I am trying so hard not to make a joke about prawns.
December 5, 2012 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I get to go to South Africa to do field work next summer, hurray! I know very little about South African history and culture beyond what I get from the (US) media. I'd like to read a few books between now and then to try and get caught up.

I'll be working on an archaeological dig near Mossel Bay for about a month. I'll be spending a lot of time staring at the back wall of a cave, but I'll have some free time to get out and interact with people on the weekends. In general I'm just looking to get some basic knowledge about the culture and history of the place, but bonus points for stuff written from an anthropological perspective.
posted by TungstenChef to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I read a great book a while back, Rian Malan's My Traitor's Heart.

More recently I read some really good mysteries by Malla Nunn.

And Nadine Gordimer is a must-read.
posted by mareli at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012

This looks like a good list.
posted by mareli at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2012

I just finished an amazing book about the Truth and Reconcialiation commissions, called Country of my Skull.

For classic, there's always Cry The Beloved Country.

For a shorter, excellent piece on the TRC, this article, Mandela's Children is one of the finest pieces I've ever read in NGM.

The Oom Schalk stories are a kind of classical Afrikaaner folk stories/literature.

Andre Brink's Dry, White Season was banned on release - it's hard to fathom how incendiary it was at the time. listen to an interview he did with the BBC about it here.

SA literature is incredibly rich, there's a lot to enjoy!
posted by smoke at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2012

I studied in Cape Town area in college, and have been back twice afterwards. And I was an English major focused on South African Literature. This is the question I have been waiting my entire life for.

Rian Malan's book, My Traitor's Heart is my favourite.

Also mentioned above:
Country of My Skull
Cry, the Beloved Country (In My Country is a good movie version)

Other great ones:
Smell of Apples (Behr)
Embrace (I'd read Smell of Apples first, and only read this one if you like the style)
Imaginings of Sand (Brink)
Disgrace and Age of Iron (J. M. Coetzee)
From Cape Town to Cairo (Peter Moore - not South African, but worth a read for sure)
Triomf (van Niekerk)
Master Harold and the Boys and Tsotsi (Fugard - Tsotsi is also a great film)
Red Dust (Slovo - not my favourite, but okay)
Bitter Fruit (Dangor)
Nervous Conditions (Dangerembga is from Zimbabwe, but it's amazing)

You should DEFINITELY see Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony before going. It's amazing.

I hope that's helpful. I will probably think of some more once I post this....

South African literature is so rich and amazing. Most of the books on this list are ones that changed me in some major way. My Traitor's Heart and Disgrace are two of my top three all-time favourite books.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:23 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, Nthing Disgrace. Very good book.
posted by smoke at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2012

Thanks a lot everyone, my Christmas list is now full. :-)
posted by TungstenChef at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2012

Argh, on re-reading, I found a mistake.

In My Country is a movie version of Country of My Skull.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:49 PM on December 12, 2012

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