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A Dry White Season

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,145 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
As startling and powerful as when first published more than two decades ago, André Brink's classic novel, A Dry White Season, is an unflinching and unforgettable look at racial intolerance, the human condition, and the heavy price of morality.

Ben Du Toit is a white schoolteacher in suburban Johannesburg in a dark time of intolerance and state-sanctioned apartheid. A simple
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1978)
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56th out of 1,228 books — 1,208 voters
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It is ironic that while reading this account of defying prejudice, I found myself prejudging the entire book based on the rather irrelevant and minor frame story at the beginning, and worked myself up into such a fit of disdain that I very nearly abandoned this brave and important work by André Brink.
Brink risked his own reputation and safety to speak out about prejudice and injustice in South Africa in the late 1970s.
A Dry White Season, once the frame story is dispensed with, tells of the batt
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The Philippines also had its dry white season. A long dry white season, almost 14 years from the time the then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 up to the time he was deposed in a People Power revolution in 1986.

"it is a dry white season
dark leaves don't last, their brief lives dry out
and with a broken heart they dive down gently headed
for the earth.
not even bleeding.
it is a dry white season brother,
only the trees know the pain as they still stand erect
dry like steel, thei
Sometimes I love that I live under a rock. Because then I read things like this book, only to find out a movie was made of it starring Donald Sutherland, co-starring Susan Sarandon and Marlon Brando. Hello, Rock; I hope you're comfortable on top of me.

I sort of breezed through this book, which is totally the author's fault because it was just that good. I was invested the entire time. Ben Du Toit is a white schoolteacher in Johannesburg during the Apartheid. When a black friend comes to him for
Philippe Malzieu
Mar 13, 2014 Philippe Malzieu rated it it was amazing
Ben du Toit, it is me, it is you. Ben teaches the history.His life is well organised between the school, the church and his family. He has nothing of a revolutionary, he is an average Afrikaner. And then his life is going to disrupt. The son of his gardener, an intelligent boy, was arrested during a protest march. He dies in prison. His father inquires because he wants to know the truth. He will be also arrested and will die in prison. For Ben it is unbearable. He wants to know.The genius of Bri ...more
Sep 09, 2007 s.helmke rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: world lit fans
This is an adult coming-age-story. What do you do, as an adult, when you realize the world is not what you thought it was; that everything you based your life upon was a lie? That's what Ben Du Toit faces. He believed the govt of South Africa when they said that blacks lived separatly, but equally, and were benelovently cared for by the white govt and its people. He had never had reason to consider it. Suddenly events forced him to confront the truth and he faced a choice--he could look away and ...more
I was introduced to the dream and nightmare that was South Africa around the same time A Dry White Season was published: 1979. I was ten, a 5th grader in an isolated, rural western Washington town. Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence, for A Dry White Season was a bestseller upon publication in the United States, but I recall our class watching a cartoon film of black African children, each drawn with tight black curls and toasted almond skin, holding hands and singing as they paraded through streets ...more
Terri Jacobson
Feb 28, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, africa
This novel, written in 1979, takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, during a time of violence and unrest while the country is being torn about by apartheid. Jonathon is a young man taken by the police who dies in custody under suspicious circumstances. Jonathon's father, Gordon, attempts to investigate his son's death, and enlists the help of a schoolteacher, Ben Du Toit. Ben is an Afrikaner who has never really thought deeply about the system that rewards whites and gives them absolute powe ...more
Oct 18, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most difficult books that I have read. The language itself is everyday South African English, interspersed with Afrikaans and 'Tsotsi- taal'. In addition, it is a work of fiction.

And yet, how fictional is it really? Ben DuToit, Gordon Ngubene and their families may be fictional, but the setting and atrocities committed under Apartheid existed, and haunt us still.

Gordon Ngubene's son Jonathan is detained during the Soweto riots. Gordon has no idea where he is and approaches Ben
Mar 27, 2009 Ebookwormy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ebookwormy by: David van Vuuren
This is a well written mystery that unfolds page by page. It is enticing reading. I found it best to arrange my observations numerically.

