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The Mirror at Midnight


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About the Author

ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of ten books. King Leopold's Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.


Hochschild, a cofounder of Mother Jones magazine and author of the acclaimed memoir Half Way Home ( LJ 5/15/86; an LJ ``Best Book of 1986''), here takes readers on a journey back to the Battle of Blood River in 1838. This was a pivotal point in South African history, Hochschild says, since it was the beginning of white South Africans' sense of manifest destiny and the root of their current apartheid policies. Antagonism between Dutch and English settlers in South Africa led to a great trek to supposedly unclaimed land; Hochschild shows how this was really achieved by displacing (and killing) the native black inhabitants. In the retelling of this history, Hochschild gives readers food for thought and reassessment about modern South Africa, and provides American readers with some uncomfortable parallels to our own sense of manifest destiny and treatment of natives. Many good books on South Africa have been published recently, but this offers an intriguing new perspective. A good choice for all libraries.-- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville

In a stunning blend of reportage, travelogue, history and meditation, Hochschild focuses on the Great Trek of 1836-1839, when Boer coastal settlers, armed with muskets, ox whips and Bibles, staked out the borders of modern South Africa. He reenacts the pivotal Battle of Blood River in 1838, in which countless Zulus were massacred, and explains how Dingane, tall, stout chief of the Zulus' military kingdom, was demonized later by white historians. Today the Great Trek is part of ``the 150-year-old national myth of Afrikaners- as-victims.'' Turning to reportage, Hochschild ( Half the Way Home ), who visited South Africa in 1988, interviewed the head of a neo-Nazi group, a ``coloured'' (racially mixed) teacher who spent 10 years in a black-only prison, and the four Watson brothers, rugby stars who have been targets of repeated assassination attempts for refusing to play on all-white teams. An epilogue covers events up to the present. One of the most illuminating books ever written on contemporary South Africa, this biopsy probes the racial divide in razor-sharp prose. (Nov.)

YA-- A plethora of books about apartheid and South Africa have appeared in this column recently, but Hochschild's book puts forth a historical outlook explaining modern South African problems. By retelling the story of the 1838 Battle of Blood River, he focuses on conflicts between Dutch and English settlers as they moved into ``unclaimed'' land and thus uprooted and killed native blacks. Hochschild indicates that feelings of apartheid had their beginnings here. This is a strong addition to African history sections, and bright, mature YAs will draw comparisons to this continent's white man and the Native American.-- Mike Printz, Topeka West High School, KS

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