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Main page » Fiction literature » In the Heart of the Country: A Novel

In the Heart of the Country: A Novel


A novel set in colonial South Africa, where a lonely sheepfarmer makes a bid for private salvation in the arms of a black concubine, while his daughter dreams of and executes a bloody revenge. From the author of DUSKLANDS and WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS.

In the Heart of the Country tells the story of Magda, an old spinster who lives а huis clos with her father, her step-mother and the servants Henrik and Klein Anna, on a far-flung farm in the middle of the veld. The novel is set at an unspecified time, the present tense heightens this sense of timelessness. Madga's dis-aster starts at her birth since she is not the male heir that the baas has long wished for and who will keep the lineage alive. Therefore, Magda's only way of making a show of resistance to this despotic patriarch is to write her story and make her voice heard so as not to be "one of the forgotten ones of history".

Magda is a lonely and embittered spinster who lives on a sheep farm in the heart of South Africa.
Her mother died in childbirth, the cause of which Magda attributes to her father's "relentless sexual demands". Her bitterness comes from the fact that she feels that she has been an absence all her life to her father. They have always fronted each other in silence and so Magda became an unhappy peasant, "a miserable black virgin, "the mad hag" she is destined to be, having grown up with the servants' children.
Deprived of human intercourse, Magda realises that she overvalues the imagination. That is why when her father brings home a new bride, she fantacises of killing them both with an axe. The lonely farm is the place where she is "devoured by boredom", engulfed in the "monologue of the self" like a maze of words out of which she can't escape and she feels doomed to expire there "in the heart of the country", "in the middle of nowhere", a place she considers "was never intended that people should live here". Magda's father's sexual relationship with Hendrik's wife, the black servant, only adds to her dismay. It thus doesn't come as a surprise, given Magda's psychological disposition, that she often dreams of burning everything down and that she is actually about to murder the one person she considers responsible for her despair. After that, what is left for her but an inexorable descent into madness?
As Andrй Brink stated about this novel: "It says something about loneliness, about craving for love, about the relation between master and slave and between white and black, and about a man's earthly anguish and longing for salvation - in a way you do not easily escape from once it has gripped you".

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Tags: Heart, novel, Country, story, timelessness