Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
Ever since Nelson Mandela dramatically walked out of prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years behind bars, South Africa has been undergoing a radical transformation. In one of the most miraculous events of the century, the oppressive system of apartheid was dismantled. Repressive laws mandating separation of the races were thrown out. The country, which had been carved into a crazy quilt that reserved the most prosperous areas for whites and the most desolate and backward for blacks, was reunited. The dreaded and dangerous security force, which for years had systematically tortured, spied upon, and harassed people of color and their white supporters, was dismantled. But how could this country--one of spectacular beauty and promise--come to terms with its ugly past? How could its people, whom the oppressive white government had pitted against one another, live side by side as friends and neighbors?
To begin the healing process, Nelson Mandela created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by the renowned cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Established in 1995, the commission faced the awesome task of hearing the testimony of the victims of apartheid as well as the oppressors. Amnesty was granted to those who offered a full confession of any crimes associated with apartheid. Since the commission began its work, it has been the central player in a drama that has riveted the country. In this book, Antjie Krog, a South African journalist and poet who has covered the work of the commission, recounts the drama, the horrors, the wrenching personal stories of the victims and their families. Through the testimonies of victims of abuse and violence, from the appearance of Winnie Mandela to former South African president P. W. Botha's extraordinary courthouse press conference, this award-winning poet leads us on an amazing journey.
Country of My Skull captures the complexity of the Truth Commission's work. The narrative is often traumatic, vivid, and provocative. Krog's powerful prose lures the reader actively and inventively through a mosaic of insights, impressions, and secret themes. This compelling tale is Antjie Krog's profound literary account of the mending of a country that was in colossal need of change.
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If he's close to a mealie patch where I won't be able to find him, I try to wound him in the legs . . . all the time petrified that I might kill him and then have to live with it, deal with it for the rest of my bloody life .
Is it possible that a commission could find itself clinging to a morality that is respected nowhere else in the country? And the idea of truth. Even if it's not spelled with a capital . . . Nadine Gordimer once asked a black writer: ...
“Wouldn't people find you intimidating?. . . Here I am and I don't know whether I should say 'Your Highness' or 'Father' or 'Bishop' . . .” “You can call me anything as long as you don't call me 'Your Graan ciousness, he laughs.
The commission will have to find its way in uncharted territory. He also warns against having too many theologians on the commission—”It could end up as the Church Commission.” Deal carefully with the concept of collective guilt, ...
Against all odds, we find ourselves in front of the gates of President Mandela's official residence—“the house with the name that whites cannot remember.” The guards stop us. We open the window and explain in four different languages ...
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryCin - LibraryThing
2.5 stars Shortly after Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed to listen to victims and perpetrators of apartheid. If perpetrators applied ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - patrickgarson - LibraryThing
Country of My Skull is an astonishing book. Krog's attempt to embrace, explicate, and bear witness to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is complicated, creative, flawed, distressing ... Read full review
FOUR The Narrative of Betrayal Has to Be Reinvented Every Time
FIVE The Sound of the Second Narrative
Let Us Hear It in Another Language
NINE The Political Page Curls over Itself
The Lesser of Two Evils
In Transit with the Ghosts
FIFTEEN It Gets to All of Usfrom Tutu to Mamasela
SEVENTEEN Then Burst the Mighty Heart
EIGHTEEN The Shepherd and the Landscape of My Bones 259
NINETEEN A Tragedy of Errors
TWENTY Mother Faces the Nation
TWENTYONE Beloved Country of Grief and Grace
TWELVE The Political Tongue at Anchor
THIRTEEN Blood Rains in Every Latitude 175
FOURTEEN Letters on the Acoustics of Scars
Cast of Characters