Sunday, November 4, 2012

"The song before it sung" by Justin Cartwright

I find blogs like She Reads Novels quite intimidating - "She" (the blogger) is clearly quite a voracious reader and also writes clear and interesting reviews. I came across her in connection with the very book that I have just finished reading - Justin Cartwright's The song before it is sung. "She" didn't enjoy it.

I, however, did. Not because the story is sensible or the characters solidly presented - by which I mean that you feel you know them. The book achieved the "lyrical" quality which I really enjoy more often that not, and which for me at any rate makes up for a lack of a clear storyline or characters.

In the end however, I found myself wondering whether the South African origins of the author in anyway influenced his choice of subject. I certainly will always carry with me that I grew up white in Apartheid South Africa. My family was not politically active, but nevertheless against. My family is not even patriotic in any sense, neither on the South African or Norwegian side. The very loyalty which is so distinct a quality in Africa fascinates me. The loyalty and sense of belong which the character Axel von Gottburg had reminds me a lot of that.

In fact there were many parallels for me between Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa, and the inability of some to be able to let go of their loyalty and sense of belongingness (is that a word?). The reaction to the recent article in the Economist on South Africa brought that to the fore. That is something which I do not share, but which I can, well, recognise and have some respect for really.

That is what this book tapped into for me, and a book which reverberates with something inside you is never a wasted read.

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