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The book is explicitly set in South Africa in Johannesburg and in the black township of Soweto. The setting is defined with precision at the beginning of the novel (page 1), where the narrator who is about to tell the story of his late friend Ben Du Toit, the protagonist of the novel, reads an article describing him as "Johannesburg teacher". Other well-known South African towns such as Pretoria and Cape Town are mentioned in the first three pages and throughout the book there are references to Afrikaans, the word used to describe white South Africans, their culture and language. Written in 1979, A Dry White Season also shows the South African institution of racial segregation system known as apartheid, mentions South African politicians of the time (such as President Botha) and is based on the historical events of the Soweto Riots of the mid-seventies.
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