Borderline

January 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

Marita van der Vyver is an extraordinary and gifted author. 

I read her in Afrikaans, and for Afrikaans-speaking readers, there is a moerse lang review on LitNet, just follow the link.

Marita is one of the South African greats.

With Borderline she has written yet another book on the Border War, because that conflict still haunts us in South Africa and it still haunts the Cubans.

I love seeing my son growing up without any memory or residual guilt about the war.

It does mean that he is fascinated by weapons, and I do my best to allow him the luxury and the pleasure to explore the lethal power those hold. He has worked his way up – we started him on air guns, then a semi-automatic .22. He has since worked with various assault rifles including the 5.56 and 7.65 that were standard issue in the various phases of the Boarder war.

The little blighter is an excellent shot.

What has my son to do with Marita van der Vyver’s text? Nothing, and yet everything. Absolutely everything.

My son is a born-free. Not only is he free to vote and be on beaches and smooch blonde girls, he is also free from the collective angst of the armed struggle.

Not all had been as lucky. Too little has been written about the lives of ordinary liberation cadres during the war. Too little has been said about the training and the heartache in far-off countries by those who had fought the white conscripts (meaning my army buddies and I).

I do have a few friends, now important places, who were trained in Russia. I know others who could not leave the country and who chose to stay put, fighting from within.

Those stories have yet to be written down.

In Borderline Van der Vyver begins tentatively by exploring the Cuban version of the war. It is a low-level exploration, but it provides in insight into how “the enemy” used to see us.

Borderline is truly wonderful. It is a direct twin of her earlier book Childish things. In some ways Borderline could have been called Middle-aged things. We, who had been part of that war, are now approaching retirement; we merely have our own memories left.

Borderline is rich with intertextual references. If you can read Afrikaans, do read my Afrikaans essay, but if you cannot, merely bear in mind that Orestes in the Greek mythology had been haunted by the furies. Then look at the name of the tour guide in Cuba and the name of the car he drives.

Van der Vyver is one clever author. Borderline is a hard-hitting and brilliant contribution to our growing corpus of Border War texts.

Borderline and Grensgeval are both published by Penguin.

I highly recommend these books.

You can read an excerpt of Borderline here.

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