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My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience [Kindle Edition]

Rian Malan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Here is truth-telling at its most exemplary and courageous. The remorseless exercise of a reporter’s anguished conscience gives us a South Africa we thought we knew all about: but we knew nothing.” —John le Carré
My Traitor’s Heart is an astonishing work of reportage, at once beautiful, horrifying, and profound—a book unlike any other about South Africa. Rian Malan is an Afrikaner, scion of a centuries-old clan deeply involved in the creation of apartheid. As a young crime reporter, Malan covered the atrocities of an undeclared race war and ultimately fled the country, unhinged by what he had seen. Eight years later, he returns to confront his own demons, and those that are tearing his country apart. Written in the final years of apartheid’s bloody collapse, My Traitor’s Heart still resonates, offering a chilling—but ultimately redemptive—vision of the darkest recesses of the black and white South African psyches.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like many white South Africans of his generation, Rian Malan fled his country to dodge the draft. He felt incredibly guilty for this act, but would have felt equally guilty for not doing it: "I ran because I wouldn't carry a gun for apartheid, and because I wouldn't carry a gun against it." Malan, the product of a well-known Afrikaner family, returned to South Africa and produced My Traitor's Heart, which explores the literal and figurative brutalities of apartheid. Death is a constant presence on these pages, and the narrative is driven by Malan's criminal reportage. This acclaimed book intends to illuminate South Africa's poisonous race relations under apartheid, and few books do it this well.

From Library Journal

This soul-searching account of an Afrikaner's life in apartheid South Africa joins a growing body of publications by South Africans of every ethnic group. Malan, the grand nephew of a major definer of the doctrine of apartheid, Daniel Malan, left South Africa in 1977, in part to avoid military service, and returned eight years later. This book reports his observations of violent death in the land. He details instances of whites killing blacks, blacks killing blacks, blacks killing whites, politically motivated murder, and economically motivated murder. Well written, gripping, and disturbing, the descriptions leave one with a sense of despair which makes Malan's final note of hope all the more remarkable. Recommended for adult general readers as well as those with a special interest in South Africa.
- Maidel Cason, Univ. of Delaware Lib., Newark
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 657 KB
  • Print Length: 360 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802136842
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (March 11, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BAH9SPU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,018 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, brooding work December 23, 2004
Format:Paperback
This book came out when I was working in South Africa. It explores in an uncompromising way two rival phenomena: the hopes of 'white liberalism' and some harsh realities of South Africa's 'African-ness' which many urban liberals at that point seemed to pretend either were not there or were somehow only a function of apartheid.

The passages on Creina Alcock, a 'white' South African who stepped far away from her background to live as a Zulu are are especially poignant, even stunning. I visited Creina in her remote hut on the strength of this book and was astonished by her courage and wisdom. Rian captures this extraordinary story in a moving if (for the average reader?) pessimistic way

