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The Mind Of South Africa Hardcover – April 21, 1990


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (April 21, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394581083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394581088
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former editor of the Johannesburg Rand Daily Mail , and now a correspondent for U.S. and U.K. newspapers, Sparks here writes one of the most sensitive and best balanced histories of relationships among South Africa's Dutch, English, Indian and indigenous peoples. In this hopeful assessment of the transition period, he points out that "no ideology on earth, no politician, no guns, no army, no regional superpower strategy" can stem the "blackening" of South Africa, as the country at last begins to move out of its "capsule of illusion." Although industrialization and urbanization render apartheid ideology unworkable, only political action can shift South Africa to a pan-tribal, nonracial, mixed economy and society, stresses Sparks. There will be no revolutionary transfer of power; instead, there will be an incremental process, with whites yielding ground reluctantly, inch by inch, trench by trench.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Fifth generation South African newsperson Allister Sparks presents a scholarly, sweeping historical study that explains and documents the changes taking place in South Africa today. His 40 years of journalistic experience and worldwide recognition by World Press Review provides reliability when he interprets apartheid and Afrikaner nationalism. The author carefully analyzes his homeland's present-day social, economic, and political crises. The conclusion assesses the future for the country. A seven-page bibliography, footnotes, and a detailed index make this book ideal for serious young adults who are exploring the South African situation in light of happenings in 1990. --Mike Printz, Topeka West High School, KS
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I suppose that this was the book that I most wanted to find after my trip to South Africa. I wanted something that would try to explain what the white South Africans were thinking. I wanted to know how a system as pernicious and self-evidently evil emerged-- because basically I don't accept that people are evil. No bad dogs or kids, that sort of thinking.

I'm not going to say that Allister Sparks totally succeeds in providing an explanation. However, he at least explained the combination of religious and political beliefs that led up to the system being instituted. It was fascinating (as an expat in the Netherlands) to read how much influence Holland has really had on the country. Wacky conservative Dutch leaders seemed to find open arms there, particularly after the war. And this is, of course, one of the points of the book. Before WWII, South Africa was more or less in step with world thinking. The real divergence came post-WWII, as they rejected the message of freedom and the end of the colonial era that was sweeping the rest of the world.

The book is also interesting in that it was originally written in 1990, on the very eve of the change. So, of course, although some predictions and fears turned out to be true, others are less so. Mugabe, for instance, turned out to be much less benign than Sparks hoped based on the events of the 1980s.

It helped me put some of the thinking behind the historical facts of the apartheid era. Sparks (a well-established and experienced journalist) is a good writer, if not a great one. The Mind of Africa flowed well and was relatively easy to read. Recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bongiwe Cele on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a black South African I have read a lot of history books about my country and found a lot of distortions. Allister Sparks has come out with the most straight story of how it all came to be. This book tells you both sides of the story: Thank you Allister for representing the truth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pieter nel on September 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
I have always been very interested in the History of my country. Therefore it is no surprise that Ï was drawn to Alister Sparks' book, "The Mind of South Africa" early in my life, as it was held up by many people as an authoritative history of South Africa.

I have read this book many times, and I although I have to commend the courage it took to take on the big task of writing a history of a country like South Africa with many different narratives and historical perspectives. Unfortunately, I found this book to be less of an Historical account and more of an opinion piece. There are many instances in the book where the author makes sweeping statements about an event, organisation or even an ethnic group, without anything to back the statement up, other than perhaps his own personal views.

This is not a book I would recommend if you are looking for a better understanding of the complicated History of South Africa. Rather, it's a book which relies on a "broad strokes" approach that conveys history in black and white terms, ignoring all the nuances which made South Africa such a hotbed of conflict, lead to the brutal Apartheid policy and which in recent times has lead to the high levels of violent crime.

A much better book to understand South Africa would be Timothy Keegan's "Colonial South Africa and the Origins of the Racial Order," read in conjunction with Herman Giliomee's book "The Afrikaners: biography of a people," but I would even recommend some self study because the sources available these days would allow any person who wants to understand South Africa better to do so without having the disadvantage of viewing the history of South Africa through another person's bias.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a European historian who was preparing to travel to South Africa for the first time in the spring of 1998, I found Sparks's analysis of South African thought, culture, and society since the mid-17th century to be extremely helpful. The book is both informative and lively, and I recommend it without hesitation.
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