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South from the Limpopo Paperback – 1 Mar 2001
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‘A travel writer of rare heart and freshness’
The author's journal of her cycle tours of South Africa, before, during, and after the transfer of power in 1994, gives a day-by-day view of that momentous period. As she records her quite often contradictory reactions to the country, the journal records how she came to love the new South Africa. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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The author of this book recognises that the only way to understand a country is to see it for oneself. Bravely she set out to find the answers to some of the questions that South Africa poses by travelling around it on a bicycle. To some extent she succeeds, her reportage surrounding the assassination of Chris Hani has some merit, but overall I was left with a sense of great unease. She establishes her credentials as an admirer of the ANC early on and is named Comrade Noxolo (which means peace in Khosa) by her 'minders'; a gesture which she describes as marking her 'acceptance as a reliable friend, a person with the right attitude'. At no time, however, does she question the role of her minders as her journey continues and how she may have been manipulated in crucial sections of this book.
Her views about the redistribution of clothes from a hijacked laundry van are disappointing (failing 'to see it as either criminal or immoral') and her Robin Hood like attitude to this incident is not extended to the theft of her own property later in the book in the form of her beloved bicycle. Her trip to prison to visit those on remand awaiting trial for the possession of automatic weapons is disturbing. The closest she comes to condemning the possession of these unlawful weapons is to inform us that she has another view that is 'beside the present point' from agreeing with her minders that they should be retained for future possible use.
Later in the book her attitude begins to change. She becomes more cynical about her associates' intentions, but by then her personal opinions have long ago clouded the objectivity of her observations. Maybe a travelogue is allowed to be subjective but I can't help thinking that if it is then it should avoid dubious political observations and concentrate on describing the journey itself. It is this which seriously detracts from the overall value of the book. 'South From The Limpopo' goes some way to describing this most interesting of countries but fails to find the real South Africa.
This is an important historical tale which looks at the situation for all the racial/religious/political groups in rich areas and poor, posing a lot of questions about reconciliation and forgiveness, but Dervla doesn't pretend to have the answers (or that there even are answers to some of the generational problems).
Recommended for anyone who in interested in the history of South Africa or relations between black and white (and coloured and Indian etc). Probably the most objective eyewitness book about the period (despite a previous review's conclusion). Be warned, though, this book is a very heavy read and is best read in small doses rather than trying to digest the whole journey in one go.
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