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J.D.F. Jones: Novels on South Africa, 11 November 1999

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 366 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 571 19733 7
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Manly Pursuits 
by Ann Harries.
Bloomsbury, 340 pp., £15.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4293 7
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... 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 ...

Into Africa

J.D.F. Jones, 19 April 1990

My Traitor’s Heart 
by Rian Malan.
Bodley Head, 349 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 0 370 31354 2
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... 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

Under the Skin 
by David Caute.
Allen Lane, 447 pp., £14.95, February 1983, 0 7139 1357 6
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The K-Factor 
by David Caute.
Joseph, 216 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 7181 2260 7
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... 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? It seems so long ago. Zimbabwe has just celebrated the third anniversary of its independence. Comrade Robert Mugabe rules ...

Van der Posture

J.D.F. Jones, 3 February 1983

Yet Being Someone Other 
by Laurens van der Post.
Hogarth, 352 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 7012 1900 9
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... I’m beginning to feel more and more strongly about the more spiritual aspect of life ... 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 ...

Some Flim-Flam with Socks

Adam Kuper: Laurens van der Post, 3 January 2002

Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post 
by J.D.F. Jones.
Murray, 505 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5580 9
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... Charles and Margaret Thatcher. He used to tell Thatcher stories of the Zulus, to which, J.D.F. Jones was told by a frustrated civil servant, ‘she would listen with delight, her jaw agape.’ (‘No evil thought ever entered his mind,’ she herself assured the biographer.) He accompanied Charles on a brief excursion to the fringes of the Kalahari and ...

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