Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Arcade Fire Shop now Fitbit



There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 25 May 2016
This a book which brilliantly captures the grim reality of life in the South African townships and the iniquities of the pass book regime
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 September 2002
It is a wonder anyone manages to survive in the world described between the pages of this book let alone manage to come out of it on top. But somehow Mark Mathabane (the author) manages to accomplish this and you can find out how in this sad, touching and inspiring story of struggle and survival in South Africa's inhumane system of apartheid. This book is a tribute to all the unsung heroes of South Africa, who despite insurmountable odds managed to hold it together as best they could, while trying hard to maintain their respect and dignity in an environment more harrowing than most of us can imagine.
This book will take you into the heart of one of South Africa's townships proving a view of life unlike anything you get to see on television. Kaffir Boy, above anything else proves that even in the depths of despair, there is hope and possibility of achievement. Includes 8 pages of photographs...
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 May 2017
Really well put together, an easy ready for such a tough subject. It's unbelievable that apartheid was so recent, let's hope that progress is being made on both fronts.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 December 2010
A great book that all South Africans should read. Perhaps a slightly extreme example of the times - an Angela's Ashes for South Africa, but nonetheless jarring and appalling to read as a South African born long-after the events, but still shocked that one section of our population could be treated so badly by another.

Mark is still relatively balanced in his views and does show the good and bad of both the black and white people he meets throughout his life.

Definitely recommended, and if South Africa ever doubts how far it has progressed since 1994, this is a stark but very uplifting reminder.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 February 2003
I have just finished reading this book and have to say that I couldn't put it down, at times it made me laugh and it made me cry, most of all it made me realise how fortunate I am to be living in Britian. I read the final few pages through tears that welled up in my eyes and overflowed as I turned the last page. What a wonderfully awe inspiring book and what a wonderfully written account of a young boys struggle to survive in such a hostile environment. I would recommend this book very highly, if you only read one book this year, make sure it's this one!
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 September 2011
At first I did not want to write a review for this book... But I did. Reason being; I grew up in south africa as a white afrikaans speaking individual, roughly the same time as Mark Mathabane. And it is embarrassing to admit to that. It is an awe-inspiring book and opened my eyes to the atrocities my unconscious mind chose to ignore. The book also shows the strengths and foibles of the human spirit/nature. This book has left a lasting impression and although it left me at times bewildered, guilty, aghast and shameful, it also filled me with pride and jubilation that the author of this book could escape the entrapments imposed upon him by an unjust society...........An absolute must read!!
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 January 2010
Bought this book as lost my original copy. Re-read it when I received this copy. This is an excellent book that serves to remind us that with determination and hard work people do succeed. It is also a stark reminder of what living in South Africa was like and how far things have progressed in the last 40 years.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 April 2014
Mathabane's Kaffir Boy is a classic written thirty years back (1986) about apartheid in South Africa. It revolves around the first eighteen years of Mark's or Johannes' life in a slum in Alexander on the outskirts of Johannesburg during the 1960s and 70s.

It is a sociological treatise of poverty. Unlike official reports it begins to describe immediate conditions through the eyes of a child: the life of his two illiterate parents from two different tribes who moved illegally to the big city and struggled to survive without an official pass: his father proud of his past tribal customs on the veld and now in reservations, his mother with one eye to the past and one to the future and change; the two room rat/lice, dirt infested home, initially of five with one brother and sister (finally reaching nine), the mother-grandmother matriarchical support community, the instant gang life of the street where boys and girls soon migrated towards, and the regular intruders: the black police making night raids and arrests as ordered by the "baas" white chiefs. The boy's small confined world widens further when he first reaches primary school-age, something which the lion share of his contemporaries do not complete, much less move on to high school, and even less chance to obtain a middle class occupation.

The predominant feature of society: in the family father to son, father to mother, the right of passage in male tribal society; of the individual in the street; between street and the police, is violence, each linked superimposed on one another. Violence is an attempt to impose status and respect. Its opposite anti-society, stability, exists among women, and the school, but for both factors to be accepted they also must impose further violent rules. National politics, in most of the book, does not get a mention until the Soweto riots and the death of Steve Biko - which for Mark, when explaining the events to a white is a reaction against the violence of the system. The imposition of Afrikaans in Bantu schools was simply the peak of the iceberg of oppression, degradation, and violence, which for the white controlled media was able to present it as the sign of the coming revolution.

Throughout his life, Mark recounts occasional instances when he met whites, and learnt more the practical significance of apartheid to his kind. The meeting of the two races, however, became an eye opener to both. The more observant and less close-minded realised good and bad lay side by side in each community, but the heart of the problem was not individuals but the system itself which legalised segregation, allowing to the Nazi Big brother notion of selection, that the blacks were savages and should be trained solely to serve as fourth-class role masters as cleaners, gardeners, and labourers. Mark described the system as Nazi minus the ovens, since its slums and reservations admirable performed as "concentration" camps headed by white appointed "chiefs" controlling the agitated hot heads, with the system cutting off the life supply of his people - i.e. by the "ethnic cleansing" (an appropriate expression chosen even before the Yugoslav wars) of the country.

