Marie Theron's Reviews > Agaat

Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk
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Aug 02, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: africa, afrikaans-books

The book is beyond excellent, one has to read it to appreciate it. I read the English version translated by Michiel Heyns. To read this tome ,I first made an operation down the centre of the spine with a sharp blade. The two sides now sit nicely together on a shelf.

The story is related by Milla in three styles: normal narration from her deathbed where she tells about the present as well as the past, secondly through her early diaries and in the third place through her sometimes delirious stream-of- consciousness thought pattern.(These bits are very lovely and poetic)

Milla reached achievements with Agaat that she could be proud of, and others she must have regretted. All-knowing Agaat never missed a beat! She was both loving and strict (even spiteful at times) and there was a lot of role reversal between madam and maid.

On the periphery of this relationship sat Jak, the patronising husband and Beatrice, the neighbour, who between them represented various racist opinions of farming Afrikaners during the bad political times. There was also Jakkie, who was so totally manipilated by the three people in his life that he had to escape.

I was very irritated that the translator found it necessary to place all those accents on the English words. English in all its centuries of use has never been in need of sentences like this: “Nó, when I gót here everything was wide ópen and the yard desérted and Milla was lying áll on her ówn......” There are pages and pages like this in the first half of the book (see p 274) and then they suddenly disappear in the last part. Were there several translators at work?

Incidentally, Femina magazine only appeared in South Africa much later than the 60's. There are also a few typing mistakes, but do read this book if you want to experience a grand master of writing at work.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by John (new)

John van den Berg Among a writer's worst frustrations are comments by readers who don't see the subtleties and contrasts in their work. How good, therefore, to see an intelligent review, like this one, which points out that this an uncommonly great book despite the obstacles of its unwieldy size and the irritating typographical mannerism of inserting far too many accents.

Marie Theron Thank you, John! I also try never to write a spoiler as knowing too much of a story may make the reader skip parts. A book as great as Agaat needs a thesis written about it, at least. So once a few people have read it, a worthy analyses can take place.

One review that was liked by a few people was my comments on a book "The Law of Similars" which I found unfair to a profession that should be given a fair chance. Here my review stands in sharp contrast to the commercial blurbs: book:

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