Archive for the ‘Rian Malan’s great book ‘My Traitor’s Heart”’ Category


October 23, 2010


The final chapters of this compelling and passionate book cover the lives of on Neil and Creina Alcock, who lived among the Zulu.  Theirs is a gripping story that embodies the whole book — but so do most of the stories . The book sobers; it stuns; it reminds one of what lies deep in the heart of the heart throughout the world: fear of the other, white fear of black and black fear of white. Probably no country on planet earth dramatizes that story more than South Africa.

Yet still a miracle that apartheid could be dismantled without even more bloodshed…

from epic injustice to epic reconciliation!

“Trust can never be a fortress, a safe enclosure against life. Trusting is dangerous. But without trust there is no hope for love, and love is all we have to hold against the dark.”

– Creina Alcock

There is, of course, a problem with love. On the one hand it seems to promise us everything, happiness, pleasure, a sense of security and well-being which nothing else on earth can provide; on the other hand it can let us down so easily and to such an extent that life becomes miserable and hardly worth living. Love can promise the world, but it can also be the cause of great unhappiness if its expectations are not met. Creina Alcock expresses well how she felt betrayed by her expectations of love, or rather by what she had been led to expect of love.

“I felt utterly betrayed by loving. All the things I had ever been told about love just weren’t true. It was full of false promises. I understood that love was a safety and a protection, and that if you loved you would be rewarded by someone loving you back, or at least not wanting to damage you. But it wasn’t true, any of it. I knew that if I stayed, this was how it was going to be: It would never get any better; it would stay the same or get worse. I thought if you’re really going to live in Africa, you have to be able to look at it and say, This is the way of love, down this road: Look at it hard. This is where it is going to lead you”

(Quoted in Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart, Vintage International, 1991, p 409) 

You could say that is precisely what Jesus did with his disciples when he told them that they must love. He made them take a good hard look at what it really means to love. In no uncertain terms he (Jesus) spells out for them what true love is all about. “I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, …” There is certainly nothing soft or sentimental about that; they must love in the same way as God loves, who “is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish”. This is not a self-seeking love, nor a love which promises comfort.

Creina Alcock discovered that the hard way – “The path of love is not a path of comfort. It means going forward into the unknown with no guarantee of safety, even though you’re afraid. Trusting is dangerous, but without trust there is no hope for love, and love is all we ever have to hold against the dark.

(ibid p 423) 

As adapted from


sarainbow (

South African rainbow

 There is also an excellent blog on My Traitor’s Heart at




September 24, 2010
The New Rainbow by Craig Lock

The New Rainbow people


Go to

PART FOUR: SOUTH AFRICA, “the still beloved country”

Tags (key words): books, South Africa, Rian Malan, My Traitor’s Heart, great books
Blood and Bad dreams:
A South African Explores the Madness in His Country, Hias Tribe and Himself
Published by Vintage (1990)
Then he (Malan) started to write the book South Africa wanted him to write. The book about how and why we kill each other, ‘My Traitor’s Heart’.

“How do I live in this strange place?”
– Bernoldus Niemand, from the Boer reggae song, ‘Reggae Vibes Is Cool’      
Don Mattera (former gang leader, known as “Bra Zinger”)
I don’t know it will end, but I can tell you HOW it began.
                                                            “We were poised on the cusp of history”

“The tide of history had turned”

“On the trash-heap of history”

‘mlungu’ = white man

“It might be hard for you to understand this being an outsider; but South Africa holds the souls of its sons and daughters in an almost inescapable gasp. History cast all of us in a strange and gripping drama, but I had deserted the stage. I had no idea what my role was, and felt I would never be whole until I found out!”

“I didn’t learn about the paradox by living in South Africa’s white suburbs; I learnt about it on the police beat.”
– Rian Malan

“To live in Africa, you must know what it’s like to die in Africa.”
– Ernest Hemingway
“It’s a celebration of a man’s unique vision, a vision which reaches out and shines, touching with magic the drama of life across it’s limitless horizons.”
– anon

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