“The Afrikaner” by Arianna Dagnino: Colonialism, Reconciliation & Transcultural Literature

Dr. Arianna Dagnino, Sessional Lecturer of Italian Studies at UBC, speaks about colonial history, collective guilt, reconciliation and transcultural issues in her latest fiction novel “The Afrikaner.”

Tell us about The Afrikaner.

The Afrikaner is a South African odyssey set in the year 1996 during the critical transitionary period between the apartheid to the first democratically elected Black government. Its main character, a young woman named Zoe du Plessis, is a paleontologist of Afrikaner descent. Through Zoe’s story and the way she confronts her Afrikaner heritage and sense of “group guilt”, the book talks about South Africa as a whole — with its Black and White communities, and all that stands in between.

Confronting her family’s secret rooted in the colonial history of the country, Zoe embarks on a scientific expedition to the hot plains of the Kalahari Desert. It is the beginning of an inner journey that will lead her to meaningful encounters with a Bushmen tribe, a troubled writer, a former fighter in the Border War, and the secret diaries of her female ancestors.

See the whole interview here: https://fhis.ubc.ca/news/newsletter/the-afrikaner-by-arianna-dagnino/

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Postcolonial Writing Revisited

“The Hubris of Public and Personal History in The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino” – A Review by Hollay Ghadery

“Zoe’s stagnancy is a fascinating reflection of the seeming impossibility of finding closure amidst the disparate beliefs and attitudes in post-colonial West Africa. It’s hard to forgive. It’s hard to forget. It can feel impossible to move forward,” writes Hollay Ghadery in her thoughtful and thought-provoking review of “The Afrikaner”, which she finds “as surprising as any contemporary post-colonial novel I could imagine.” You can read the whole review here: http://www.riverstreetwriting.com/blog/review-the-afrikaner

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“The Afrikaner” like “Gone with the Wind”: A New Blockbuster?

In his ravishing review of “The Afrikaner” on Amazon.com John Harte compares the novel to “Gone with the Wind”. Could the book really become a new blockbuster? We are working on it! Read the whole review here:

“Is this novel another ‘Gone with the Wind?’ I think so. The author’s Scarlett O’Hara-type heroine, Zoe, despairs when her lover is killed by black gangs in downtown Johannesburg after it has reverted to the jungle in post-Nelson Mandela South Africa. Arianna Dagnino’s sensitive identification and portrayal of all the racial groups in this troubled multicultural land is written with the same passion as Margaret Mitchell devoted to her panoramic story of the pioneering days in America.

Unfortunately, the equally hardy and courageous pioneers in South Africa have had a bad press as a consequence of UN sanctions and the tabloid and TV distortions and exaggerations that destroyed its economy and created large-scale unemployment of about 48 percent of the population. The Nationalist Government were victims of circumstances they were struggling mindlessly to control – the in-migration of millions of rural blacks into the cities for food, employment, medical care and shelter that was unavailable. No one from outside lifted a finger to help them prevent the mass migrants turning into marauding gangs that would destroy the cities.

The tormented author immersed herself in the history of the Afrikaans people of the Dutch Reform Church, from victimization, first by Spanish Catholics in the Netherlands, their flight by ship to the Cape, their victimization by the English who had got there before them, their trek to the interior in ox-wagons, and their battles with the black tribes from the north. After settlement in the “Promised Land,” came the two destructive Boer Wars for survival against the British. Now they see the country they love destroyed by weak, corrupt, or non-existent leadership.

I lived in Johannesburg and Kwa-Zulu Natal for ten years, and was drawn back again for another two, before despairing for the country like Zoe. It is not difficult to feel compassion for all the racial groups struggling to survive there against gang warfare, and author Arianna displays the same love for the magnetic San people of the Kalahari, today’s black Africans, and the white Afrikaner people. If I were a dedicated film producer like the late David O. Selznick, I would obtain the Film and TV Rights of The Afrikaner before anyone else snaps them up, and turn it into another ‘Gone with the Wind.'”

– John Harte, a valid buyer.


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A writer needs to live intensely, harshly, wildly

I absolutely loved doing this interview with Allan Hudson @ South Branch Scribbler. The 4Q format he developed allows to dig into what leads a writer to write the way s/he does. I am grateful for Allan’s attention towards and appreciation of my work. Find the whole interview here.

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Audiobook Project – Chapter 1 –

With Los Angeles-based, South African-born actor Dennis Kleinman (www.aworldvoice.com), we have started working on an audiobook version of The Afrikaner.

