Rian Malan’s Afrikaner roots stretch back almost as far as you can go, to a Huguenot arriving in Cape Town in 1688. The Malans have been at the heart of things ever since: at Slagtersnek in 1815, at Blood River in 1838, on Majuba in 1881; bittereinders in 1902, at the head of the first National Party Government in 1948, in Cabinet today. But the family image he makes central to this book is of Dawid the Younger who in 1788 deserted his homestead and ran away with a slave girl, riding across the Great Fish River, out into Africa, where the Xhosas and the Boers first confronted each other and South Africa’s war began – ‘a war without end, a war that just was, and still is, for what started then is still not finished today.’
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[*] Viking, 320 pp., £14.95, 1988, 0 670 81794 5.