1) It is possible to live in an oppressive society and not come to terms with it. This is willful to differing degrees, depending on the information to which people were exposed. The whites living in apartheid, who benefited from the system, didn't want to acknowledge the horrors of the oppression upon which their position in society was built. Most simply didn
May 29, 2010 Karen rated it it was ok
I appreciated this book a lot more when I read it for a writing course in college. The second time around, almost seven years later, I found it to be sometimes tiresome and often predictable (I have a terrible memory, by the way, so it's being predictable is the not the result of my ability to remember what was going to happen.). Written during the 1970s, this was certainly an important book for Apartheid South Africa. That said, the dialogue was often painfully weak. A lot of "one has to blah b ...more
Paul The Uncommon Reader
Aged well

This book has dated, inevitably. It is set in the dark days of apartheid in the late 70’s, and so much has changed in South Africa since then, that any novel that gets to grips with the politics of that time, that rails against a system which is long gone (if not forgotten), is bound to suffer. When it was published, its immediate political message cut ice; now there is no more ice to cut – at least, not the same ice. And this is a very political novel, if told from a very personal poin

Jan 07, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it
Ben Du Toit and the narrator are white South Africans living in Johannesburg. Ben is a school teacher. Gordon Ngubene is a black man who is the janitor at the school where Ben teaches. When Gordon's son Jonathan is missing after a series of riots, and then is reported dead, Gordon turns to Ben as he investigates to learn what happened to his son. No sooner does Gordon learn the truth about Jonathan, than Gordon is taken into police custody and "commits suicide" two weeks later. Ben can't believ ...more
Buck Ward
Nov 18, 2013 Buck Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book, about living in South Africa under Apartheid, could be classified as a dystopian novel. The tension continually builds throughout the novel, (view spoiler) In reality, we know that Apartheid did end - and that the events port ...more
Catherine Oughtibridge
Feb 13, 2012 Catherine Oughtibridge rated it really liked it
‘There are only two types of madness we should guard against. One is the belief that we can do everything. The other is the belief that we can do nothing.’

A Dry White Season is a sad, depressing look at racial prejudices in apartheid South Africa through the story of a white man trying to bring justice to the memory of a black man. Ben du Toit is a schoolteacher whose life changes when he becomes involved with the family of the school caretaker Gordon Ngubene. Set around the Soweto Riots the boo
Jan 20, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. Andre Brink is an enormously talented writer and deserves the kind of international recognition that JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer enjoy.

This book tells the story of Ben Du Toit, an unremarkable Afrikaner school teacher in 1970's Johannesburg. He becomes involved in the education of the school janitor's son, and after the adolescent is killed in the Soweto Riots, Ben begins helping the black janitor (Gordon) in his quest to uncover the truth. Brink's story unfold
Aug 10, 2014 JJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: south-african
A Dry White Season was a deeply moving read. I must admit to being sceptical of Brink's literary prowess after the first book I read of his (Devil's Valley) - it wasn't a bad read by any stretch of imagination - it was an intricate book, but it seemed to lack a certain depth, or at least if it truly was exploring something then I missed it.

On the other hand, A Dry White Season feels like an amalgamation of 1984 and Cry, the Beloved Country in a comparatively modern South Africa. The novel was pe
Mark Fine
Oct 12, 2015 Mark Fine rated it it was amazing
Having recently learned of Andre Brink's death at the age of 79, I found myself once again reading his potent condemnation of apartheid--Brink's courageous novel "A Dry White Season." Initially published in 1980, it still remains apparent to any reader that Mr. Brink was appalled by the horrific events that transpired only four years earlier; that bloody student uprising in Soweto when black school children protested against the authoritarian and dehumanizing strictures of apartheid. The level o ...more
Aug 10, 2009 Mazel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
Dans la moiteur des nuits orageuses de Pretoria, Ben Du Toit découvre un monde tout proche et pourtant si loin de sa vie d'Afrikaner.

Peu à peu, il ouvre des yeux incrédules sur un système qu'il cautionne par ignorance et par lâcheté et qui entretient une communauté, un peuple, dans le désespoir et la résignation.

