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Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,901 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
Ever since Nelson Mandela dramatically walked out of prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years behind bars, South Africa has been undergoing a radical transformation. In one of the most miraculous events of the century, the oppressive system of apartheid was dismantled. Repressive laws mandating separation of the races were thrown out. The country, which had been carved into ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 8th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1998)
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Jul 11, 2008 T.J. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in South Africa, people interested in race/racism, human beings in general
I'm fascinated by this book.

Antjie Krog has written *the* book on the TRC, what it tried to do, what if failed to do, why it happened, and its impact on those involved regardless of gender, race, and national identity.

Krog's book is an uneven, rambling and not objective narrative by any means. She's roundabout, frustrating, tell-all, reserved, and contradictory in the extreme. Yet she knows she's a white Afrikaner woman writing a book on a multicultural, deeply emotional process, and she succeed
Aug 24, 2015 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
[mother identifying her dead son...] I asked them, "Show me the mark on his chin, then I will know it's my son." They showed me the mark on his chin, and I said: "It's not my son."
I've never taken an ethics course, but in my ignorant imagination of that field, I see an entire ethics course simply going through every last point this book raises. But it would probably have to span several semesters, maybe several years, because there's so much here to think about. Has there ever been a harder or m
May 11, 2009 Catherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: work, fp, 2009, south-africa
This is an utterly mesmerizing book - not only because of the events it describes, the history captured, the relationships transcribed, but also because of the prose. Krog does a magnificent job of meditating on the form and function of words - words exchanged in conversation, in testimony, in poetry, in official reports - and all while stretching the utility of each word she chooses for herself, to tell this particular story, of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission trying to heal a nation thro ...more
May 06, 2012 pam rated it really liked it
After reading this book I was shocked, horrified. Although I thought I knew about the ugly crimes committed in the 80's and 90's by both blacks and whites in South Africa, I was not prepared for the details of the horrendous acts of torture and murder which came to light in the testimonies of the victims. I can well understand why Antjie Krog, working as a journalist on a daily basis for over two years, felt physically sick and at times overwrought with anger bordering on hysteria.

This book is m

Morally brave, politically brave, aesthetically challenging, disturbingly detailed, passionately felt, exacting in its witness to outrage.

It was very tough getting through some of the parts that dealt first hand with the horrors of apartheid. I read it in class and I noticed that quite a few of the women in the class- hardy, intelligent souls, all- were really disturbed by the virulent sexism and brute, authorized sadism that was mostly gotten away with under a terrifying point in global hist
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Nov 05, 2014 Erika B. (SOS BOOKS) rated it really liked it
O South Africa...I'm so sorry. This book deals with the apartheid of South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee that was tasked with finding out the truth of what happened. Heads up that this is a highly graphic novel about torture that at times I had to put down and walk away from for a bit. It can be summed up with, "The victims ask the hardest of all the questions: How is it possible that the person I loved so much lit no spark of humanity in you?" Senzeni na...

because of you
Feb 19, 2008 Mk rated it it was amazing
This book is a compilation of testimony from south Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The author is a famous Afrikaaner poet, and her voice is present throughout the book. Though the book tells the stories of those most harmed by Apartheid, you also get to hear Krog grapple with her own guilt and her struggle to move forward as an ally.

It is one of the most difficult books emotionally I've ever read; I could only read 10 pages or so at a time before it became too much to take. And yet
Feb 22, 2010 Ariana rated it it was amazing
I really did not know many details about South Africa's post-Apartheid processes. This book was very difficult to read at times, given the verbatim testimony from both victims and perpetrators. I definitely learned a lot about the complexities of South African politics and the unpacking of black-white binaries and political alliances in that context. I also appreciated the author's very personal admissions and reactions, even when they were unfavorable.
Jul 21, 2007 Chase rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Antjie Krog is a unique person: an Afrikaans poet/journalist who was an ANC comrade. Her account of the TRC is intensely personal and (like the title says) explores themes of guilt, sorrow and forgiveness. She loves Tutu and generally sees the TRC as a good thing, shortcomings and all. I love this book.
Dec 24, 2010 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
It broke my heart, and was incredibly difficult to read, there were times when I could read only a page or two before I'd have to put it back down, but as heart-rending as it was, it's the sort of thing you really should read.
Jason Yang
Jul 29, 2011 Jason Yang rated it really liked it
Wow, what a powerful account of post-apartheid South Africa and the challenges of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It is hard to read this book and not be stirred. The stories the author selected elicit strong emotions. The tragedies endured by normal civilians are heart-breaking. And the size of the task at hand - to give honors a chance at justice, to create a path toward reconciling both sides - almost impossible. It is hard to not feel a sense of despair.

