(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Martin Mynhardt’s ties to his family farm in the Eastern Cape of Good Hope could form a barrier to the acquisitive desires of a land-hungry company that wants to own and control the region outright. Yet Martin is not the sort of person to sentimentalize his roots or to care much about the effect of the farm’s loss on family members and their black retainers.

There are, however, two people in Martin’s world whom he does actually care for—far more than he cares for his emotionally estranged wife, Elise, or his angry, disillusioned son, Louis: namely, his old childhood friend and companion, the political revolutionary Bernard, and his lovely wife—and Martin’s last lover—Bea, an Italian expatriate and political activist who came to South Africa at a young age. Martin’s existential dilemma is whether to help his old friends by hiding important writings that Bernard pleads with Martin to take with him, thereby putting Martin’s life in mortal danger as an enemy of the South African state, or to sell out his friends and resume some semblance of his previous politically uninvolved life. Martin then is faced with the hardest of choices: Should he once again turn traitor to Bernard—since Martin already betrayed Bernard by falling in love with Bea—and destroy everything Bernard had attempted to do with his life by turning state’s evidence, or should he invite certain death by being seen as Bernard and Bea’s accomplice in treason against the state?

Thus, this novel is about the loyalties of the heart, things people ignore only at their peril: Martin’s long-standing marriage to Elise, interrupted over the years by various infidelities; his emotional ties to and sense of responsibility for his son Louis, a soldier in South Africa’s losing fight against Angola, with whom he has not fostered a good father-son relationship; Bernard’s love for Bea that...

(The entire section is 772 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brink, André. “An Uneasy Freedom: Dangers of Political Management of Culture in South Africa.” The Times Literary Supplement, September 24, 1993, p. 13.

Brown, Duncan, and Bruno van Dyk, eds. Exchanges: South African Writing in Transition. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of Natal Press, 1991.

Jolly, Rosemary June. Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenback, and J. M. Coetzee. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1996.

Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. “A Talk with André Brink.” The New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1982, pp. 14-15.

“Writing Against Big Brother: Notes on Apocalyptic Fiction in South Africa.” World Literature Today 58, no. 2 (1984): 89-94.