In 1652 a small group of Dutch farmers landed on the southernmost tip of Africa. Sent by the powerful Dutch India Company, their mission was simply to grow vegetables and supply ships rounding the cape. The colonists, however, were convinced by their strict Calvinist faith that they were among God’s Elect,” chosen to rule over the continent. Their sagabloody, ferocious, and ferventwould culminate three centuries later in one of the greatest tragedies of history: the establishment of a racist regime in which a white minority would subjugate and victimize millions of blacks. Called apartheid, it was a poisonous system that would only end with the liberation from prison of one of the moral giants of our time, Nelson Mandela.
A Rainbow in the Night is Dominique Lapierre’s epic account of South Africa’s tragic history and the heroic men and womenfamous and obscure, white and black, European and Africanwho have, with their blood and tears, brought to life the country that is today known as the Rainbow Nation.
Author and philanthropist Lapierre (A Thousand Suns, The City of Joy) offers a harrowing overview of South African history, from Jan Van Riebeeck's first Dutch farming settlement to the presidential election of Nelson Mandela, including the founding of The Orange Free State and the Transvaal, the Boer war, the rise and fall of Apartheid, and more. Beginning with the arrival of Europeons in the late 17th century, Lapierre charts their subsequent Great Trek into the veld, their conviction that God had ordained them to found a new nation; and the martial clashes with Zulus that cemented their belief in white supremacy. Lapierre also recalls the heroes who triumphed over Apartheid: Helen Lieberman, who risked her life to establish health services and education in black ghettos; Christiaan Barnard, the surgeon who dared implant a "colored heart" in a white patient; and the residents of integrated neighborhoods like District Six, "an oasis of tolerance." Lapierre's biases and some suspect framing ("in a few rare instances, I have taken some liberty with the chronology") can render him untrustworthy: for instance, does "white oppression" really account for the Zulus' massacre of 60 unarmed, outnumbered Boers? Ultimately, this dramatic read, based on "extensive personal research," is absorbing but agenda-driven history. 60 b&w photos.
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