Perspectives on Southern Africa

David Goodman, Author, Paul Weinberg, Author, Paul Weinberg, Photographer
David Goodman, Author, Paul Weinberg, Author, Paul Weinberg, Photographer University of California Press $44.95 (410p) ISBN 978-0-520-21736-2
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In this richly textured book, Goodman--who first went to South Africa as an activist in 1984 and returned for a year in 1996--profiles four pairs of people who dramatize the country's current conflicts and contradictions. The most gripping section concerns South Africa's deep rifts over land redistribution and amnesty: Frank Chikane, a former activist now in the government, must justify his government's rightward economic drift; his one-time torturer, a white ex-cop who became a killer during South Africa's Namibian war, is now a wreck. The story of Wilhelm Verwoerd, son of apartheid's architect, and his estranged son, a supporter of the African National Congress, dramatizes the schisms among Afrikaners. South Africa's enduring poverty--and potential opportunity--is shown in the juxtaposition of a black councilwoman near Cape Town and a brazen businesswoman who exploits white guilt and doesn't flinch at blaming fellow blacks. And on the platteland, where Afrikaner farmers still beat black workers, the return of land to displaced blacks proceeds slowly. Goodman contextualizes these tales with a savvy understanding of both South Africa's history and its slow, troubled transformation. While his book doesn't encompass all of the country's fault lines of region, ethnicity and class, Goodman eloquently conveys why he has been obsessed by South Africa and its trials. Ultimately, he finds South Africans' passion for their country inspirational, and so will most readers. Photos by Paul Weinberg. First serial to the New Yorker. (Apr.)
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