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Chain Of Voices [Paperback]

André Brink
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Feb 2000
It is 1825 and high in the mountains of South Africa a group of slavesstand accused of the murder of their owner, Nicolass van der Merwe, a wealthy Afrikaner farmer. Galant, the van der Merwe family's chief hand, is held leader of the murderous band. Raised with the two sonsof the house, it was not until adulthood and rivalry over Hester, orphaned daughter of a tenant farmer, that he realised their differentroles, their unequal futures and opposed stations in life. A CHAIN OFVOICES stands as a prophetic lesson - when hopes of freedom from slavery are dashed, and when promises of equal treatment are broken, an escalating spiral of bitterness, resentment, and finally, explosiveviolence is inevitable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749396369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749396367
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A triumph not only of storytelling but of insight into the belief that there are two sorts of people in the world: those born to oppress and those born to be slaves" (The Times)

Book Description

' A triumph of storytelling' The Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful

A group of black slaves is charged with the murder of their master, the late Nicholaas vander Merwe. High up in the mountains of the Cape, on a remote Afrikaner farmstead, seven days by wagon from Cape Town an act of rebellion has taken place that will stand forever as the challenge of a subject people to the supremacy of white power.

inspired by real events, of two boys, one white, one black, whose lives are linked by the rules and obligations of Afrikaner society. As they grow up, however, one the master, the other the slave, their relationship gradually turns sour. Nicholaas is too weak to fulfill the role of boss. Galant is too strong-willed and certain to be content with the pain and deprivation of being nothing more than the white man's chattel.

of the novel begin to speak - Nicholaas, his brother Barend, his father, Hester, Rose the old black nurse, together with all the other inhabitants of Houd-den-Bek - Andre Brink unfolds a drama of cruelty and exploitation with the relentless tempo of a master storyteller.

and rebellion find more and more fateful expression in the lives of Nicholaas and Galant. Ironically, the more they clash, the more they find themselves bound together by circumstances and by their own conflicting desires. The novel moves to its horrifying climax with the inexorable power of Greek tragedy.

