Joshua Finnell's Reviews > To Hell with Cronjé

To Hell with Cronjé by Ingrid Winterbach
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Jun 23, 2010

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bookshelves: fiction, library-journal-review
Read from June 23 to July 15, 2010

Library Journal Review:

Winner of the 2004 Hertzog Prize, the most prestigious award in Afrikaans literature, this novel traces the journey of two destitute soldier/scientists, Reitz and Ben, as they transport an emotionally shattered friend across the barren desert of South Africa during the Boer War. Along the way, the two scientists keep meticulous records of geological and entomological discoveries in their journals. Not just the process of travel but the conditions of travel are in the foreground as the novel narrates several precarious journeys, both physical and imagined, among the characters. Aware of their status as deserters in a futile war and eventually detained, the two protagonists find themselves creating surrogate familial ties with their captors while simultaneously following individual journeys of internal discovery. The simplicity of language here conceals a rich complexity of thought. VERDICT Although set during the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, this novel is not so much a work of historical fiction or travel narrative as a commentary on desire. Winterbach consistently critiques and displaces rational discourses on the natural world, situating them within the irrational understanding of loss and yearning.—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH
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