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The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey
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The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  132 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
History lies heavily on South Africa, and Adam Hochschild brings to bear a lifetime's familiarity with the country in an eye-opening work that blends history and reportage. Hochschild looks at the tensions of modern South Africa through a dramatic prism: the pivotal nineteenth-century Battle of Blood River -- which determined whether the Boers or the Zulus would control th ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 1990)
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May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adam Hochschild's The Mirror at Midnight is part first-person expeirence from Hochschild's experience traveling through South Africa in 1988 and much larger part South African history.

Hochschild calls out this irony, but what was so clear to me were parallels between the invasive expansion of the Boers/Voortrekkers into inland South Africa under the dual justifications of religious rite and frustration with over-taxation from a foreign power and the expansion of white Americans through the west
Elliot Ratzman
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the founders of Mother Jones magazine, and author of classic books about slavery and colonialism, Hochschild wrote this in the late 80s—with an excellent 2007 epilogue—just as the cracks in the apartheid system were appearing. In college, he had interned at an anti-apartheid magazine, well positioning him to note the differences in SA society and politics after several decades. His major report is on the Afrikaaners’ commemoration of a decisive battle against the Zulus 150 years before, t ...more
Beverley Kaye
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Adam was in S.A. for the 150th anniversary of the Trek (1838-1988). He tried to get a hold on the history and realizing that it is written in white he makes an effort to find and present the black view point. He returned to the 1994 election and for some observations 10 years later. He explained the “Grand Bargain” made to end apartheid: Blacks get the vote, whites keep the money. Things had actually gotten economially worse 10 years later. It hardly seems possible! One quote “The only thing wor ...more
Emily Haug
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a writer!
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you like history, this short history of South Africa is a readable one, using the Battle at Blood River to build a fiction-like plot tension. It is an extremely painful book to read; unfortunately, the parallels to America are all too clear. There is an epilogue that takes the changes in South Africa up to 2006, but the changes are not nearly enough...I guess they never are.
By the way, Adam Hochchild is the also the author of King Leopold's Ghost about Belgian King Leopold's treatment of the
Oct 30, 2008 rated it liked it
South African history is more volatile than I imagined. With the Boers conflicting with the Zulu's in 1838 (and many times before) and the Great Trek that proceeded, the history of South Africa is one of cultural significance not known all over the world. The Mirror at Midnight is an interesting look into the history of a country where segregation and racism were the way of life until apartheid ended in 1990, and are still thought of as normal by the Afrikaners.
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Incredibly well-written; reads like a novel even though it is meticulously researched non-fiction. Helpful in understanding the history of apartheid, and complicating my understanding of a historical narrative that is usually taught, with good reason, in very simplistic terms--especially the British versus the Afrikaners, the founding myth of the Afrikaners, the "independent" homelands, the process of co-optation of some black leaders, etc.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-africa, 2013
American journalist, Adam Hochschild, recounts South African history through the lens of the "present day" (written in 1988). Because of the year written, this book captures South African history before all of its changes but as it was unknowingly on the cusp of such changes. I found the book most helpful because it helped me see the throughline of the Afrikaner people throughout South Africa's history. It helps me understand ongoing racial tensions in South Africa today.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
In the begining, this was a good intro to the history of south africa. Then there was some really tedious info, and i thought the book was a typical investigative journalism book that seems really interesting, but turns out really boring... But in the end, the writer redeems himself with his description of modern south africa. fascinating...
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Such a good book for getting an idea on the treatment of Black South Africans during apartheid. This print included an updated epilogue touching on a few topics after Mandela's release, which offered a great, albeit short, intro. to post-apartheid South Africa.
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Hochschild was born in New York City. As a college student, he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and subsequently worked briefly as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964. Both were politically pivotal experiences about which he would later write in his book Finding the Trapdoor. He later was part of the movement against the Vietnam War, and, after severa ...more
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