adrian is rad


Country of My Skull

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:39 pm

I just finished Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa by Antjie Korg (pronounced “ahnt-key kroge”). It recounts the events and stories of the Truth and Reconcilliation Commision (TRC) as told by an Afrikaaner poet and South African Broadcast Company (SABC) radio correspondent.

I’ve been reading it on and (mostly) off since about Christmas. It’s not a quick read, certainly, and it is, at times, overly academic or swamped by the language, but it’s undoubtedly a very important and valuable thing to read. There are many sections that are direct transcriptions of the testamonies of victims and perpatrators that are so effecting that I simply had to put the book down. I also found the sections where she reacts to the events very interesting.

Here’s one such passage:

The proceedings are concluded with the anthem. I stand, caught unaware by the Sesotho version and the knowledge that I am white, that I have to reacquaint myself with this land, that my language carriers violence as a voice, that I can do nothing about it, that after so many years I still feel uneasy with what is mine, with what is me. The woman next to me looks suprised when I sing the Free State version of “Nkosi [Sikelel’ iAfrica].” She smiles, holds her head close to mine, and shifts to the alto part. The song leader opens the melody to us. The sopranos envelop; the bass voices support. And I wonder: God. Does He hear us? Does He know what our hearts are yearning for? That we all just want to be human—some with more color, some with less, but all with air and sun. And I wade into song—in a language that is not mine, in a tongue I do not know. It is fragrant inside the song, and among the keynotes of sorrow and suffering, there are soft silences where we who belong to this landscape, all of us, can come to rest.

Maybe this has meaning to me, but not you.

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