Great book, thought provoking with a clean, simple style that is not bleak. I got a bit lost at the end, but that is likely to be my fault. It is wortGreat book, thought provoking with a clean, simple style that is not bleak. I got a bit lost at the end, but that is likely to be my fault. It is worth reading....more
I knew this book would be painful to read and it was. I think I was hoping that the book would offer up meangingful reasons for staying in South AfricI knew this book would be painful to read and it was. I think I was hoping that the book would offer up meangingful reasons for staying in South Africa, rather than ways of coping.
Bloom offers up the chance to do something meaningful for a suffering society as one reason for staying, but it is hard to hold on to when the book presents one horrific, violent story after another.
I did feel that the writer resorted a little bit to the white oral tradition of the "crime anecdote". You can tell endless stories of crime in suburbia, and they are all horrific. There are also endless stories that could be told of crime in the townships, and they are horrifying too. But we know why the people in the townships stay. They have no choice. Theirs is not Bloom's story to tell.
At the same time, I think these stories really are all there is to tell. They are our stories and they are South Africa, and what else is there? You can't make anything more of situations like that. You either stay, and survive, or leave and survive. I can't see a higher moral or point to be made beyond the endless telling of these stories. There is just life, and carrying on with things.
I did feel uncomfortable that this was all seen from the point of view of why whites were staying or leaving. One of the reasons why I felt uncomfortable was that even the story of the xenophobic violence was drawn from the point of view of what it meant for white people in South Africa, and if it threatened them. Those incidents were terrible and they were terrible for the black people involved. That violence, that story, belongs to the black foreigners. I didn't like that it was colonised by white fear.
There is another thing about the book that makes me feel uncomfortable. The writer wonders why the murders of white people have been dominating the headlines, and he postulates a few ideas. But as far as I can see, the murder of white people always dominate the headlines, because white people still have the power and the money to make such cases high profile, the media still writes to a white-dominated audience that wants to read about white people, and when we get down to it, in South Africa, white lives still count more. Many white people have the power and the luxury to be afraid and to decide what to do about it. Mos township-dwellers live with powerlessness over their fear. But Bloom knows this and he does point it out, the fact that white people can afford to hire ex-military personnel as suburban security guards.
Overall, I think it is an excellent book, and I will keep it and read it again. It made me think, about my own reasons for wanting to go back to South Africa, and in the end my reasons are his reasons for staying. The place that made you who you are is home, even if it is a place that may not want you or be safe for you. ...more
I really enjoyed this, it was well written. I realised reading this that I know absolutely nothing about the history of Zimbabwe. My education was soI really enjoyed this, it was well written. I realised reading this that I know absolutely nothing about the history of Zimbabwe. My education was so localised, we didn't even move much past the history of my province! So I learned a lot about Zimbabwe. The childhood aspects were very familiar to me. I grew up in much the same way, only in a city environment. The informal Apartheid style of living surprised me a bit, because I find that British people love to look down upon Apartheid, but things weren't much different in their colony. ...more
I loved this book so much. I may be biased because I love Mandela by default of being South African. But the voice in this book is beautiful, exactlyI loved this book so much. I may be biased because I love Mandela by default of being South African. But the voice in this book is beautiful, exactly as I imagine him to be. Dignified, witty, gentle, as strong as iron. I might give it back to its rightful owners - my parents - one day....more