am 15. April 2001
Malans erster Vorfahr in Afrika lebte im bereits im 17. Jahrhundert in der holländischen Kapkolonie: Ein Mann mit Status, Reichtum und Zukunft. Bis zu dem Zeitpunkt als er auf diese Zukunft verzichtete, um mit einer afrikanischen Hausangestellten die Kolonie zu verlassen - nach Norden, in das wilde Afrika. Als David Malan Jahrzehnte später wieder in den historischen Dokumenten auftaucht, hat er sich verändert: Er ist Fürsprecher und Aktivist einer radikalen und rassistischen Siedlergruppe. Seit diesem Zeitpunkt ist der Name Malan untrennbar mit der südafrikanischen Geschichte und vor allem auch der Geschichte von Unterdrückung und Apartheid verbunden. 300 Jahre später fragt sich der liberale Journalist Rian Malan: Was ist mit seinem Vorfahr passiert in der Zeit zwischen der Flucht aus Liebe zu einer Afrikanerin und der Rückkehr voll Hass auf das schwarze Afrika. Malans Buch ist auch zehn Jahre nach dem Ende der Apartheid noch eine schonungslos ehrliche und gültige Reise in die Psyche des weißen Südafrikas. Je weiter er vorstößt, desto wmehr verwischen die einfachen Kategorien zwischen richtig und falsch, gut und böse, schwarz und weiß. Das Brutale an Malans Buch sind nicht die grausamen Episoden, denen er als Crime Reporter auf den Grund geht. Brutal ist die Wahrheit, die Malan immer weiter enthüllt. Ein hervorragendes Buch über Südafrika. Aber ein noch besseres Buch über das Leben selbst.
am 18. Januar 2011
15 years ago, some years after the end of Apartheid, I lived in South Africa (being a white European) for a year. Just before the end of my stay, I read this book, and suddenly my view on that country was entirely changed. Myriads of little and big questionmarks and a general lack of deeper understanding for what was going on in the country (and the minds of its population) suddenly disappeared. The book changed not only my view on the Apartheid era, but on racial conflicts in general and especially on the black population in South Africa. Perhaps one of the most astounding experiences for me was a deep insight into the culture and the mentality of the black population in South Africa (yes, this is oversimplified, but anyway), which I estimate has rarely ever before been described with such profoundness, clarity and accurateness.
The exceptional quality of the book is that these insights are presented not with a moral attitude, but by simply reporting what the author has experienced, or by authentic reporting of important events during Apartheid, mostly criminal events, murder cases etc. However, this makes the reading also painful at times, because the author also describes unbelievable atrocities like the brutal murder of a young black male by a white "Afrikaaner", or the archaical murder of accused "witches" by a black mob. Yet, the author managed not to be biased, but to stay an observer as neutral as possible, who however was deeply frustrated about the way things were developing in his homeland.
Sadly, I read it so late during my stay... As many other commentators here, I do admire the author for the courage to write this masterpiece, which is by far the most exceptional book I have read in a long time. In particular the piece about the "hammermurder" is a mindblowing, almost mystical (true) tale, which really blew me away and has changed my view on the world (this may sound a bit tacky, nevertheless I do mean this and cannot express it differently). This is about an authentic crime series which happened during the 80ies, and which is well known in South Africa. Malan, however, dug deeper and uncovered a version of the motives of the (executed after his trial) black serial killer, which is completely different, but not in contradiction to the "truth" which is in the history books. In fact, what he uncovered is so bizarre that it would be perfect stuff for a mystery thriller.
If you plan to visit SA as a tourist, or even to live there, this is a must. You will never forgive yourself not to have read it on time, if you coincidentally happen to read it some time after your stay... Even if you do not have a relation to this land, the book will most likely impress you more than anything else you read in a long time/ever. Promise.
am 31. März 2000
The SA paradox in a nifty pocket book guide. This should have been called 'how to survive when all around you, people are very screwed up'. It is the architypal South African experience; paranoid, hypocritical, self-conscious. It should be available for anyone going on holiday there. So peverse, it will have you reeling. But it cuts a fine line between personal white guilt, and journalistic integrity- somehow slowly working its magic.
pick up the book, and POOF! you might find yourself enjoying it.
am 19. Mai 2000
Malan is no psuedo liberal shouting the odds from ill informed privilaged South Africa. He writes with sincerity and truth. This is simply one of the best books ever written. It's people like Malan that make white South Africa not loose their sense of belonging. Read this, it will liberate you.
