J.D.F. Jones

J.D.F. Jones’s most recent novel is The Buchan Papers. He is writing the authorised biography of Laurens van der Post.

Chevril: novels on South Africa

J.D.F. Jones, 11 November 1999

The Anglo-Boer War broke out on 11 October 1899. Two and three-quarter years later, at a conservative estimate, 22,000 Britons, 25,000 Boers and at least 12,000 Africans were dead: Anglo-Boer relations would not recover for a century. The centenary, one gathers, has been celebrated in the new South Africa with a certain diffidence. What could Nelson Mandela or his successor really contribute to the occasion? The English South Africans had been triumphant for a time, and had the wit to extend the hand of friendship to their enemies in the Union of 1910. The Boers took revenge in 1948 and we all know the unhappy story since then. Both sides are now bypassed for ever.

Into Africa

J.D.F. Jones, 19 April 1990

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.’’

Zimbabwe is kenge

J.D.F. Jones, 7 July 1983

‘What will you tell your children?’ asks the Zipra guerrilla as he says goodbye to Caute and vanishes back into the bush. (The Zimbabwean handshake: hands, thumbs, then hands again.) What did you do in the war, Daddy? Tell us, what was it like?

Van der Posture

J.D.F. Jones, 3 February 1983

I’m beginning to feel more and more strongly about the more spiritual aspect of lift … I’ve found the writings of C.G. Jung absolutely fascinating and very much an inspiration and a help to me … If we can but understand our innermost workings, there is so much we can then do to control, perhaps, some of the worst excesses of human beings in terms of good and evil … The danger in the West is that so much has overlaid the meaning of our existence that we have lost track of our point of being here … We get swept along in a tide of so-called progress but lose touch with our own humanity.

In 1972, when his reputation was close to its peak, Laurens van der Post published a novel called A Story like the Wind. Reviewing it in the TLS, I wrote that it was an old-fashioned colonial...

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