The Waiting Country: A South African Witness

Mike Nicol, Author Victor Gollancz $13.95 (211p) ISBN 978-0-575-05915-3
With all the precision of a fine miniaturist, South African novelist Nicol (This Day and Age) captures the personalities and events leading up to South Africa's historic election of Nelson Mandela as President and its aftermath. The narrative rambles (intentionally so, warns the author), beginning with one random event and ending at another, in order to emphasize South Africa's state of flux. Sometimes, Nicol sits in his pink house in a mixed-race neighborhood near Capetown and ponders his family's settler past. Elsewhere, he explores former scenes of heinous crimes, one now an innocuous-looking roadside site covered with flowers, and wonders if the country's memory of such crimes will ever be similarly transformed. And that's Nicol's main theme-can a country with such past hatred and violence forget and forge ahead? He updates a 1989 interview with a mixed-race couple and learns that they are not so optimistic and plan to emigrate in order to provide their children with a more promising future than what they believe lies ahead for the new South Africa. Nicol's interviews with blacks laid off from Ford and GM as a result of disinvestment offers a powerful glimpse into the effect of international actions on individuals. While Nicol never presumes to answer that question directly, his account leads the reader to wonder if black South Africans may be more willing to forgive than the country's minority white population. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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