WHAT DO THE following have in common: a segment of mandarin, the Amazon rainforest, a mushroom, and the hoof-print of a young antelope? Yes, of course, you've guessed it - they all bear a striking resemblance to the female genitalia. At least, they do according to Chris Minnaar, narrator of An&& Brink's new novel. From his first prepubescent fumblings to the frustrating celibacy of his dotage, Minnaar has spent seven decades worshipping what his father taught him to call the 'Filmandorus'. We meet him near the end, when death's shadow is cast over the two women who have mattered most to him, and the dawn of the new South Mica is bruised blood-red. His mother is dying, and the beloved but unattainable Rachel has been killed at the moment when she might at last have been his. Minnaar, a celebrated novelist who has written nothing for years, is moved to begin work on what will most likely be his final book. His twin subjects: all the women he has ever made love to, and the turbulent times of his country - South Africa's key political developments of the past seventy years, strung like beads on the narrative thread of his own erotic history.
In fact, the book is a porn video of memories played by an old man clinging to the last vestiges of virility. The parallels between the personal and the political feel contrived, as a structuring device, and only tenuously symbolic (there is a passing