The first time that I visited South Africa, I had an experience that I have since learned is common among radicals, liberals, conscience-mongers and other assorted malcontents. One arrives fully kitted out with idées reçues, prepared to believe the worst and ready to point the finger of obloquy and scorn. And yet the living reality is somewhat different – unsettlingly so, in fact. Apartheid is much, much worse than one has been led to believe. All those memoirs by exiles and by former detainees; all those accounts of Sharpeville and Soweto; all the panoply of pseudo-scientific racial calibration – it pales, if the word is allowable, in the shock of reality.
Joseph Lelyveld’s Move Your Shadow is published at a moment when many people with OK views on everything must have thought that the last word on apartheid had been written. I confess that I had a slight tremor of ‘do we need this?’ as I opened the book. Homelands, yawn;