Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Human Being Died that Night: Forgiving Apartheid's Chief Killer by Pumla Gobodo Madikizela

This book was an amazing read and I'm probably about to butcher it with this review, so I would suggest Eva's review here which made me go out and but it in the first place.
Black clinical pyschologist Madikizela is taken through the Truth and Reconciliation Commitee to interview Eugene de Kock, a man commonly refered to as 'Prime Evil' who has come to symbolise the violence and aggression of the apartheid government.
Madikizela seeks to find answers with this man, including why some of his victims families have forgiven him and feel a sense of empathy for this notorious man. She finds de Kock to be a thoughtful and sensitive man; fighting with the things he has done, with his own reasons and explanations for having committed such crimes and with the abandonment of the apartheid government who had sanctioned his crimes.
This book becomes about more than de Kock's answers, but Madikizela's fight with her empathy for him and about the question of evil: can one be both evil and caring? Can we forgive? Should we forgive?
For me the book was five stars from page one, but the final meeting between de Kock and Madikizela had my heart in my mouth:
"Have I ever killed any of your friends or family?"
The words bounced around the large room like an echo in a cave. I actually turned and looked around, expecting perhaps to see someone else in the room other than the guards at the door. Yes, I had heard de Kock's voice. I was sure that was what I'd heard...but had I just imagined it? Standing there stunned, in conversation with a broken man who had been an angel of death, I felt as if I were in a mist of a collision of scattered meanings within these prison walls that had enclosed our conversations. De Kock's words hovered in the room; I was struggling to understand them before I could take them in.

The tension created by this moment and then her subsequent answer made my heart pound, what if he had killed someone she loved, how would she cope with being so close to him and how would he cope, this man who started to seem so fragile.

For someone who rarely reads non-fiction I sped through this, and I'm sending it on a small journey through bookcrossing to a few other readers before it returns to me when I'm sure to read it again. I recommend you to beg, borrow or steal a copy. And I've already picked my next non-fiction read 'Blood River' about the Congo.


Eva said...

Oh yay Katrina: I'm so glad you connected with this one as well! Wasn't that scene incredible? I wish she had other books for me to read.

katrina said...

I did look her up, she does have other books that she has co written but they seem to be theory texts. However I've added several books to my amazon wishlist now from the amazon recommendations that were linked to this book.
So glad you wrote your review in the first place.