La naïveté de Ben est telle qu'il croit encore à une justice où toute notion de couleur ou de race serait abolie, mais dans les années quatre-vingt en Afrique du Sud, l'espoir est un p
André P Brink het die een na die ander protesboek geskryf tydens die Apartheidsjare waarvan hierdie een was. Om dit nou weer te lees is om in ongeloof te wonder hoe dit gebeur het dat hierdie inligting destyds amper as heiligskennis weerhou was van die Afrikaners. Die boek sluit net nog 'n deel van die verborge geskiedenis oop wat, toe dit die eerste keer in 1979 gepubliseer was, te oorweldigend was om behoorlik ge-absorbeer te kon word. Die boek het nie so opslae gemaak soos sy eerste boek "Ken ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing
A Dry White Season is a stunning but shocking novel. It's about Ben, a middle class teacher who forms part of the privileged ruling class during Apartheid in South Africa. He is dragged into the ugly underbelly of this world when the son of his black janitor, Gordon, is arrested and treated extremely poorly by the hands of the Secret Police. Ben starts from a point of total naivety, swallowing the pill distributed by the government that trials are fair, and the Secret Police are protecting the p ...more
Aside from the last 20 pages I found this book incredibly dull and unenjoyable. I think it could have been half the size and doubly effective. Ben was one of the worst characters I have EVER read about for the following reasons:
- He was a fucking creep for 99.3% of this book (commenting on how a girl looks so childlike and vulnerable and then how sexy she is in the same breath??)
- He had no respect for his family
- He was quick to judge strangers (especially women's bodies) when, trust me, he wa
Greg Brozeit
Feb 08, 2015 Greg Brozeit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, africa
I learned this morning that André Brink passed away yesterday. Then I spent a few of hours reading excerpts of some of the books of his that I’ve read. I have long loved A Dry White Season. It was a required book in some of the high school courses I used to teach and many of my students ranked it as one of their favorites. Most people who know about it have seen the movie that was made of the novel. I never saw it (I make a point of never watching movies made from books I like), but I was glad t ...more
Kobus Koopmans
May 06, 2016 Kobus Koopmans rated it it was amazing
A very engrossing book, and a very depressing view of the country in which I was born. This is writing that is focused and direct, built on a narrative of acutely observed behaviour, and refreshingly devoid of sentimentality.

Ben du Toit is a very intriguing character. and like so many white South Africans waking up after the Soweto "riots" of 1976 he comes to an awareness not only of the politics of his fellow countrymen, but of the whole meaning of his life. What I like about this book, partic
Wilhelm Weber
Feb 15, 2015 Wilhelm Weber rated it it was amazing
A must read - and not only because of the author's death last week - but because it's but 36 years ago that this book was written and it already seems centuries ago. It was only 1979 and the year I wrote matric. My sister Nate said, she already had it as set-book. So there must have been a time, when it wasn't banned. Yet it's not just about nor forgetting, but also because Brink has a uncanny gift with words and he does understand people too, but not only the Afrikaaners and not only the men ei ...more
Feb 21, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
The most striking aspect of this book is how relevant it still is and how incredibly modern in its approach 36 years after its publication. The humanity of a man deciding to go with his conscience against all odds, fighting to the last to maintain a shred of self-respect whilst in his small battle against a viciously brutal Apartheid regime everyone else around him opts out. His guilt - trying to find justice for the murder of two black men by the Security Police. And the regime cannot condone h ...more
Stef Smulders
Aug 26, 2014 Stef Smulders rated it really liked it
Dit is een boek dat naar het eind toe steeds beter wordt, in het begin erg voorspelbaar en soms zelfs een beetje kinderlijk uitleggerig, maar daarna steeds spannender. De stijl is heel variërend met zelfs prachtige lyrische passages, naast de thriller-achtige beschrijvingen van het eigenlijke verhaal. Indrukwekkend zijn de beschrijving van het lijkhuis met de gedode zwarte demonstranten en de armoedigheid van Soweto. Er is een aantal memorabele personages, behalve de hoofdpersoon Ben, de journal ...more
May 12, 2015 Marion rated it it was amazing
Une révélation. Lu en deux jours, on le commence et on ne lâche plus. Pour toux ceux qui s'accommodent d'une réalité dérangeante, grâce au 'Je ne savais pas' ou au 'Qu'y puis-je?'. Un bijou totalement d'actualité.

