Prof Nigel Thomas (Laval University) kindly provided a most engaging reader’s response re The Afrikaner:
“Hello Arianna. I promised you when I bought your book at Paragraphe Bookstore in Montréal to give you my opinion of it. It certainly held my interest, and in that respect it works as any good work of art ought to. Keep the reader wanting to turn the page has been with us from The Arabian Nights to Margaret Atwood. I saw however that you were struggling to deal with the aftermath of apartheid. If you had succeeded in fusing the family curse with the curse of apartheid, the novel might have been more satisfying. I found Kurt to be the most interesting, most authentic character. His life alone would have made for an interesting novel. He carries within him the curse of apartheid as well as its wounds.
Just before reading The Afrikaner, I read a different South African novel by Kagiso Lesego Molope, a much different novel from yours, a novel that is firmly rooted culturally, although that culture works to the detriment of the two main characters. It does, however, helps to unify the novel. The closest you come to this is with the rituals in the Kalahari. I guess the challenge for post-apartheid writers is how to present post-apartheid reality. Maybe it’s too soon to try. None of what I’ve written here is to imply that your novel isn’t good but rather to let you know that I understand how challenging it is to transmute post-apartheid reality into fiction.” (Nigel Thomas, Laval University).
I have also provided my writer’s answer to Nigel’s comments:
“Dear Nigel, thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback and for your kind words of appreciation. You are right, I think it’s extremely challenging to try to address the complexities of post-apartheid South Africa. For this reason, in my novel I only deal with that very brief moment of South African society caught in a major transition, where everything is extremely fluid and all people are lost trying to find their place (& cultural/identity anchor) in a fast-changing reality. And yes, I agree with you; Kurt is the most interesting character, freely inspired by the life of well renowned South African writer and anti-apartheid activist Breyten Breytenbach. Even more challenging for me was the fact that I am not South African (I am Italian and was in South Africa between 1996 and 2000 working as an international reporter for the Italian press). Through all the many interviews I had with South African people across its multifarious social, racial and ethnic spectrum, I tried to get a glimpse of that complex reality and incorporated the lessons I learned into my fiction. So, you see, Zoe’s story is just one among the many stories that wanted to be told for the pure sake of honest, engaged – and hopefully engaging – storytelling. Your feedback means a lot to me, thanks for having provided it.” (Arianna Dagnino).
The German translation of The Afrikaner is finally out with the title Die Afrikaanerin. German-speaking readers will now be able to follow #Zoe in her journey of self-discovery and redemption in the Namibian part of the #Kalahari Desert. The German translation has been masterfully carried out by German translator Heddi Feilhauer and published by #Berlin-based international publisher PalmArt Press. Die Afrikaanerin will be presented to the world at the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair this coming October, when Canada will be guest of honour.
Arianna Dagnino’s THE AFRIKANER shortlisted for ‘BEST BOOK’ by Miramichi Reader. “Best Fiction” is the most popular category at The Miramichi Reader. Here are the seven “Best Fiction” titles of 2020:
“Side by Side” by Anita Kushwaha (Inanna Publications)
“The Afrikaner” by Arianna Dagnino (Guernica Editions, guest post at “Consumed by Ink” by James Fisher).
“Some People’s Children by Bridget Canning” (Breakwater Books)
“The Tender Birds” by Carole Giangrande (Inanna Publications)
“A Song From Faraway” by Deni Ellis Béchard (Goose Lane Editions)
“Lay Figures” by Mark Blagrave (Nimbus Publishing)
“All I Ask” by Eva Crocker (House of Anansi Press)
Of the above seven titles, three will be awarded either gold, silver, or bronze award early in September 2020. The entire longlist can be seen here.
Arianna Dagnino’s website: https://www.ariannadagnino.com/
Alan Twigg’s review of my novel The Afrikaner in the spring issue of “BC Booklook” goes to the core of the predicament faced by the protagonist of the story, Zoe du Plessis, a young female scientist (33) who grew up in South Africa in a deeply entrenched white family: “Zoe is little concerned with money, status or personal appearance. Instead she seeks belonging.”
Later on, Twigg thus describes and comments on Zoe’s field expedition in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia in a hunt for fossils and for herself: “In the field, near an encampment of twenty some Bushmen people, in charge of men under strenuous circumstances, able to have a brief shower only once a week, Zoe proceeds to explore her place in South African society, contemporary and otherwise, with a candour that makes The Afrikaner increasingly engaging.”
At the end of his review Twigg hints at the film transposition of Zoe’s story, which would allow to show southern Africa’s majestic beauty, its cultural complexity and historical fault lines.
You can read the whole review here:
Arianna Dagnino, The Afrikaner. A Novel (Guernica, 2019)
Listen to an audio excerpt from Arianna Dagnino‘s novel “The Afrikaner” read by the Los Angeles-based, South African actor Dennis Kleinman from A World Voice: Transcending Geographic Boundaries.
Audiobook (Chatpter 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rogbi6kmmkw&feature=youtu.be
The Afrikaner. A Novel (and now also a screenplay!)
Arianna Dagnino’s website: https://www.ariannadagnino.com
I thank the South African writer Toni Henning for her review of my novel “The Afrikaner” (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019). One comment struck me most and made me ponder over the total freedom writers can and should have when devising their stories and the characters that inhabit them: “I can hardly believe that the author is not South African.”
Here is the Toni Henning‘s full review:
“The Afrikaner stirred a number of emotions in me; pride in the beauty of the landscapes and places of South Africa, my beloved country, incredibly described by Arianna Dagnino; the pain of loss, new and old; shame and frustration triggered by the recount of history and the fact that, so many years later, we, as a nation, are still struggling to break free; disheartened that the potential of Africa is lost due to this continent’s people’s short-sightedness and the world’s indifference; and, hope that even the most dire circumstances can be healed. Arianna’s characters are genuine; their emotions are raw; their lives are real. Having read the book I can hardly believe that the author is not South African. To read The Afrikaner is to find The Rainbow Nation exposed.”
Arianna Dagnino’s website: https://www.ariannadagnino.com
Let’s not forget that books – fiction as much as nonfiction – are our true companions and sometimes even our real saviours in times of crisis.
“The Afrikaner is a story that takes us to the past, the present and the future of South Africa. It gives us hope, as a nation. It speaks a message of love, forgiveness and peace. ”
“I absolutely enjoyed every moment with Zoe, the main character of The Afrikaner. I felt her every emotion, her pain, her anxiety, her fatigue. She became so real that I could even smell her. It was very easy for me to relate to this saga as I live in South Africa and naturally wish to learn about the history of this country. Zoe can easily represent South Africa: a young land that has suffered so much injustices, so much heartache, pain, violence and bloodshed. But she has to move on. She has to be strong. She has to find her strength in herself, in her deserts, in her oceans and rivers, in her people and in their diversity in culture and language. She has to move away from the place of pain and start afresh on a clean slate. Unfortunately, as Kurt says at page 229, “The past always resurfaces.” Humankind’s past, our individual past and our nation’s past. It cannot be buried and remain buried. How to handle it when it resurfaces is the main issue. Cyril says at page 184, “Diversity is healthy. We can accept each other and be together without giving up our differences. It’s useless – even foolish – to reduce us to a common denominator.” Kurt sums it up, “The Tribes of this country – the white, the black, the coloured – share a long history. Sure, a bloody and violent one. But we’ve been together for hundreds of years now […] This common lived history should be the foundation of our new country.”