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The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey Paperback – April 24, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a stunning blend of reportage, travelogue, history and meditation, Hochschild focuses on the Great Trek of 1836-1839, when Boer coastal settlers, armed with muskets, ox whips and Bibles, staked out the borders of modern South Africa. He reenacts the pivotal Battle of Blood River in 1838, in which countless Zulus were massacred, and explains how Dingane, tall, stout chief of the Zulus' military kingdom, was demonized later by white historians. Today the Great Trek is part of "the 150-year-old national myth of Afrikaners- as-victims." Turning to reportage, Hochschild ( Half the Way Home ), who visited South Africa in 1988, interviewed the head of a neo-Nazi group, a "coloured" (racially mixed) teacher who spent 10 years in a black-only prison, and the four Watson brothers, rugby stars who have been targets of repeated assassination attempts for refusing to play on all-white teams. An epilogue covers events up to the present. One of the most illuminating books ever written on contemporary South Africa, this biopsy probes the racial divide in razor-sharp prose.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- A plethora of books about apartheid and South Africa have appeared in this column recently, but Hochschild's book puts forth a historical outlook explaining modern South African problems. By retelling the story of the 1838 Battle of Blood River, he focuses on conflicts between Dutch and English settlers as they moved into "unclaimed" land and thus uprooted and killed native blacks. Hochschild indicates that feelings of apartheid had their beginnings here. This is a strong addition to African history sections, and bright, mature YAs will draw comparisons to this continent's white man and the Native American.
- Mike Printz, Topeka West High School, KS
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (April 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618758259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618758258
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #488,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Hochschild (pronunciation: ''Hoch'' as in "spoke"; ''schild'' as in "build") published his first book, "Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son," in 1986. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it "an extraordinarily moving portrait of the complexities and confusions of familial love . . . firmly grounded in the specifics of a particular time and place, conjuring them up with Proustian detail and affection." It was followed by "The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey," and "The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin." His 1997 collection, "Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels," won the PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay. "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa" was a finalist for the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award. It also won a J. Anthony Lukas award in the United States, and the Duff Cooper Prize in England. Five of his books have been named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. His "Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves" was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award in Nonfiction and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History.

"To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918," Hochschild's latest book, was a New York Times bestseller. It was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction and won the 2012 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction.

The American Historical Association gave Hochschild its 2008 Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, a prize given each year to someone outside the academy who has made a significant contribution to the study of history.

"Throughout his writings over the last decades," the Association's citation said, "Adam Hochschild has focused on topics of important moral and political urgency, with a special emphasis on social and political injustices and those who confronted and struggled against them, as in the case of Britain's 18th-century abolitionists in 'Bury the Chains'; 'The Mirror at Midnight', a study of the struggle between the Boers and Zulus for control over South Africa in the 19th-century Battle of Blood River and its contentious commemoration by rival groups 150 years later; the complex confrontation of Russians with the ghost of Stalinist past in 'The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin'; and the cruelties enacted during the course of Western colonial expansion and domination, notably in his widely acclaimed 'King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa', among his many other publications. All his books combine dramatic narratives and meticulous research. . . .

" 'King Leopold's Ghost' had an extraordinary impact, attracting readers the world over, altering the teaching and writing of history and affecting politics and culture at national and international levels. Published in English and translated into 11 additional languages, the book has been incorporated into secondary school curricula and appears as a key text in the historiography of colonial Africa for college and graduate students. But it is within Belgium that Hochschild's work has had the most dramatic impact, demonstrating the active and transformative power of history. The publication of 'King Leopold's Ghost' forced Belgians to come to terms for the first time with their long buried colonial past and generated intense public debate that so troubled Belgian officials that they reportedly instructed diplomats on how to deflect embarrassing questions that the book raised about the past. The book offered welcome support for others in Belgium who sought acknowledgment and accountability for Belgian actions in the Congo. . . . Few works of history have the power to effect such significant change in people's understanding of their past."

Hochschild teaches narrative writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He and his wife, sociologist and author Arlie Russell Hochschild, have two sons and two granddaughters.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Glass on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book while I was visiting South Africa and I would encourage it for anyone who is interested in an overview of life under apartheid. It was published just before apartheid ended, so the reader must look to other sources for a post apartheid look at South Africa, but I found this book to be well written, insightful, and interesting. South Africa is a very complex culture and that complexity is not always portrayed in American media. Hochschild lived in South Africa and his love for the people is evident in this work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sandy see on October 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a South African, I was skeptical about foreigner writing about our history and capturing the nuances of our people, and the moods of our country. But I was pleasantly surprised. This book is spectacular. It has all the facts about the old struggles, like the Battle of Blood River in 1838, as well as the new struggles, of apartheid and our wanting to get our country back on track.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, to both South Africans and everyone else who is interested in the country. It's also great to read it just before heading there on holiday, so you get what's happened in that beautiful place.

As I finished it, I wanted to turn it over and start again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alanna on May 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
Well written one volume summary of South African history, with very helpful update included. Author's personal story mixed with looks back at key events is effective way to learn the basics, and get a sense of what South Africa is like today.
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