One of the really powerful ide
Apr 21, 2008 Kimberly rated it liked it
As much as this was an important book for me and for anyone interested in the process of reconciliation to read, I struggled with the somewhat artistic or poetic presentation (which, I hate to say, just seemed kind of disorganized and hard to follow). I didn't appreciate the insertion of poetry into prose or, even worse, testimony, without any demarcation, and I was frustrated by long bits of dialogue without anything identifying who was speaking. It seems that there was a need for chapter break ...more
Zara Rahman
Dec 19, 2015 Zara Rahman rated it it was amazing
I would give this ten stars if I could. I think this was the best book I've read all year, and Antjie Krog is now way up there on my list of favourite authors. The book covers the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and written by someone who was there for the very beginning of the process, and covered it as a journalist right the way through. The subject matter - reconciliation within a population that have committed violent crime against each other, reminded me a l ...more
Angel Alfonso
Mar 03, 2016 Angel Alfonso rated it liked it
"Country of My Skull" is quite the dark book. It is a document about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 1995 and headed by Desmond Tutu. It doesn't shy away from the "truth", showing the greys in all beings, from one side and the other, and specially the own writer's. As it is, it shows how everyone may have been guilty in some way of what happened in South Africa and the Apartheid. But it goes further away than that, as it tries to be a complicated work about human relation ...more
Jul 29, 2010 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a litany of man's inhumanity, sadism, torture, rape, murder, slavery, beatings, mean-spiritedness, and so on. very literary and poetic writing style. and btw, all sides, all colors participated in this orgy of blood and death and torture. thank god its over. its amazing south africa doesn't burn every day with vendettas, recriminations, and paybacks. its an example of what could be.
Charlotte Youngblood
Jul 31, 2007 Charlotte Youngblood rated it really liked it
A very personal account of the Truth and Reconciliation Comission in South Africa. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in history and restorative justice. I think learning about the South African experience is extremely important to international relations and, more generally, human behavior.
Apr 26, 2007 AP rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is the book that made me want to study abroad in South Africa. And I met her, and, she's graceful, composed and humble. I was really nervous and awkward when I asked her to sign my book, though. I'd like to read this again.
Barry Levy
Apr 05, 2012 Barry Levy rated it it was amazing
Emotive, almost spritual insight into SA's Truth and Reconcilliation Commission and its meaning for sides who once thought they would never even try to reconcile in a single room.
May 31, 2015 Hanni rated it liked it
I began reading this book for research purposes in 2012 and finally picked it up to finish it. The emotional weight of the narratives and testimonies in addition to the author's personal journey was often a challenge to hold. And as an outsider to the apartheid experience, I sometimes felt the intruder in my attempts to engage with this piece of history. As a foreigner living in Post-apartheid South Africa, Krog's book is certainly a must-read to gain insight into the country's past and an under ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Richard rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
Antjie Krog relates the horrors of apartheid through the words of its victims (and some of its perpetrators). I had some trouble with the author's style; it was sometimes an effort to keep track of whose words I was reading. The book was written for South African readers and while it can be very interesting to read something written for and by someone from another culture, in this case it was also confusing. I don't have the same frame of reference as the target audience, and it was a bit of a d ...more
Kelsey Demers
May 19, 2013 Kelsey Demers rated it really liked it
Neither fully an autobiography or a novel, a memoir or political analysis, the book is truly a combination of all these things, taking on a mixed identity as Krog details not only her own life and her role during the Truth and Reconciliation commission, but also translating the stories and testimonies of the victims and perpetrators of Apartheid, using their voices to tell the story as well. This has led controversy to surround this novel. Krog's fictionalization dramatization of actual events a ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Brittany rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-africa
"What I have in common with them is a culture—and part of that culture over decades hatched the abominations for which they are responsible. In a sense it is not these men but a culture that is asking for amnesty." pg. 121

"For me, the Truth Commission microphone with its little red light was the ultimate symbol of the whole process: here the marginalized voice speaks to the public ear; the unspeakable is spoken—and translated; the personal story brought from the innermost depths of the individua
Jul 17, 2012 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book deals with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was established after the ANC came into power in 1994.

