A Fork In The Road

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Updating list Reviewed March 3, nice people, good food. Date of visit: October Thank drmkjones. Reviewed March 18, Something has changed, not for the good. Date of visit: March Thank FranJJ Reviewed October 21, Lots of choices. Thank beebutter. Reviewed October 2, Great sandwiches. Date of visit: September Thank sandypondman Reviewed April 30, via mobile Fabulous sandwiches.

Date of visit: April Thank ConorR What made things worse was that Brink wrote of such unspeakable things in Afrikaans. The censors, dull worthies drawn from Afrikaans academia who had enthusiastically suppressed all sorts of writing in English for years, felt obliged to silence one of their own. It is hard to convey now the revulsion, the frenzy and the hypocrisy that love across racial lines exercised in the minds of our old rulers.

It drove them frantic - because it terrified them, and even more so because there was so much of it about.

The banning of Looking on Darkness caused a scandal, certainly, but it also came as something of a relief. Until then, anyone who read great swatches of Afrikaans literature came across a puzzling phenomenon. With few exceptions, it was a conversation conducted by people in a locked room, painted white and heavily barred, where "Africa" was a lyrical and rather sentimental cult, to be extolled and cherished; but it was an Africa where few other Africans existed, except as savages, servants or simpletons.

So in many ways, it seemed to me, the banning was a heartening move. I remember saying as much at the time, and the outrage among the guardians of the purity of "the volk" was something to see. Brink has always been quick - some might say too quick - to tie his novels to the hot-button events of the apartheid regime. His autobiography revisits many of these vital markers of South African political history - the Sharpeville shootings, the Soweto risings, the murder of Steve Biko and the release of Nelson Mandela.

But here they are interwoven with memories of lovers, marriages, operas and literary junkets in Africa, Poland and South America in what becomes a crowded, whistle-stop tour of a busy life.

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Politicians are "ebullient" or "scintillating"; Paris is wonderful, Albert Camus is his beacon, or as Brink has it, his "phare". The tone becomes that of the after-dinner speaker determined to find a graceful word for everyone: and compliments go out to those who have helped him along his writerly way, each stuck fast with a dab of adjectival treacle: the "flamboyant" Herbert von Karajan, the "ineffable" Beethoven, and the "fatherly" Chinua Achebe.

Happily, Brink does not bow out among the great, the good and the dead. There is a good deal of fight left in the man who once had his critics and his friends hopping up and down with annoyance, never sure what infuriated them more - his opinion of himself, or his scathing view of them. The real kick in this book comes last. After supporting all his life the vision of a better way for all in South Africa, Brink is appalled by what change has brought and he is not afraid to say so.

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He tears into a governing elite who resemble nothing so much as the brigands they succeeded - who substitute for the vox populi of the ballot box the vox dei of the ruling party; preside over a "tsunami" of crime and violence that terrorises everyone in the country; prefer quackery to antiretroviral drugs in the fight against Aids; and unapologetically back tyrannies from Burma to Sudan and Zimbabwe. The final pages of A Fork in the Road are made of the stuff that once got him banned.

But in the end, faced by having to choose despair or good cheer, Brink quixotically opts for both. This is just as well because anyone claiming to see the road ahead is dangerously confused. Topics History books. Society books reviews. Reuse this content.