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Red Dust
Cover of Red Dust
Red Dust
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There was probably only one person who could make Sarah Barcant, successful prosecutor, leave New York and return home to Smitsrivier, the small town in South Africa she left years before. Ben. Her lawyer mentor and inspiration; the man who encouraged her to get out and know the world now needs her back, to help him with one last case, part of the Truth Commission. In the back of a van, handcuffed, Dirk Hendrickes is being driven to the police station where once he was proud to call himself deputy. Later, down the same hot,dry road, will come Alex Mpondo, alternating between cursing Dirk and feeling sick at the idea of facing him, his torturer. And in Smitsrivier: James Sizela, who has passed years waiting for the moment when the man he is certain killed his son, will be forced to tell where the body lies. The people who are about to meet their pasts will not experience the real truth-telling in the court room, at the public show. The real truth will be felt offstage...
There was probably only one person who could make Sarah Barcant, successful prosecutor, leave New York and return home to Smitsrivier, the small town in South Africa she left years before. Ben. Her lawyer mentor and inspiration; the man who encouraged her to get out and know the world now needs her back, to help him with one last case, part of the Truth Commission. In the back of a van, handcuffed, Dirk Hendrickes is being driven to the police station where once he was proud to call himself deputy. Later, down the same hot,dry road, will come Alex Mpondo, alternating between cursing Dirk and feeling sick at the idea of facing him, his torturer. And in Smitsrivier: James Sizela, who has passed years waiting for the moment when the man he is certain killed his son, will be forced to tell where the body lies. The people who are about to meet their pasts will not experience the real truth-telling in the court room, at the public show. The real truth will be felt offstage...
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 5, 2001
    This remarkable exposition of a Truth Commission amnesty hearing in a backwater South African town underscores that "the full truth" is more complex than court transcript or verdict can ever reveal. South African police brutally tortured and murdered at will in their unfettered efforts to crush the "terrorist" acts of black rebels against apartheid. Now those rebels occupy the higher branches of government while the offending policemen are imprisoned. Sarah Barcant left the dusty, dead-end town of Smitsrivier 14 years ago to become a successful New York City prosecutor, but drops everything to heed the call of hometown mentor and antiapartheid activist Ben Hoffman. Ben represents brilliant legislator Alex Mpondo at the amnesty hearing of former Smitsrivier policeman Dirk Hendricks, who brutally tortured Alex and knows the truth about the murder of his friend Steve Sizela. Steve's body and killer were never found, and Steve's parents push Sarah to use Dirk's hearing to implicate Pieter Muller, another policeman, never charged, who now runs a security firm in Smitsrivier. Slovo (Catnap; Every Secret Thing), herself the daughter of antiapartheid activists, skillfully handles Sarah's quandary of returning to face her past and reexamine her life in the light of long-term exile. The reader can almost taste the dust and feel the heat of the stultifying locale; the scatter of words in Afrikaans enhances the absorbing, fast-paced narrative. Amnesty hearings are meant to bring closure to the violent period that ended apartheid by forgiving crimes by former officials, where possible. But this powerful novel—full of legal and emotional twists and turns—strips bare the torment forever ingrained in victim and jailer alike, a torment that runs through all segments of post-apartheid society.

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Red Dust
Red Dust
Gillian Slovo
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