This book has universalist insights for anyone interested in whether Civilisations really do Clash. Rian Malan was on to something very profound in this book. It is vivid and appalling in places, and not always easy reading. So what? These issues are as difficult as anything we face. Read it, lots of times.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding! February 10, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I am an avid reader,having read several books about South Africa. Being an African American I was very curious as to what this author had to say, and figured that I would end up being totally turned off, thus having wasted my time and money ordering it. Was I wrong! My Traitor' Heart was well worth the money and definitely the time. This book casts a broad beacon of light on the very dark history of South African's Apartheid and the evils it wrought on both blacks and the whites who were sympathetic to the struggle. "My Traitor's Heart" was the most heart rending book, but because it gives the reader such fantastic factual information, you can't put it down. I certainly hope Mr. Malan is not through sharing his insights, knowledge and experiences in his native country. I hope his next book comes out soon. Rian Malan I respect and admire you. Excellent!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing February 28, 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is an investigation into the attitudes of a liberal who was raised in South Africa. In the book, Malan tells us that his original charge was to write the history of his racist ancestors, who were among the first Boer settlers in the region. But when Malan began his project, he found he needed to first explore and develop his own perspective on race in South Africa before he could begin. And once he began doing this, he never really got around to the history project.
The book is divided into 3 sections. In the first, Malan describes his own childhood and adolescence, leading up to his forced flight from South Africa, with a major focus on his youthful love for Blacks (especially in the abstract). The second part of the book details a number of violent murders that Malan investigated upon his return to South Africa in 1986 to write this book. In this section, Malan describes the intense violence that was occurring in South Africa at the time, and how all Whites, even doctors providing humanitarian services in the townships, became targets for Black rage. He also explores violence between rival Black political groups. In the closing section, Malan visits a White woman named Creina Alcock, who lived on the border of Msanga, a tribal homeland, where she and her husband had struggled to build a sustainable rural development project with the local Blacks. The woman was widowed after her husband was killed while trying to negotiate peace talks during a tribal disturbance in Msanga.
The book doesn't have a strong narrative thread- -instead it seems that Malan was trying to communicate some of his own confusion and ambivalence about racial questions by presenting so many stories and sides of the picture, and flipping rapidly from one to the next.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dare I say it? A masterpiece... September 28, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Africa and all those opinions exist somewhere on a single sliding scale. At one end is the idea that all of that continent's problems are the result of some kind of post-colonial hangover and that if it hadn't been for the Europeans, Africa would be a wealthy, progressive Utopia. On the other extreme, is the opinion that the African culture has evolved in such a way as to virtually preclude `successful' statehood. Critics of this book tend to dislike it based on their position on that scale relative to the author's (somewhere in the middle, by the way.) Also, they sometimes use dubious facts and theories to back up their positions (e.g. Malan does indeed discuss the Afrikaner disinformation campaign designed to turn tribes/political movements against each other, and trying to determine what ethnic groups have `first settler' rights to a given piece of dirt is virtually impossible.)
But all this is completely irrelevant. As is clearly stated in the extended title, this is the story of one man's journey though his own past and conscience. On this level, it is a triumph. It is the only book I have ever read that doesn't seem to include a single divisive word. Whether you agree with Malan's observations or not, I think it is clear that he agonized over and believed deeply in every one. Additionally, the book is beautifully written on almost every level: smooth, engaging prose, balanced structure, and unfailing pace. It is almost impossible for the reader not be affected in one way or another.
It has been asked whether this book is still relevant in light of the fall of Apartheid and the progression of S.A. in the years since its publication.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars an incredible exploration
I saw this book recommended after Mandela's death, and I am thankful to whoever it was that brought it to my attention. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joanne E. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read:
This book is a fascinating journey through the author's family and its role in the apartheid system of South Africa, written in a style so descriptive you can almost smell the dust... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Anne-Marie
5.0 out of 5 stars The brutality of the Apartheid System exposed
Having lived in Southern Africa through the 70's and 80's, with considerable time spent in South Africa itself, I felt I had experienced much of what the Apartheid system had done... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Neil Hutchinson
4.0 out of 5 stars the complexities of apartheid
This is a page turner, describing the horrors of apartheid, both white on black violence as well as black on black violence and white on white violence. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Catherine
4.0 out of 5 stars South Africa
Well written interesting look at the cause and consequences of apartheid. Eye opening view of a part of history that I hadn't read about before
Published 4 months ago by brigette
4.0 out of 5 stars Book club choice
This book gave a deep insight into South African history and social problems. I found it very disturbing and tragic. R M writes with great passion.
Published 7 months ago by Ki Hayman-Joyce
5.0 out of 5 stars Johannesburg Wire
This is hands down the best book I've read on South Africa, and that's including Nelson Mandela's autobiography. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A very engaging story
My Traitor's Heart is an engaging story of one man's journey in his homeland. His struggle, over several decades, to understand so fully the complexity of race, power, violence... Read more
Published 9 months ago by David Minnick
5.0 out of 5 stars Important knowledge
This memoir is especially important/imperative for increasing the world's knowledge of the travesty and inhumanity that was the Apartheid system.
Published 10 months ago by C. Kathleen Talbert-Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
One of the best books I have ever read - it's a masterpiece. My only wish was that it included maps. I contstantly had to reach for the atlas or the maps in Mr. Read more
Published 12 months ago by R.L. Richard
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