States of Emergency

Andre Philippus Brink, Author Summit Books $18.45 (248p) ISBN 978-0-671-67155-6
The nameless narrator of Brink's daring, brilliant novel is a South African writer who struggles to perfect a love story ``untarnished by politics.'' But the political fact of apartheid intrudes constantly on the story-within-a-story romance of Philip Malan, married, 50ish professor, and Melissa, his 23-year-old graduate student and mistress. Her ex-boyfriend, an up-and-coming instructor, leads anti-apartheid protests that shake her complacency. And Philip, we learn, broke off an affair with a woman from Martinique during the Paris riots of 1968 because of their ethnic differences--a move he now considers a repugnant act of cowardice. A second plot is introduced when the narrator discovers the feverish diary of a white woman recently burned to death who had been romantically involved with a black terrorist fugitive. These separate love stories collide and interpenetrate in the narrator's imagination, against a backdrop of escalating racial violence. Within this highly self-referential format, Brink ( A Dry White Season ) demonstrates that neither love nor art offers an escape; even the imagination is determined by political realities. What might have been a dry academic exercise in the hands of a lesser writer is here a gripping, urgent report from the combat zone, a profound meditation on the power and bondage of the writer's craft. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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