slow pace of this book. It starts beguiling slow, like a Waltz, and only very gradually builds up its tempo, but it is written with exquisite grace and prose. I can see all the reasons it was short-listed for the Man Booker prize, and also why it perhaps didn't win. This is a powerful story of a family disintegrating, and the plot emerges with delicate craft. The dialogue is brilliant, and the look at a nascent new South Africa insightful. The first half o ...more
Aug 30, 2008 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book on a whim and had trouble initially getting into it. The characters were a little confusing, but I found myself getting caught up in the story line. A tale of the disintegration of a family living in Soweto. The father - involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The mother a complex and restrained woman who is made to pay for her husband's work. Their irresistible son who decides to avenge the pains his mother has had to pay. Some disturbing twists and turns and ...more
Mar 09, 2016 Faxe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wicked, wondrous and bitter sweet.
Nov 03, 2008 Amber rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set within the context of post apartheid South Africa, this novel is a disturbing entry into the lives of a family torn apart by the mothers rape that occurred 20 years prior. While the story is richly written and decidedly rhythmic, it is hard to get past the darker elements of the story--especially those related to incest-- which often seemed to be purposefully implanted for shock value and distracted from the emotional content of the narrative. I found myself wanting to finish the story just ...more
Jun 06, 2015 Joseph rated it it was ok
Laboured and tedious. Nothing exciting. Writing style is good though; with the narration detailed excellently. However I didn't feel for the characters' turmoils. The book was rather dull to be honest.
Jun 10, 2015 Aarti added it
Jul 15, 2015 Odette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it
I feel pretty 'eh' about this one. The context of the story was very interesting, but this isn't something I would have picked up on my own, or if it was, I wouldn't have kept reading it. And, honestly, there was too much incest. Normally, I think incest could be an interesting thing to explore, but here it just kept coming up randomly and several times. There seemed to be no point for all of it, unless it was supposed to mean something else that I never figured out.
Oana M.
Oct 04, 2012 Oana M. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the action evolves way too slow for me to really like it, I was very tempted to close it and never open it again. On the other hand, the story has a certain something that captured my attention and that made me want to know more. In the end, I wish I didn't read it - I got nothing from it. OK, maybe I got nausea at some point due to the description of burps, farts and incest.
anique Halliday
Mar 23, 2007 anique Halliday rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, race
Let the record show that if the book won or was even nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize (link here: []), I'll likely not make it through to the end. For whatever reason (the plot could interest me, the writing could be great, characters developed well, etc.) I've never finished a Booker Prize novel. Bitter Fruit was no exception.
I learned a lot about post-apartheid South Africa and its racial complexities from this book. That's why I can give it 3 stars. I can only hope that the place is not as horrifying as it is portrayed here. I couldn't get over the seemingly pervasive incest in this story. Yes, I realize that apartheid's events were extremely traumatic, but now everyone is incestuous??
Jan 10, 2008 Alison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-read
Ummm... this book is good, but all the incest just seems like overkill. I mean, the characters are interesting and you just start to identify with one of them and then *boom* more incest just out of no where. I don't get where it was coming from at all, unless the incest was meant to represent something else that I didn't pick up on. If not, it just wasn't believable.
Jul 13, 2012 Alexandra rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, colonialism
Okay, so I'm South Africa Obsessed, especially Apartheid and just post-Apartheid SA, so this was pretty much perfect from where I'm standing, even before we get on to the writing...

The repetition of the words "the new South Africa" becomes almost echoes what I imagine the political situation at the time must have been. Great, Great Book!
Nov 09, 2008 Bogdan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hic-sunt-leones
This was my first reading that allowed me to know more about the South African society. I found that the horrors of struggle for freedom left a lot of unhealed wounds for many South Africans peoples. This society is still strugling to forget the past yet the past is part of present and this is creating tensions.
My copy of this book is in romanian.
Apr 30, 2012 Nikki rated it it was ok
I admire the authors writing style and the way he puts his words together is quite beautiful, unfortunately the topic was depressing and at certain points I didn't like any of the characters or their thoughts and actions. I'm left wondering how this book was shortlisted for so many prestigious awards and feeling generally depressed after finishing.
Bitter Fruit is a novel about post-apartheid South Africa, Islam, and incest, subjects which are so completely foreign to me that it was difficult for me to connect with the characters. I wanted to like and care about the story, but just could not. While I'm sure Dangor deserves the praise and awards, it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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“He stands on the stone table and selects a large fig, bites into the skin, then opens it with his fingers. He thinks of a woman's sex, ancient and eternal, no young girl would have such gritty sweetness. Was this not perhaps the fruit that got Adam and Eve thrown out of Eden? Who would want to give up an unblemished state of immortality for the insipid apple?” 0 likes
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