The book is not a simple recounting of the cases before the TRC; it deals with the origins of the commission; the key personalities; some of the landmark cases; and the author's own personal journey as an Afrikaner in understanding the past and living in a new political landscape.

The writing is very haunting at times. It includes extracts from various cases that
Nov 17, 2013 LibraryCin rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

Shortly after Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed to listen to victims and perpetrators of apartheid. If perpetrators applied for and came clean, they would be given amnesty.

I didn't like the writing style. The author is putting a lot of herself into it, and I'm not interested in her. The stories are very short and it wasn't enough to keep me interested most of the time. There is also a lot more about the Truth and Reconci
Sep 18, 2015 AJ rated it it was amazing
I attempted to read this a couple of times before this, but was never able to finish. In fact, once I started this time I realized that I never even got all that far into it before (even though I thought I had). I think it's because every time this has been hard for me to get into, including this time. The author is known especially for her poetry and prose, which is not really my favorite style of writing. So, it was always hard for me to get into the tone and style of her writing.

But man, am I
André-Pierre du Plessis
COUNTRY OF MY SKULL, deur Antjie Krog.
Vintage, Londen, 1999.
(Sagteband, 454 bladsye, ISBN 0 958 41953 1.)

“The experiences of victims did indeed become part of the national psyche and part of our country’s acknowledged history for the very first time” (bl. 447 – 448).

Antjie Krog skryf nie net oor die vele slagoffers wie se stories sy aangehoor het tydens die Waarheid-en-versoeningskommissie (WVK) se verhore nie, maar sy is ook besig om oor haarself te skryf. In haar bekroonde boek Country of my s
May 27, 2013 Katherine rated it it was amazing
I've had this book for a while on my bookshelf, and finally, thanks to a book club, I took the opportunity to finally read it.

It's been a process, but I'm very much blown away. Antjie Krog takes me to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa and shares intimate details of testimonies and reactions of South African's horrid stories of what they face under apartheid. Krog writes this book in 1998, just when the TRC is ending, so everything is fresh and in her moment, does not
Filmnya berjudul "In My Country" dengan Samuel L. Jackson (Langston Whitfield) reporter media cetak dari Amerika Serikat dan Juliet Binochet (Anna Malan) reporter radio lokal yang bertugas meliput proses rekonsiliasi di Afrika Selatan. Filmnya sendiri tergolong standar karena kurang fokus pada proses rekonsilisasi dan dikaburkan oleh nuansa cinta lapangan dua reporter itu. Namun, cerita di buku ini sepertinya menawarkan hal lain.

Di filmnya, saya menemukan semangat memaafkan masyarakat Afrika Sel
Laura Jean
Mar 09, 2014 Laura Jean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this book years ago, but I still think of it, like now, in quiet moments. This book chronicles the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, in which the perpetrators and victims of apartheid had a reckoning -- testimony for truth, forgiveness for reconciliation. As I was reading about the extraordinary people that made it happen, I couldn't help thinking about how different our national culture might be if America could do something similar. It is important to listen to the ho ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Kieran rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south-african
An incredibly, powerful and moving account of newly post-apartheid South Africa. Although based on factual events, in this book Krog is free to remove objective constraints and write about the emotional impact on the lives of the people who underwent so much trauma. Written primarily as a 1st person narrative, and yet discussing the TRC proceedings, Krog makes an interesting new genre of factual novel.

It is incredibly difficult to read, the prose is simple enough, but that simplicity and clear e
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Krog grew up on a farm, attending primary and secondary school in Kroonstad. In 1973 she earned a BA (Hons) degree in English from the University of the Orange Free State, and an MA in Afrikaans from the University of Pretoria in 1976. With a teaching diploma from the University of South Africa (UNISA) she would lecture at a segregated teacher’s training college for black South Africans.

She is mar
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“And everyone wants to know: Who? Why? The victims ask the hardest of all the questions: How is it possible that the person I loved so much lit no spark of humanity in you?” 3 likes
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