48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2000
This book struck me, as an Afrikaner, as a catharsis in itself. It enacts what it describes. It is its own peculiar truth commission for each reader. Foreign readers will not share this special experience, but will be absolutely enthralled by the poetic rendition of what appears to be a struggle to get to grips, in literary terms, with an immense personal experience. There are some very disturbing parts. My criticism is that the self-conscious literary symbolism at times appears to be strained, and to be at odds with the dialogue, or with the dramatic moment. What is essentially brooding cogitation is often presented rather implausibly as natural dialogue. It should be remembered that Krog is a poet. One should read the book as one would a dramatic monologue displaying someone trying to cope with a confused flood of guilt, elation, sadness and hope. And racial shame. The book represents an experience well worth the inevitable depression that will accompany its reading. It is also an extremely successful presentation, in digestible and dramatic format, of a phenomenon that remains crucial to the post-apartheid South African reality. It is, in other words, good history and good journalism as well as good poetry.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2002
Thankyou Antjie. You clarify a brave, extraordinary venture into reconciliation as a serious option to persistent conflict. It must have been a harrowing journey for you. I hope I meet and thank you someday (indeed, and again thank you from my soul, I actually did at Columbia University, although had not expected your deeply respected reaction). Ive worked throughout Southern Africa off and on for many years. For several of those years I carried two passports, one for when I flew via Johannesburg, and the other with a visa for entry into any African country, who might refuse me passage if they saw my TYD.VERBLYPERMIT stamp. For me personally, apartheid was a stain on my heritage and on the distorted world into which I had grown up. Despite an Oxford degree in english literature, I continued reading thousands of books for more than thirty years. This is the only book I have ever read which completely tore my heart to tears.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is simply a fantastic piece of literature, written by a very talented, brave, and steadfast journalist, the great Antjie Krog. Krog, an Afrikaaner (South-African born Caucasian), as part of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's commitment to covering the ongoing stories of torture, abuse, murder and countless other violations to human rights revealed at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings in 1996, recounts many, of a cross section of stories, here in this book. We also get a strong sense of the psychological and emotional toll it takes, to bare witness to the stories, told by, both, victims and victimizers. Children were left orphans, wives were left widows, casualties were left permanently disfigured and disabled, in the aftermath of extensive race riots in South Africa, following apartheid (or the enforced segregation of Blacks from Whites) in neighboring townships, throughout the town of Soweto, and beyond.
Just a note to anyone who intends to read this book. Please keep in mind that many of the stories, recounted in Krog's novel are graphic and very disturbing. However, they are also invaluably important. I believe this is a story everyone should be aware of. Many people heard the words "apartheid" "Soweto" and "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," in passing on the news and in the media, without really having a sense of the significance of the very important events, taking place in South Africa in 1996. This is your chance to truly come to understand the degree to which racism destroys communities, divides people and ultimately leads to fateful consequences.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 1998
I bought my copy of "The Country of My Skull" while on a trip to South AFrica in August, 1998. This is the first-hand observers view of the South African apartheid amnesty hearing in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu).
This is a gripping and unsettling book. Hard to read because of the intensity of the tales that are retold by the author. But this is an important book because we learn again the extent of man's inhumanity to man.
If you are interested in South Africa, politics, racial relationships, or human struggle against injustice, this is a "must read" book. Nothing like it has ever been published.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2003
Here is a complex book that scratches the surface of a very complex ordeal; Apartheid. Krog gives a very personal report on the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, a Committee charged with hearing the crimes of perpetrators in Apartheid and deciding on their amnesty respectively. Her language is very emotional at times, even suspiciously involved. You can sense in her writing her own struggle to explore the apathy of her own ethnicity, the white Afrikaaner, in the face of such atrocities.
Overall, a very complex book. I couldn't put this one down and finished it in about 3 days. If you have an interest in Apartheid you may gain new insight on the matter after having read this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2004
Skull is a great companion to Desmond Tutu's " No Future without Forgiveness". Where Tutu shines hope, Antijie Krog allows the anguish space. The framing of the tragic stories within the bookends of the Truth Tribunal hearings gives the events a balance and credibility. Where Tutu amazes the reader with ubuntu, Krog allows the raw emotions of grief,denial and vengeance to peek through the telling. I arrive at the same conclusion through Krog's and Tutu's writing about this transition/transformation of a nation. If we had experienced, what they have experienced - we wouldn't exhibit the same generousity and forgiveness. There is another lesson to be learned.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2002
Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa by Antjie Krog
One of the greatest social laboratories of change in modern times was the collapse of apartheid and the birth of the modern democratic Republic of South Africa. Out of the civic catharsis embodied in this collapse and the subsequent racial and political somersault of South African society, a unique and classic venue for human rights, The South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was created.
In this deeply moving book, Antjie Krog, South African poet and child of the Free State, has compiled a compelling record of the TRC. The reader will receive an immediate and powerful exposure to Bishop Edmund Tutu's Ubuntu theology (the harmony between individual and community) as an embodiment of the ancient African Weltganschauung (a person is human precisely in the community of other human beings).
Again, it is the poet who elucidates for the rest of us the heart of man-as-community. Utilizing a first-person dialogue within a keen observational and lovely prosaic style, Antjie Krog enables us to enter both the foreheads of perpetrators of violence and the hearts of its victims. It also includes rare insights into the indifference and guilt of both white and black citizens during the apartheid regime. In this chronicle of the TRC, we witness an abiding desire to expose the dark past in constructing the crucial accountability to future generations. This, as Antjie Krog so lovingly describes, is the miracle rebirth her "wide and woeful land."
This fascinating journaling of the petitions before the TRC - the angst in seeking a common unity - reveals a redeeming Phoenix of truth in the ashes of apartheid. Antjie Krog's unique documentation of the proceedings of the TRC is a valued record of modern South African history. This is a beautifully written and classic case-study of essential "transparency" in global constitutional democracy.
Jess Maghan, Chester, Ct.
05 February 2002
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 1999
Antjie Krog's book is an attempt to come to terms with South Africa's past through the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I'm not too sure whether she succeded in that attempt by the end of the book, but what is undeniable is that it makes the reader understand the power of narrative in trying to give order to the past, however chaotic this might have been. I found Krog's poetic style somewhat distracting, and, sometimes, she dwells on irrelevant details. However, her accounts of the many testimonies she attended while reporting on the TRC are oftentimes powerful and heartwrenching, and they deserve to be read by anyone interested in understanding what was South Africa under the apartheid regime. I highly recommend this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
I found myself crying very often when i read this book. the subject matter is very burdening as well as confronting. Krog's insights are intelligent as well as astute. It is very well written and it is a gift to south africa that she has written this. This is sensitive and human journalism/history at its best.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2005
Poet and reporter, Antjie Krog gives us insight into the depths of what is good in all of us and what evil, we may all be capable of or that we may tolerate if not "directly" effected. To her great credit, she also lays bare her own self-reflection and thereby enables the reader to do the same.