23 March 2007

where the end will begin

‘Lavender mountains with a snail trail spittle of last winter’s snow’

Nadine Gordimer describes places with a poet’s eye. And read a line at a time, would have satisfied my desire for beautiful writing. But as a novel it felt cluttered and clumsy. The narrative style was complicated and made it nearly impossible to tell who was the storyteller at any one time.

I disliked Rosa Burger and felt unable to engage with her. I couldn’t relate to her. She lives in a way that is foreign to me. There were huge differences between us, not just because of the oceans that separate us, but in the way we live our lives. Perhaps the only thing I recognise is being someone’s daughter. But then, maybe it is not necessary to feel an affinity with every character I read. I will have to ponder this on my further travels.

the navigator

sadness in their voices and their eyes

Burger’s Daughter is the story of Rosa Burger. She is the daughter of political activists who were heavily involved and eventually imprisoned for their anti–apartheid beliefs and work. The title of the book is very important – Rosa is defined by her parentage, in particular her father. She will never be an independent person in her own right. She will always be a daughter.

‘There is no formula for dealing with death’

The book deals with death and violence, rape and torture. Rosa is honest and blunt when describing the life she has had and the things she has seen. She appears aloof and has no need for anyone. She does have a boyfriend, Conrad. She finds the relationship difficult knowing that she will never be a normal girl and struggling with the fact that Conrad says he loves her. How can he?

My time in South Africa is short. I don’t want to linger here, there is too much hurt. I feel uneasy with the book, uncomfortable to stay with Rosa for too long. I almost feel as though she is lying to me. Perhaps everything is not as it seems.

‘Sometimes he was not asleep when he appeared to be’

the navigator