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An Act of Terror


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'An Act of Terror belongs to that small group of novels embracing a country's ethos and history in one panoptic vision... Peter Carey... Garcia Marquez... Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andre Brink must be considered with that class of writer' - Guardian

About the Author

Andre Brink (1935 - 2015) was one of South Africa's most prominent writers and is the author of several novels, including A Dry White Season, Imaginings of Sand, The Rights of Desire, The Other Side of Silence and Philida. He has won South Africa's most important literay prize, the CNA Award, three times and has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His last novel, Philida, was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2012.


Enormously ambitious, dauntingly long and written with a profound knowledge of his country's landscape and people, this latest work by the author of A Dry White Season could qualify as the Great South African Novel. By far Brink's most impressive accomplishment to date, it touches a myriad of bases. Thomas Landman, a young news photographer from an old Boer family, has gradually become caught up in the struggle for racial justice. He has joined an anonymous Organization that performs terrorist acts designed to undermine the apartheid government; at the start of the book he detonates a car bomb that, intended to assassinate a provincial president, kills a number of bystanders. The rest of the narrative is a study of his family, horrified by his act; the police brigadier obsessed with his pursuit and capture; people he meets as he makes his getaway; friends and colleagues in the Organization; and, above all, the two women in his life, Nina and Lisa. The former is a fellow terrorist, the latter, encountered by chance, links her destiny with his. Brink has enormous range: he penetrates with seeming ease a dozen personalities, from poor black schoolteacher to pitiful white army recruit to coldly ambitious judge to sorrowing mother, so that the book is at once a psychological study of a country and an often breathtaking chase thriller. In a novel that aims so high, inevitably there are flaws: the style occasionally becomes ponderous, the personality sketches sometimes reduce the tension, and the people in the Organization are almost inhumanly self-controlled and noble. Still, the thoroughness with which the South African psyche is explored and the high intelligence and empathy with which the nature of terrorism is dissected combine to create a memorable political panorama. Most of the book was clearly written in the height of anti-apartheid passion, and the rather lame closing pages, in which Landman wonders whether all the agony was necessary in view of the current rapprochement, are inevitably anticlimactic. But Brink has risen splendidly to the challenge of a major theme, and his book will stand as a salutary reminder of a terrible time. (Jan.)

A young Afrikaner is drawn into a conspiracy to assassinate the president of South Africa. The attempt fails, leaving black and white bystanders dead in its wake, and he flees consumed with grief but still convinced of the rightness of his actions. There are echoes here of Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter ( LJ 7/79) and Marge Piercy's Vida ( LJ 1/15/80), but Brink's story is wholly his own. The novel moves back and forth with ease among the varied voices that comprise Thomas's life--family, lovers, terrorists, blacks, pursuers--to expose the corrosive effects of a vicious and corrupt system on its supporters and opponents alike. The novel is not comfortable to read, for its burning indignation leaves no room for moral complacency. Yet Brink sympathizes with the plight of oppressor as well as oppressed; everyone pays in a system of absolute injustice. There will be few books this year as good as this, and none that moves the heart as much.-- David Keymer, SUNY Inst. of Technology, Utica

A political thriller, set in South Africa, laced with all the angst and pain and lacerating emotion that comes from attempting to intellectualise, and hence come to terms with, living in that volatile, unnerving, but ultimately fascinating land -- Peter Brown * Time Out *
An Act of Terror is the work of a sane, civilised, intelligent man- a story about events that are in the process of becoming news stories. Brink... is a writer of inspired violence, and his shifts of viewpoint are thrilling and significant, and deepy honouring the profession of literature -- Hugh Barnes * The Times *
This is clearly Andre Brink's tour de force * Time Out *

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