This reads like the most absurd of Kafka novels, a man battling a system he doesn't understand. He is incredibly naive, never quite allowing his eyes to open fully to how cruelly the regime is prepared to act to preserve its power. Can the white population of apartheid South Africa really have been that ignorant of how the lives, studded with constant violations of human rights, was for the black population?
Ben just refuses to see the fact that no authorities are willing to see the truth, even i
Quelques réflexions intéressantes sur la folie, la vie en société, l'incompréhension entre les races, les choix qu'on doit faire, la conscience, etc...
On est tout de suite plongé dans l'histoire : bon sens du rythme.
Caroline Bell
May 30, 2015 Caroline Bell rated it liked it
This book was not easy to like. It is stark and contrasting, harsh and despairing, leaving you feeling helpless and bitter. However, I can appreciate now that that is exactly the point -- reading this book forces you to stew in the hopeless reality of South Africa during this time. There is nowhere to go. No one to listen or help. If you try, you will be killed. It knocks you down with its relentless dead ends, lines in the sand, failures. The plight of one family (black) that draws in the main ...more
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Dry White Season 1 21 Nov 02, 2009 04:17AM  
  • Ancestral Voices
  • Agaat
  • God's Bits of Wood
  • Red Dust
  • My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
  • Ways of Dying
  • Down Second Avenue: Growing Up in a South African Ghetto
  • Chaka
  • July's People
  • Welcome to Our Hillbrow
  • The Dark Child
  • The Smell of Apples
  • Ah But Your Land Is Beautiful
  • Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
  • A Day in Spring
  • Fiela se Kind
  • Z
  • Butterfly Burning
André Philippus Brink was a South African novelist. He wrote in Afrikaans and English and was until his retirement a Professor of English Literature at the University of Cape Town.

In the 1960s, he and Breyten Breytenbach were key figures in the Afrikaans literary movement known as Die Sestigers ("The Sixty-ers"). These writers sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid go
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“I had never been so close to death before.
For a long time, as I lay there trying to clear my mind, I couldn't think coherently at all, conscious only of a terrible, blind bitterness. Why had they singled me out? Didn't they understand? Had everything I'd gone through on their behalf been utterly in vain? Did it really count for nothing? What had happened to logic, meaning and sense?
But I feel much calmer now. It helps to discipline oneself like this, writing it down to see it set out on paper, to try and weigh it and find some significance in it.
Prof Bruwer: There are only two kinds of madness one should guard against, Ben. One is the belief that we can do everything. The other is the belief that we can do nothing.
I wanted to help. Right. I meant it very sincerely. But I wanted to do it on my terms. And I am white, and they are black. I thought it was still possible to reach beyond our whiteness and blackness. I thought that to reach out and touch hands across the gulf would be sufficient in itself. But I grasped so little, really: as if good intentions from my side could solve it all. It was presumptuous of me. In an ordinary world, in a natural one, I might have succeeded. But not in this deranged, divided age. I can do all I can for Gordon or scores of others who have come to me; I can imagine myself in their shoes, I can project myself into their suffering. But I cannot, ever, live their lives for them. So what else could come of it but failure?
Whether I like it or not, whether I feel like cursing my own condition or not -- and that would only serve to confirm my impotence -- I am white. This is the small, final, terrifying truth of my broken world. I am white. And because I am white I am born into a state of privilege. Even if I fight the system that has reduced us to this I remain white, and favored by the very circumstances I abhor. Even if I'm hated, and ostracized, and persecuted, and in the end destroyed, nothing can make me black. And so those who are cannot but remain suspicious of me. In their eyes my very efforts to identify myself with Gordon, whit all the Gordons, would be obscene. Every gesture I make, every act I commit in my efforts to help them makes it more difficult for them to define their real needs and discover for themselves their integrity and affirm their own dignity. How else could we hope to arrive beyond predator and prey, helper and helped, white and black, and find redemption?
On the other hand: what can I do but what I have done? I cannot choose not to intervene: that would be a denial and a mockery not only of everything I believe in, but of the hope that compassion may survive among men. By not acting as I did I would deny the very possibility of that gulf to be bridged.
If I act, I cannot but lose. But if I do not act, it is a different kind of defeat, equally decisive and maybe worse. Because then I will not even have a conscience left.
The end seems ineluctable: failure, defeat, loss. The only choice I have left is whether I am prepared to salvage a little honour, a little decency, a little humanity -- or nothing. It seems as if a sacrifice is impossible to avoid, whatever way one looks at it. But at least one has the choice between a wholly futile sacrifice and one that might, in the long run, open up a possibility, however negligible or dubious, of something better, less sordid and more noble, for our children…
They live on. We, the fathers, have lost.”
“How dare I presume to say: He is my friend, or even, more cautiously, I think I know him? At the very most we are like two strangers meeting in the white wintry veld and sitting down together for a while to smoke a pipe before proceeding on their separate ways. No more.

Alone. Alone to the very end. I… every one of us. But to have been granted the grace of meeting and touching so fleetingly: is that not the most awesome and wonderful thing one can hope for in this world?”
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