am 21. Januar 2000
Growing up in moral discomfort as a privileged white in apartheid South Africa, Rian Malan sets out to deny, reject, and ultimately understand the system that in a very real sense was the product not only of his tribe, but of his own family. With apartheid such a huge and pervasive structure, he finds his greatest insights in the intimate detail of routine events. As a crime reporter for a Johannesburg newspaper he does the unthinkable, setting out to investigate the individual circumstances in Soweto's myriad daily murders. The closer he looks, the more the reality of a racist and violent system is thrown into relief. He turns up some astonishing stories - the tale of the "Hammerman" is absolutely compelling journalism - but he also reveals, as Michael Ignatieff has done, how faultlines can open up to murderous degrees from the very simplest failures of understanding. All the cosy assumptions, the fables that comfort in turn the arch-conservatives, the liberals, the youthful rebels, the black freedom fighters - and Malan himself - are shown to be suspect. As his sensibilities sharpen, Malan develops a deep pessimism about the country which for all its violent complexities, he cannot help but love. It should be said the substance of this book was written before Nelson Mandela's release, and it was published three years before South Africans finally voted for a government of their choice. Malan himself has conceded the future may not be as bleak as he foresaw. It doesn't matter. The lasting value of this book is in its description of a search for truth. The humility he brings to the process provides its own lesson. South Africa has been blessed with some of the towering figures of the late 20th century. But even with their leadership, there are few easy answers, and this book goes a long way to explaining why.
am 11. November 1997
Malan offers us a perspective on South Africa that is unlike any other, neither proselytizing nor preaching, justifying nor whinging. The best thing about the book is the voice in which the author's well considered thoughts are rendered; his reflections are at once journalistic and humanistic (a feat in and of itself). The lack of emotional distance in this narrative is part of the point of telling it. This is a terrific way to see how history and politics affect a person as a whole, and incorporate into a soul. It's heartening to read that to be emotional and inexorably involved with one's subject does not necessarily lead to paralysis. The author is partial, he is affected, and he is wonderfully articulate about the elements that make up his consciousness, and his conscience. While gaining a different kind of understanding of the history and socio-political situation in South Africa, there's the feeling that it's all communicated by someone with whom I'd been lucky enough to have had a personal conversation.
Heartily recommended to anyone interested in more than just rhetoric about the region, and essential to a historical or political curriculum.
am 29. Februar 2000
My book club chose this title for our most recent discussion....All caucasian women, middle-class or thereabouts, Canadian by birth. All quite whacked into silence and deep reflection by this book. Rian Malan has bared his own heart, his own mind, his own racist ancestry and his horrific awakenings to the demonic power of apartheid. He spares us nothing in the stories he shares and I wonder how he could keep himself sane and loving as he uncovered, witnessed and experienced an evil that is almost beyond description. He asks at the book's opening, "How do I live in this strange land?" -- He doesn't have an answer to the basic question of why we humans act with such hatred to one another, but his monumental courage in laying bare the poisons of racial cruelty is a horrible and necessary medicine for all of us. This book has jarred me permanently; I am grateful for its power. I hope that Rian writes again -- this first book was originally published in 1990; I would love to read his impressions of the last decade as South Africans struggle to release themselves from the noose of apartheid. Thank you, Rian.
am 17. Juli 1999
"My traitor's heart" is a deeply and uncommonly sincere book by a white South African who tries to explain and understand the Kafkian and tragic dynamics generated by the apartheid regime. Malan painfully goes over the South African experience through his family's history (he is related to D. F. Malan, one the architects of apartheid) and his own experiences and investigations, and what emerges is a picture full of blood, confusion, and tears. The major question one asks at the end of the book is if there is any hope of coming to terms with the past and move on. There are, despite the efforts by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, too many animosities not only between blacks and whites, but within blacks and whites themselves, and Malan's book might turn out to be sadly prophetic as to how we treat each other in this country. Perhaps "My traitor's heart" is too pessimistic, but I usually find that pessimistic books are the most realistic, and for that reason I highly recommend reading Malan's book.
am 28. April 1997
MY TRAITOR'S HEART jeopardizes numerous comfortable prejudices surrounding not only South Africa's specific and now defunct form of institutionalized racism, apartheid, but also the nature and history of racist thinking itself. It is hard to imagine a more trustworthy writer than Malan, a brutally honest witness, a blunt and necessary critic, an author whose story grips the reader more surely than any pulp fiction offering, but who manages--against considerable odds--never to exploit his topic for cheap readability. Malan spends most of the book confronting us with images of brutality that manifest the worst elements of human nature, challenging us to look in a mirror that returns an unflattering, even loathsome, portrait; but then, in the final section, he offers us Creina Alcock, a woman who refuses--despite horrific provocation--to give in to the hatred and violence that consumes her country, and who thereby exemplifies what is best in the human character. This book will change your life
am 11. Februar 2000
I am an avid reader,having read several books about South Africa. Being an African American I was very curious as to what this author had to say, and figured that I would end up being totally turned off, thus having wasted my time and money ordering it. Was I wrong! My Traitor' Heart was well worth the money and definitely the time. This book casts a broad beacon of light on the very dark history of South African's Apartheid and the evils it wrought on both blacks and the whites who were sympathetic to the struggle. "My Traitor's Heart" was the most heart rending book, but because it gives the reader such fantastic factual information, you can't put it down. I certainly hope Mr. Malan is not through sharing his insights, knowledge and experiences in his native country. I hope his next book comes out soon. Rian Malan I respect and admire you. Excellent!