(c) 2005-2007 Oliver Bonten
Three Rivers Press
One of the things I enjoy when I'm on vacation is to read a lot of magazines I don't find the time to read when I'm working. Among those magazines are The Economist, Newsweek and, when I'm in Asia, the Far East Economic Review. (I guess one of the first things I'll do when I retire is to subscribe to The Economist.) In some of those magazines there are reviews of books I would otherwise never have heard about. One of those books is "Country of My Skull" by Antije Krog, which was reviewed in one of those magazines in autumn, 2003.
"Country of My Skull" is a book about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Ms. Krog is a radio reporter, and she was assigned to report on the commission for SABC, a South African Radio Station.
This book describes three things: it contains a lot of footage about the proceedings before the commission, i.e., on the "content" of the commission. There is a lot of material on what was heard in the hearings, on eyewitness accounts of many of the atrocities committed (by both sides) in South Africa. It supplies a lot of detail on what happened in South Africa during the Apartheid reign, of the ubiquitous paranoia and other madness in the country. But it also describes a lot of scenes about modern day South Africa, the resentment that remains in many of the boers, and the relative impunity with which black gangs now can rob and kill the remaining rich white citizens.
On another level, the book describes how the commission affected the lives of the people associated with it, what happens to a person who is hearing reports about some of the most terrible things for days, months and weeks without end.
And on the third level, it describes what the commission does to the country, and what it should do or should have done. As the book states, the purpose of the commission was not to tell the victims from the perpetrators, and to bring justice, but to set a starting point at which, after all that has happened, the citizens of that country can again live together in peace. It probably did not achieve that goal.
The book is roughly chronological, but does make some jumps now and then. Krog intertwines reports from the commission with personal experiences in order to discuss ethical concepts or ideas, so the book is not really a report, but more emotional in nature. It is a very interesting book for everybody who is interested in how South Africa is doing now.
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