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When reading a novel, ignorance is not necessarily a bad state of being

I thank translator Giulia De Gasperi for providing her review of my novel The Afrikaner (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019). You can read the review here below.

"Let me focus on two aspects I liked about Arianna Dagnino's The Afrikaner (Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2019): the name of the main character is Zoe, who happens to be red-haired (I am instantly drawn to red-haired individuals), and the sense of complete ignorance I felt throughout the book. Ignorance is not necessarily a bad state of being. It means you ignore, you do not know something and, propelled by that realization, your instincts kick in making your curiosity want to learn, fill that void. I admit I know very little of the African continent in general and of South Africa in particular. As it often happens its geographical distance allows for ignorance to be an excuse. Reading The Afrikaner has helped me start filling that void.

The novel tells the story of Zoe, a paleologist, who is mourning the loss of her boyfriend brutally murdered in Johannesburg. She tries to find respite by going back to her roots, visiting her brother who has taken over the family winery and who wants to make changes, reflecting the same trajectory the country is following. Zoe then leaves to go to Namibia to resume excavations in the area explored by her late boyfriend. Until the very last, I hoped for Zoe to make a break-through discovery that would at the same time honour her boyfriend’s work and give her a sense of closure. But, alas, the dig is unsuccessful and Zoe returns to Johannesburg where she opens up to new possibilities and a new love. Zoe has it in her own name to choose life despite a family curse that tells her first-born females are bound to be alone, their lovers destined to die.

Through Zoe, I learned about the state of South Africa in the 1990s, its struggles, its infinite questions of who belongs where, where power lies, what tradition is, where everyone’s place is in this new country. 

A novel, Arianna Dagnino's The Afrikaner, that I highly recommend for the story/ies it tells, the places it takes you, how much it shakes and shapes you, and for how well written it is. "

Buy "The Afrikaner":

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