Andre Brink has created for South Africa, and for all those for whom the South African predicament is one of the most disturbing and poignant of our time, a myth that challenges the tyranny of apertheid. Yet, like all great literature, the novel transforms a political statement into a compelling and moving artistic achievement.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deeply Moving Novel 9 July 2008
By b
Set in South Africa in 1825, the slaves of a remote mountainous farm turn against their master and his family in an outbreak of violence.
Brink's novel, first published in 1982, is an exploration of the conditions of a society in which some men are born to be masters and others to be slaves. It is a fascinating exploration of the two main central characters who grow up together only to find themselves in violent opposition and the figure of Galant, the leader of the rebels, imbued with a noble sense of the hopelessness of his uprising, is a remarkable piece of characterisation.
The novel is written from the viewpoints of multiple narrators, exploring the misunderstandings and prejudices that help to create divisions within societies; the writing has a seductive, poetic quality and Brink's ability to recreate the physical landscapes of his homeland is superb.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The twisted dynamics of slavery 30 April 2000
By Carlos R. Lugo-Ortiz - Published on
Andre Brink is one of the leading lights of white South African literature, a writer with a strong commitment towards social justice in a country whose black majority until recently could not have a say in its daily life. His celebrated 'A dry white season' stands as a monument of indictment of the 'apartheid' regime by exploring its consequences in the social dynamics and psychology of a white South African schoolteacher who takes upon himself to find out the whereabouts of his gardener's son and, then, the gardener himself. Anybody interested in 'apartheid' South Africa and in Brink's ouvre of moral commitment should read that novel; it would definitely be an excellent introduction to both.
With 'A chain of voices', Brink explores the dynamics of another oppresive regime: slavery. It is evident, however, that what Brink does in this novel is to go back to the institution of slavery to explore 'apartheid' in a similar way to 'A dry white season'. And what he finds, again, is ugly. At many levels, Brink tells us that any oppresive regime corrupts all human relationships, and that it can even transform--in a Frankenstein-like fashion--victims into victimizers. Not only is white pitted against black, but also wife against husband, father against children, brother against brother, and friend against friend. Brink brilliantly accomplishes this feat by giving voice to those that are senselessly involved in the oppresive dynamics of slavery, in a true 'chain of voices'.
The novel is set in the early 1800s in the Western Cape, in the beautiful area around Tulbagh and Worcester. From the very beginning, we know that three white men (two masters and one schoolteacher) have been killed by a group of slaves in a small-scale rebellion. What the novel does so well is to go back through the forces that led to that ending. In the process, one finds that the oppressor oftentimes is not aware of his oppression, that he is not enterely evil in the naive way that he is almost always portrayed, and that, incredible as it might seem, there is human side to him. On the other hand, one also finds that those that are oppressed are forced to commit acts of cruelty, even against those they supposedly love, in an effort to assert some power. In the end, however, everybody, but particularly the male characters, is a victim and a victimizer.
Even though I enjoyed the novel, with its deep psychological analysis of the characters involved, I found that the language seems too modern and sometimes too sophisticated for the 1800s setting. Also, there is some repetitiveness, particularly in the sexual domination of women. Despite this, I thoroughly recommend this novel to anyone interested in Brink's novels and the psychological consequences of oppressive regimes.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chain of Voices - Andre Brink 18 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I read this novel in the eighties, when the power of the white minority regime in South Africa was still at its height. From the perspective of a liberal outsider there seemed to be nothing that could be said in favour of these people - they were stuck somewhere in the Dark Ages where the rest of the world could not reach them. A Chain of Voices put a somewhat more complex slant on the whole issue, but because Brink is a liberal as well as an Afrikaaner, refused to give an inch where apartheid was concerned. He doesn't stereotype people as villains or victims, but nor does he make excuses for them. He examines the evil of the system from the comparative safety of the distant past - the novel is set sometime in the nineteenth century and is based on a slave rebellion in which a slave owner had been murdered. Each chapter is taken from the perspective of a different character, slaves and masters, and Brink never fails to draw the sympathy of the reader to whichever character is being explored at any one time. Reading this book taught me that no matter how brutalised someone is, no matter how unpleasant they seem, they still have the capacity for finer feelings. They can still fall in love, they never lose the capacity to be hurt by those closest to them. You may find that this leaves you with even fewer excuses for their behaviour than ever, but what it certainly does is to bring their experience closer to our own. Modern-day evils such as racism, sexism, homophobia and religious bigotry are no longer out there being practiced by people who are not like us. They are much closer to home and we share a responsibility for them and for eradicating them. The strong moral ethos of the book aside, it is also a gripping read - all 500+ pages of it, there is much lush description of the South African landscape and there is a beautiful many-layered love story that doesn't have a cliche in it. It made me cry. Enjoy!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars overlooked masterpiece 23 Dec 2003
By Gaunilon - Published on
Andre Brink is well known in South Africa and less so in the US. He writes in English, and that is a serious understatement. He deals with that country's central problem, apartheid and its aftermath, which is a subject that most American's recognize as part of our on heritage as well though not so gravely. The role of women also holds his attention as well. But this is a literary work, not ideological, and it has tremendous merits. Its structure and plot are refreshingly counterintuitive but not hard to grasp or distracting. Its language is rich but not self-conscious, calling to mind recent works such as Cold Mountain or maybe Faulkner at times. But the work offers an exotic and important opportunity for readers outside South Africa.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But ... 24 Nov 2010
By Sylvia Weiser Wendel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm a product of a very well-known writers' workshop in a state best known for corn ... and after reading this book, I wanted to firebomb all writers' workshops worldwide. Few things are sadder than a book that's only 20, 25 years old and already dated -- I don't mean historically dated, I mean the style, the prose, the whole Tortured Intensity of it all. Brink has a great story to tell, and he does many things very well. The police-report beginning whets the appetite, and I found myself often returning to it in order to sort out who's who, what happened when, and theories I was formulating about the plot. Some drama peters out to nothing much, and much of the sexual stuff (and there is plenty) is groan-worthy: all those stiff, erect members poking here and there, all that delicious wetness, blah blah blah. Grow up already!
Also, this book needs to end about 100 pages sooner than it does -- the italicized ending drags on and on and on, and by that time you just want to see The End.
Brink keeps talking after he has nothing left to say. Little laughter and no triumph. Even the most serious of novels needs some leavening. This one rises, rises, rises -- but is left with a semi-flattened crown none the less. Not half-baked, not by any means, but unevenly baked. Absorbing, but ultimately - meh.
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