Ronald Harwood Terrance Edwards - Essay

Terrance Edwards

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

From 1794 right down to 1972 ["Articles of Faith"] sweeps across the South African scene, distilling something of its history, much of its prejudices and fears—and perhaps a few of its hopes.

It is through the lives of successive generations of the white family Henning that this anguished nation's growth is traced….

Always the family is in trouble. And nearly always the thread of trouble, of tragedy, stems from the propensity of the family's male members to miscegenate with slaves, servants and acquaintances of the colored races.

The house of Henning, it is clear, will continue on its course and to continue to come to grief. For "Henning" read "South Africa."

From one point of view, "Articles of Faith," with its broad scope, intricate plot, and sometimes sensitive style, gives many useful insights into South Africa's malaise.

However, I found myself more than a little irked by its affectedness and more than a little saddened that another South African writer—obviously endowed in this case with great talent—had been diverted into merciless exploitation of the race theme.

In a word, Mr. Harwood gets in the way of the story. In places he unabashedly writes what amounts to political diatribe, and the book's purpose and structure is marred by inaccuracies seemingly included for shock and propaganda value…. [One] is left with unhappy conclusions about Mr. Harwood's intentions.

In the end, the novelist's celebration of his moral superiority mars his examination of South Africa's great and painful racial complexity.

Terrance Edwards, in a review of "Articles of Faith," in The Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 1974, p. F5.