Mark felt, like the religious sprinter Eric Liddell of Chariots of FireChariots of Fire [DVD] [1981]. He was born with two gifts in life - he had a passion and ability for study and to play tennis competitively, and through these two activities he had a mission to improve and fulfil himself as a person, to fight like a freedom fighter against injustice, ignorance, oppression, and intolerance from within, as a first step to emigration - a subject which continues in his next book Kaffir Boy in America (1989)Kaffir Boy in America.That mission became his gun, to build not to destroy. There is a feeling, in addition, he has a commitment to his aging parents and his family, to his community, his ethnic group, and even to his country which he hopes to return one day.

Study and tennis surrounded by the protection of the anti-societies: the women and the school, guaranteed Mark the possibility of forming a substitute life, and it continued because both anti-societies saw in Mark their own honest path to progress.

He could only arrive at his conclusion where others could not because he had a role model (the tennis champ Arthur Ashe) to aspire to, and was able to meet a few liberals in the white community who were unhappy with apartheid, who were prepared to help, and who realised that through change, by integrating the best brains and the most skilled of the two communities could a better, more humane and modern South Africa for all be created, and not the break up of the country through guns, bombs, bloody revolution, with both whites and blacks being driven away.

Surprisingly, Mark demonstrates many features as Mandela - who despite being praised, was criticized by several of his people for his over tolerance, understanding of his foes, and readiness to move on. Mark was declared an "Uncle Tom", a "traitor" to his people for his willingness to accept the moves by the white hierarchy to permit him play tennis tournaments against whites, and was officially banned. Determined, and with the right local connections, he found a way around this handicap, in order to continue playing. Conscious of threats coming from the black community, and though mostly in agreement, Mark still preferred to fight alone on his road to sporting freedom, and with the great support from US tennis star, Stan Smith, he successfully obtained a scholarship to study in the US, becoming the first black South African, a role model in his own right.

His teachers realised he needed balls in that violent environment, and he had more to spare to fight on against all obstacles within his family, his community, and inside the nation. Without realising, he was engaging in pure Gandhi non-violence.

Did the author purposely choose to hold back his hatred believing too much might scare white readers as nothing more than a rant? Possibly. His balanced argument is rational, and instructive to those with no experience. To present a gradual approach, making readers as conscious of the conditions as the boy was becoming was an effective technique, as it portrayed the hidden tentacles of the system everywhere.

What becomes more questionable was did the blacks hired in the system add a gloss of corruption by encouraging their fellow ethnic people to add to their low salaries with necessary bribes? It would be unbelievable if the whites were not aware what their subordinates were doing. Thus, they may have overlooked their unethical activities, believing that a little graft was legitimate since it was an African custom; it oiled the wheels of the system more effectively by bringing a number of loyal blacks to cooperate openly and enthusiastically with the system, and it justified paying them a lower salary. Mark does not explain why they seemed to behave so severely towards fellow Africans.

Was it because it was part of their office routine, or did they feel they had to appease their white superiors and behave so uncooperatively and harshly? He did show some seemed to gain pleasure when acting cruelly. Thus, it is likely some were hired to behave in this manner, and as they started receiving their bribes regularly, it explained that the technique was proving effective and merited being employed more frequently. Others would just tow that prescribed line, or felt it legitimate to up the ante and demand higher bribes. It justified the black's belief that a corrupt white system was turning blacks white, and only strong ethnic community pressure might righten the wrong, the humiliation and hurt committed. Obviously, these blacks lived in different suburbs away from the strong pressures of their people.

This classic still goes well with a more recent volume by a white boy, Under our skin Under Our Skin: A White Family's Journey Through South Africa's Darkest Years. It can continue to be a historical-sociological pamphlet; it can be viewed as a test where we have reached since the 1990s. Most of all, it can be seen as an epistle of right against wrong or against might, and the desire to succeed against every form of oppression.

For those wishing to look at the here and now look at role models in Olympic and Paralympic gold winners Kelly Holmes, Mo Farah or Sarah Storey and say she is black, he was a migrant, she is disabled and they each made it. Then ask can't I? Answer: yes with hard work and effort. Poverty, however, does not mean poor writing, or poor sub-standard literacy. The desire and pride to achieve in this work shows through in the face of those literati who believe everyone should merit the same laurels. Each may receive a laurel, but not the same.

Recommended reading in schools - with a great health warning: just as white can never obtain the monopoly of truth, right and good, black now does not in turn become good. Mark recognised the violent bad among his community, stood away, and chose a different path. A wise decision.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 February 2014
Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa is a remarkable book. About Mark Mathabane. It is an honest and open story of his life in Apartheid South Africa. In this book, the reader is taken into a journey though his life in his recount. The book is very engaging , the story flows and the setting is so real. Though certain aspects of Mark's life are shocking, they only help to give you a better understanding of the environment in which he lived and make Mark Mathabane human.. This deep and moving story is not only easy to read, it is also full of things to learn about.It ranks with Disciples of Fortune, Cry, the Beloved Country, Triple Agent, Double Cross, In the Country of Men, as books on Africa with a depth that I enjoyed and respected.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 February 2014
This is an essential read for black and white of every country . Beautifully written by a brave, erudite man (against all odds) who bore with dignity the degradation, humiliation, physical and emotional suffering of himself, his family, his nation and country of a most brutal system which began only a few years after the exposure of the horrors of the holocaust.

This is a truthful, harrowing, heartbreaking account of the impact of apartheid South Africa, institutionalised brutality, on ordinary peoples lives . It must have been unbelievably difficult to live through, write about and relive and not become disaffected. Will South Africa ever recover from its shameful past? Thank you Mark Mathabane for documenting your experience and allowing the world to be your witness.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)