Obviously, we will need funds to accomplish our task. I was thus thinking of trying to initiate a crowdfunding campaign with Kickstarter or  Go Fund Me.

Any suggestions re the best way to go about it?

You can listen to an excerpt from Chapter 1 read by Dennis here:




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Reading Conrad in the Desert

“In the desert, in prison or out at sea, Conrad can be a good companion. I found in his pages a way to exorcise, at least in part, the darkest moments of my life” (The Afrikaner”). “There are several subplots that unfold over the 240 pages of Arianna Dagnino’s “The Afrikaner,” not the least of which is racism, and the scar it has left on white/black relationships after apartheid was abolished. Ms. Dagnino’s writing is authoritative and a pleasure to read. The pacing of the novel may be considered “slow” by some, but for me, this is modern literature at its best. As an aside, at one point in the story, Zoe [the main character, a female paleontologist] is gifted by Kurt [the troubled writer] a book to read in the desert: Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer,’ which blew me away because I was thinking at the time what a Conradian story ‘The Afrikaner’ is.” Read the whole interview of “The Afrikaner” by author James Fisher here: https://lnkd.in/e3NDpKd


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Paleontology, intellectual disagreements and the lure of Africa

“I have never understood the lure of Africa; at the end of this novel, I did. […] landscape descriptions are exquisite and closely observed. At the end, I felt I had been there, in these intense, parched African places, tasted the food, smelled the wind and the sea.”

See the whole review of Arianna Dagnino’s “The Afrikaner” by Monika Ullmann here.

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Join me for a chat and book signing of my novel “The Afrikaner” (Guernica, Toronto, 2019)
WHERE: Indigo Robson Bookstore (1033 Robson St, Vancouver)
WHEN: Saturday, June 29, 1.30 pm-7.00 pm.
The Afrikaner: “A tale of hate, love, guilt and redemption under African skies”
The book was inspired by the five years I spent in the southern African region as an international reporter for the Italian press. I now live in Vancouver.
BOOK WEBSITE: https://blogs.ubc.ca/afrikaner/
BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXmKFWMLgKM
Check it out and share wildly!
Cheers, Arianna
Follow me  on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arianna.dagnino
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Life, Possibilities, and the Kalahari’s Many Secrets in The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino

“The Afrikaner (Guernica Editions, 2019) is a powerful novel set in extraordinary locations in Africa, where we encounter some mysterious people […]”

Arianna Dagnino was born in Genova, Italy. After Moscow, London, and Boston, she worked in South Africa as a foreign correspondent. In Australia, she earned a PhD in sociology and comparative literature. She currently teaches at the University of British Columbia. Like many of her characters, she shares the nomadic experience.

You can read the rest of Joseph Pivato’s review of “The Afrikaner” in Accenti Magazine here: https://lnkd.in/eFHn-Wi hashtagtheafrikanerbook hashtagtheafrikanernovel hashtagbooktoscreen

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Yes, Mama Africa left its sign on my skin and in my soul

Excuse this nth bout of self-promotion but among all the beautiful reviews “The Afrikaner” has received on Goodreads, I really felt the urge to share at least one of them with all of you Africa’s lovers – or soon to be:

“Thank you NetGalley, the author Arianna Dagnino and the publisher for an E ARC of ‘The Afrikaner’.

As a White English-Speaking South African now living in the UK, I couldn’t wait to start this book. It’s written so well it transported me home.

So many lines made me stop and close my eyes so that I could fully immerse myself in the feelings the imagery evoked. I ended up googling Ms Dagnino as I was confused to see she was Italian, living in Canada. She had to have lived in Southern Africa, as it has bewitched her to her soul. I could see it in her beautiful writing. I was right. She did indeed spend 5 years living and writing as a reporter in SA.

This book centres around Zoe, an Afrikaner paleontologist struggling to come to terms with the horrific murder of her partner in a hijacking in downtown Joburg. It’s set in 1996 and this resonated with me hugely. I was completing my Master’s degree in South Africa at this time and wrote my thesis on the Social Identity of White English-Speaking South Africans versus the Social Identity of Afrikaans-Speaking South Africans, a theme that is highlighted in this book.

I could write pages and pages on how brilliantly this book depicts transcultural, racial, romantic and magical elements, all woven into an evocative story. But all I will say is if you have lived in South Africa you will love this book, as it will pull at the magic Mama Africa has left in you and if you haven’t ever visited South Africa you will fall in love” (“Mommy Reads and Reviews”)



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