Now that we have started working on the film adaptation of The Afrikaner, reviews of the novel like the one provided by fantasy author Cindy Vallar on her blog may contribute to the creation of an emotional road map for the film script. I have copied and pasted the review here below, highlighting in bold keywords indicative of the emotional terrain the main character of the story, 33-year old paleontologist Zoe du Plessis (“the Afrikaner” of the title), is treading upon. Let’s use this review as an opportunity to discuss Zoe’s journey into her African-cum-European psyche. We can think of it as a “rite of passage” into a new level of individual and collective awareness, together with all the mixed feelings that come with it. Thanks again to Cindy Vallar for providing further food for literary creativity.
“Devastated at the senseless death of her lover, South African paleontologist Zoe Du Plessis flees Johannesburg for her childhood home on the Cape. She risked her heart, only to discover that the warnings of her female ancestors weren’t absurd chimeras of previous firstborn daughters. To come to terms with both reality and her grief, she embarks on a journey of inner reflection that is intertwined with acceptance of the past, standing up for what she believes, and taking chances in spite of her own biasness in an ever-changing world in the aftermath of racial segregation.
This rite of passage is hers alone to make, but each step intersects with others in unforeseen ways. Andrè, her younger brother, wants to replace the white director of the family winery with a black man. Koma, an old Bushman and shaman, emerges from the vast nothingness of the desert to renew their acquaintance. Whether the deep sadness in his eyes is his own or a mirror of hers, a “thief of stories” warns that their destinies are intertwined. From the grave, her aunt and great aunt share a dark secret of the distant past that impacted their lives, while Dario Oldani, her co-worker and lover, compels her to go beyond the comforts of her research lab to continue his hunt for the birthplace of humans in the Kalahari. But navigating the unknown doesn’t come without risk.
The Afrikaner is a story of self-reflection, of coming to terms with the past, present, and the future. Dagnino’s poignant, compelling, you-are-there tale draws us so deep into Zoe’s world that we experience each and every emotion. Her vivid depictions of time and place transport us to the turbulence of South Africa, before, during, and after apartheid until we share both Zoe’s discomfort and love for the land of her birth. It is a haunting portrayal of devastating grief and rational resurgence; once read, neither Zoe nor her experiences are easily forgotten.” (Cindy Vallar, http://www.cindyvallar.com)