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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,695 ratings  ·  208 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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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  2,695 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Start your review of Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
May 19, 2008 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
Jul 04, 2015 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
An Afrikaaner talking about how the TRC in South Africa affected her and her white family borders on apologia. Not to mention it reeks of the white saviour complex. That said, a start is a start, and there are some things that Korg says that actually do make sense.

However, it is also true that this is, in many ways, the seminal work on the TRC, and to a large extent, on post-Apartheid South Africa. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and so the three stars. I could spend time arguin
May 11, 2009 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
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it

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
Doreen Petersen
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Wasn't really crazy about this book. I think my rating says it all. ...more
Christie Mae Roberts
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s hard to capture my thoughts about this book succinctly - when my feelings are still so conflicted and I have so many questions.
As a South African, this is an important read, it forced me to look at parts of our history that were not taught in history classes. It is brutal, harrowing but also confusing. Not in how it is written (although sometimes the philosophical side bars were distracting) but rather because it challenges all of our notions of good vs. evil, victim vs. perpetrator, absol
May 06, 2012 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
Sep 28, 2007 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
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Nov 02, 2014 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
Jason Yang
Jul 29, 2011 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
Feb 19, 2008 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
Dec 29, 2009 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. ...more
Jul 20, 2007 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. ...more
Dec 24, 2010 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. ...more
Julian Lees
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Too heavy. Couldn't finish it. ...more
Zuzana Kubáň
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best part of the books are the “raw stories” as given by the victims of the apartheid regime’s brutality.
I have also enjoyed the insights of someone covering South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation from the front seat as a journalist, though I did not always appreciate the lyrical way which Krog uses to narrate her own perspectives.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book covers the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with incredible depth and lyricism. A window into the heart of a country filled with difficult memories, moral tension and hope, it remains a must-read for anyone trying to grasp the complexity of the New South Africa.
Francois Lion-Cachet
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A personal rite of passage for me. The book that will continue to write itself into so many aspects of South African life.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Make no mistake, this book is not about the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, it's not about the victims of Apartheid and it's certainly not about "the New South Africa".

This is about her, Antjie Krog and her intellectual journey to come to terms with her continued priviledged position in South African society which is only mildly interesting in its own right. Her high intellectualism together with overt contempt for the "overweight men talking about rugby" makes her personal jo
Cole Ramirez
The South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed in the mid nineties to collect testimonies from both victims and perpetrators of Apartheid. Antjie Krog, a South African radio reporter who covered the TRC, compiled testimonies, interviews, and her own personal thoughts and feelings together into a book that is part history, part memoir, and part poetic account of the South African government's attempt at reconciliation and forgiveness.

This was a difficult read for me. I think it
Larkin Tackett
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
My favorite class in college focused on comparative race and ethnic relations in the US, South Africa, and Brazil. I remember learning about SA's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)--the country's post-apartheid restorative justice system--and wondering how a similar process would work in the US. This book by a white, multi-generational SA journalist tells in gory detail about the complex racial crimes as presented to the TRC, including the impact on her. While I wished for more context ab ...more
Stephen Hayes
A journalists-eye view of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I'm reading it 20 years after the TRC submitted its report to the president, so it's a bit late. Several people have mentioned it to me, and I've been told it is the definitive book on the TRC, so when I saw it in the library I thought I'd better read it.

As a record of the findings of the TRC it is rather disjointed and confusing. There are lots of out-of-context accounts of atrocities that give a vivid picture of the
Zanna Hugo
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally! I am done with this book. Although it is a good read, brilliant, it is a tough read. It thrusts me as a white South African into the sins of our fathers - ALL of our fathers - and reminds me, yet again, of the fragility of our beautiful people.

Shocking, at times, and sad, this is a very good read if you want an unadulterated look back into the Truth Commission and the work that it has done.

I am truly thankful I read this wonderful book. I am also truly and deeply thankful that I am no
Charlotte Youngblood
Jul 31, 2007 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.
Aug 19, 2009 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. ...more
Apr 26, 2007 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. ...more
Barry Levy
Apr 05, 2012 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. ...more
Emma Reitano
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
“It is ordinary people who appear before the Truth Commission. People you meet daily in the street, on the bus and train – people with the signs of poverty and hard work on their bodies and their clothes. In their faces you can read astonishment, bewilderment, sown by the callousness of the security police and the unfairness of the justice system. ‘We were treated like garbage: worse even than dogs. Even ants were treated better than us.’

And everyone wants to know: Who? Why? Out of the sighing
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog is a non-fiction book that tries to provide a holistic account of her experience at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa. Krog addresses her own complacency and part in Apartheid South Africa as a white Afrikaner. She weaves together individual stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to create a single narrative of the entire commission, she includes pieces on the physical and emotional toll working on the TRC too ...more
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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?” 6 likes
“By not dealing with past human rights violations, we are not simply protecting the perpetrators' trivial old age ; we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” 1 likes
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