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A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid Paperback – April 19, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA served on the Human Rights Violations Committee of South Africa’s great national experiment in healing, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She lectures internationally on issues of reconciliation.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618446591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618446599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ann Mcelligott on November 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pumla Gobodo-Madikezela reflects on central human issues such as the nature of individual and social evil, the possibility of social reconciliation, the individual's ability to move from participation in violent evil to remorse, and the capacity to meet one another with forgiveness. As urgent at these issues are, her narrative makes compelling reading -- both her accounts of her face-to-face meetings with de Kock and her reflections on her personal story. She raises important questions. How are we to achieve reconciliation in an environment of domonization and divisiveness? Is the Nuremburg model of seeking justice for crimes against humanity actually a way of moving towards reconciliation? While she does not come to clear and definitive conclusions, her experiences and reflections raise some of the most urgent questions facing us as a human community.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Moon on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read this book shortly after returning from a year in South Africa, when the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings were just waning. I originally bought it because of the timeliness of my visit. But I was also beginning the process of divorce. This book is a fascinating insight into the mind of a ruthless, apartheid murderer, but most important to me, the book has an underlying theme of the concept of forgiveness. We all have been taught that forgiving is the right thing to do, but is it? The author lets the reader decide. Terrific book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kilkenny on February 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was born at the same time as the author, however as a middle class White, English speaking citizen who was politically aware and supported and worked for the official opposition - the Progressive Party and then the Democratic Party, I was completely in the dark as to the full horror of what the government was perpetrating in the name of all the Whites. This book is so interesting and so full of wisdom. It tries to make some sense of the times we lived through and the beliefs which led some people to such evil. A very good read, but remember, there were some of us who did not support Apartheid, but fought for a changed political system within the law and the moral code.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mid Walsh on May 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
I am a Bostonian who has read this gemlike little book in the weeks following the Marathon Bombings, and only a few months after the massacre at Sandy Hook. It describes how in the years after apartheit one of its henchman struggles - along with the author, a black South African woman - to absorb and come to grips with the unthinkable crimes he committed. The author opens her heart and mind to her subject, exploring the cultural conditions that encouraged him into criminality. With lambent intelligence and compassion, she concludes that our only hope of preventing such crimes is to fully see their perpetrators, so as to understand the culture that turned them into criminals. I wish to thank you, Ms. Gobodo-Madikazela, for so clearly illuminating this dark but miraculous corner of the heart, a part of our humanness that we must never forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rexine (Gina) Bryant on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I expected this to simply be a narrative about the struggle to overcome apartheid in Sough Africa. in reality, to me it was more an explanation of how forgiveness happens - and the best one I've ever read.

The author (although a PhD in psychology) writes in a very readable style that was both a fascinating book and study in practical theology, but also one which haunting theme stays with me.

An excellent read! Purchased at Amazon.com on the recommendation of a friend
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By Nina on September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
Gobodo-Madikizela has written an amazing book which is undoubtedly one of the most probing, honest, and compassionate examinations of the human character I've ever read. The details of her work in South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an exercise in historical storytelling and an expansion of what it means to be human.

Tasked with finding ways to mend the myriad cracks in the shattered social landscape following apartheid, the author emphasizes the power and strength in compassion, forgiveness, empathy, compromise, and humanness as viable alternatives to punishment as reparation (in the context of the victim-victimizer relationship in systems of state-sponsored violence).

One of the things which I thought the author did most effectively here was to make me question the underlying humanity at play - or not at play - in the powerful and unwanted relationship between a criminal and victim. One of the most powerful questions asked here was: what does it mean to forgive a killer? What does it mean about them? What does it mean about you? The illustration of what's happening psychologically in the forgiveness process is very interesting.

This book, from an aesthetic perspective, is written wonderfully, with pointed prose, careful storytelling, and no fluff. There are so many quotes in this work that are so powerful. I certainly intend to give this a second reading so that I can take better notice of the author's original, self-reflective, and socially critical perspectives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frank on December 16, 2013
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Excellent first-hand account by a woman intimately involved with horror, honor, and intractable questions of forgiveness in one of the worst periods of the last century.
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Inspiring in so many ways. Absolutely a must-read for everyone!

Thank you Ms. Gobodo-Madikizela for your dedication to reconciliation and resilience of the human spirit.
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