Return to South Africa
THOUGH my latest return to South Africa coincided (quite unintentionally) with the country’s savage political crisis, my single overwhelming impression of South Africa, when I look back now, is not political. What I chiefly remember of the country are its spaces, simply; all the forlorn and undramatic landscapes of a country that still seems to lie bereft of any human past, untouched by its own history. Blue sky, brown earth, and people who live unaccommodated between: that is the abiding image of South Africa. There is something remote, far-sunken about the land, dwarfing the people who live in it, and making them, in turn, seem remote from one another. Divided and self-divided again, they live: the English-speaking whites, the Afrikaans-speaking whites, the black-skinned peoples, speaking a multitude of their own languages. Yet, strangely, it wasn’t the blacks who seemed most remote to me this time, but the Afrikaners, the Boers, who claim, of all South Africans, to be most truly South African. If they are, it is because, in a lost country, they are most lost: a people with a past they are unable to recognize for what it was, a present that is hateful to them, and no future at all.
About the Author