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Friday, February 10, 2012

My traitor's heart

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On the Honor’s Essay description, it says that your past students couldn’t imagine what it would be like to read Kaffir Boy without reading My Traitor’s Heart, and I have to say that agree with them. Kaffir Boy and My Traitor’s Heart and two very different books that have different styles of writing and different stories, but are still about the same subjects. Kaffir Boy is written as a kind of autobiography…it follows the story of one and his quest to get out of Apartheid South Africa. My Traitor’s Heart is written differently. It centers around Rian Malan’s life as he comes back to South Africa from living in America. He came back to “face his fears”, you could say. He goes around as a reporter and experiences many things, hears many stories, and writes them all down. So, as you can see, they are two very different books.


When I first started to re-examine Kaffir Boy for this essay, I found it hard to get back into the mindset of a black South African coming from the whole story being viewed from the perspective of a wealthy, middle class white man. As I started to skim it to refresh my memory…I was almost shocked at how a different it is from My Traitor’s Heart. I personally think that Kaffir Boy is a much better book, in both content and the style of writing. Even though it was and is important to see both sides of the story, I think that the story told in Kaffir Boy is a much more important and interesting story. I had no clue about what hardships blacks went though while living in Apartheid South Africa. Before I read this book I didn’t even know what Apartheid was. The story told both tears the heart and makes you think. As you go through the book…the real face of apartheid starts becoming clearer and clearer …and as it does you get pulled in by the characters and actions…you actually FEEL the hunger, the abuse, the determination. It’s a very powerful book. This book is easily my favorite of the two.


As I re-read this, and I’m already thinking about the next section which is about My Traitor’s Heart, it finally occurred to me that these books are about two very different sides of the apartheid system. Each side saw it as something different. The “blacks” saw it as an evil method to keep them down, and the “whites” saw it simply as something to tame the blacks…because if they were allowed to live in the white’s world…things would be chaotic. It wouldn’t work. Apartheid is for their own good. And I came to the realization about why I like Kaffir Boy so much more than My Traitor’s Heart…it’s a better story. Its much more dramatic. I think that the true apartheid doesn’t lie in the white’s definition nor the blacks….but somewhere in the middle. I’m not saying that bad things didn’t happen to blacks…no, I’m just saying that…I don’t know what I’m saying.


My Traitor’s Heart is a very different book than what Kaffir Boy is. For one, it shows the White’s side of the story… it is also a much broader study on apartheid…integrating both white and black perspectives (but mostly, in the beginning of the book, focusing on the white’s perspective). Unlike Kaffir Boy, this book does not center around just one story…it’s more like an anthology of stories the author picked up while being a reporter. These stories are intertwined within one big story…that of the reporter. That may sound contradictory, but its really not. Anyways, as we go on through the book, we see the anti-apartheid movement grow and grow, until it bursts. Where as Kaffir Boy deals with the time period during and pre-protests, My Traitor’s Heart deals with the time period also during and pre-protests, but also after the protests and the effects of them. The effects of them being mostly a government that doesn’t have any power anymore…the blacks are free, but things are still not solved. I suppose the biggest thing this book teaches it’s readers is there is never a simple answer to a complicated problem. Also that violence is not all that is needed to change things…sometimes its not even needed at all.





My feelings on apartheid are pretty simple. I think that the original idea was different than what actually happened. I do not think that the creators of this now evil device meant for it to do so much damage…they just wanted to keep things at a safe level…to keep things under control. Of course that didn’t happen…so now I must judge the end result. Apartheid was a horrible, devastating device that shouldn’t of happen and shouldn’t happen again. I like to think of it as a very advanced case of racism. Of course it was treatable…but not without a cost. So many people lost their lives, their cultures, and their dignity. We cannot give them back those things. But, what we can do, is make sure it never happens again, and that we start to create a world full of understanding and unity. That’s the key to surviving, I think understanding and unity. Now, this isn’t limited to South Africa…this goes for the entire world. Until we reach a point where everyone can tolerate everyone else, where there is no hate and lots of love…we are doomed.





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