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Reblogged this on Reading Challenge — SA books only. I can read it at last. How I miss the sky. There is no e-book here but I would have preferred the paper anyhow.

I know your situation is different and this is a big book. I suspect you will love it. Like Liked by 2 people. I hope you come across more gems during your visit, both literary and experiential. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. My well marked copy! Like this: Like Loading Author: roughghosts Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber.

Pingback: Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk tr. Michiel Heyns Word by Word. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public.


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  • And her name was Good: Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk?

Agaat owes a great deal to Coetzee, particularly to Foe and Age of Iron. It is also indebted to Afrikaans writers such as Karel Schoeman and C.

Truth and Reconciliation

Control of the story lies in the hands of someone we neither entirely trust nor entirely like; here as elsewhere, Van Niekerk draws attention to the power structures that permit some voices to be heard, while others are silenced. In , the Afrikaans poet and journalist Antjie Krog published an account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission entitled Country of My Skull , a mixture of reportage, memoir and transcribed testimony.

She depicts the TRC itself, led by Desmond Tutu, as a community that nurtured and sustained her leftist, feminist, non-nationalist Afrikanerness. I do not want to let go of them ever. If there is an idealised community in her new book, A Change of Tongue , it is a pan-African one. This essential change takes place on different levels and in different phases. As for the people in these institutions and places, they cannot transform, but they can change by integrating several social identities: you are no longer only white, but also South African and African. At the same time, both books propose self-sacrifice, humiliation and suffering as the solution to the egotism and alienation of being white.

In Country of My Skull , exposure to the atrocities of apartheid, in the form of the testimony of TRC witnesses, brought Krog to the edge of a collapse that is presented, ultimately, as redemptive: only by suffering alongside her fellow South Africans could she hope to leave the inviolable privilege of her whiteness behind. The timeline moves back along Milla's past, outlining the struggles with her husband Jak, and her devotion to Agaat. The third technique is typed out in italics, and appears to be a jumbled, unstructured series of memories.

Written out with limited punctuation, Milla is communicating fleeting thoughts and feelings, as one would expect in a dream-like state. The final switch returns us to Milla's past again, via her diary entries, which are marked by date. Knowing that, due to it's size, Agaat was going to take me longer than usual to complete, I set up a Twitter hashtag in which I documented my progress as I read. I hadn't ever done anything like that before, and it was an interesting way to record my thoughts and feelings as I moved throughout the novel.

The deeper into the story I travelled, the more caught up I became in it. The author, skilled in the art of "keeping the reader waiting", teased me with just enough backstory Led me further and further into the dark and layered pasts of Milla, Jak, their son Jakkie, and Agaat's lives Showed me an inkling more of what was to come, and what had come to pass.

I think the best way to describe it would be comparing it to a really great tv show, where the characters are all moving towards some great discovery, and right before they uncover it There were some cringe worthy moments buried here and there. The entire novel takes place on Milla's farm, so I found myself sadly reading through a pretty graphic slaughter scene. And this one I should have seen coming - With Milla being completely paralyzed, I had the wonderful experience of reading about her bowel movements yuck! If this story had a moral attached to it, I would have to say "be careful what you teach people, and how you treat them" Though not a book I would have read on my own, it would appear I owe another thank you to the wonderful people of Tin House for sending it along with other review copies.

View all 4 comments. There's a tendency in the local literary community to over-value South African literature because it is South African.

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Bad reviews are rare and even the rare ones are light on the bad. Agaat is an English translation of an Afrikaans book, set on a farm in the province of the Western Cape. The book was translated with the author's input and won a local translation award. Agaat is a very long book. Also heavy, but I read it on Kindle. This in two sentences could be a summary of my revie There's a tendency in the local literary community to over-value South African literature because it is South African. This in two sentences could be a summary of my review.

Of course, much of the story is missing.

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The book flicks through three perspectives, set in different time periods. For much of the book, the scenarios repeat themselves, without revealing anything that could not have been revealed more succinctly. Language influences the way we think and vice versa. Afrikaans literature often has a specific tone and approach.

There is of course the love of the land, literally the land, which comes from fighting for survival with and against the earth around you. As this suggests, there is some sentimentalism - interest in the most minute details of interpersonal relationships. And tedious. The relationships are unfailingly distressing, until reading becomes a mental exercise in combatting depression. Transformative moments are alluded to and then turn out only towards the end of the book, as though the author were saving them to be ordinary, as in consistent with the rest of the book.

But the characters, despite these moments, remain the same. Over odd years. I understand why the book won awards, apart from the industry's permanent waxing. It is well-written, by an author who is clearly experienced.

AGAAT a Best Translated Book Award finalist! — Blake Friedmann

Perhaps it reads better in Afrikaans. However, it reads like a short story strung out over or so pages. It's worth reading if you're not familiar with the setting or culture, but take your happy pills first. Sep 25, Sookie rated it really liked it Shelves: literary-fiction , translated. Once Van Nierkerk style becomes familiar, Agaat becomes an incredibly personal read. With her lyrical style the translator mentions in advance the difficulty in translating some of the verses and period dependent colloquialism , she writes a story that takes place in a farm and the relationships that born and die.

A Journal of English Studies

The story itself is a mask to the fundamental issue that the country is undergoing - apartheid. Agaat is born in the year apartheid was institutionalized. Thus begins her journey in a Once Van Nierkerk style becomes familiar, Agaat becomes an incredibly personal read. Thus begins her journey in a farm with young white family and her relationship with the mistress of the house - Milla. Van Niekerk's narration isn't linear and this slows the pacing, and stumbles to find footing when inferences have to be made while reading some diary entries.

For a novel of this size, this back and forth is a bit of tedious exercise and discovering more about a character based on their diary can give a biased view. With Milla now succumbing to ALS, her point of view is very dynamic and has a voice-over quality to it. With Agaat, Van Niekerk shifts the tone to that of sombre matter-of-fact that is often detached and tints with her underlying anger.