Midlands: A Very South African Murder

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On the other hand, Steinberg was shocked to find in the black community an indifference to the killing at best, at worst jubilation.

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After all, the white farmers had long ago taken the best land, leaving the tenant farmers to eke out an existence on the borders of their spacious farms. The tenants of Langeni [the small settlement where Steinberg places the local community of tenant farmers] would have been dragged one by one into police vans and tortured. Their doors would have been kicked in, night after night.


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The ribs of their sons would have been broken. And when they could no longer take it, they would have given somebody up. Whether he was indeed the guilty one would have been decided by the politics of Langeni itself. A harsh and brutal Langeni would have sacrificed an unimportant family. The trail is still warm when Steinberg arrived three weeks after the killing — and he follows this meandering, roundabout trail like a dogged detective.

There is a lot of ground to cover, a lot of doubling back and retracing of steps, but this is necessary in this secret history of South Africa. The truths he find may not make pleasant reading at times, but then South Africa is often not a pleasant place. All South Africans, at least, will find this essential reading. Create Account Lost Your Password? Toggle navigation Toggle profile. Read more from Matthew Burbidge babylonisdying. National Ra'eesa Pather Ramaphosa under pressure to support reparations for apartheid victims. President Cyril Ramaphosa has been urged to release grants for apartheid victims, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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Jonny Steinberg

Jul 14, Willow Grier rated it it was amazing. Truly a complicated and powerful read. A worthy intersection of the double sided and clouded nature of historical racial tension and how untangling or understanding such situations is never an easy task. Humbling, gut-wrenching, and eye-opening, I feel like this book has merit for anyone who wants to further delve into understanding the tenuous relationship of post-colonial nations and challenge their internal compass.


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  • As a journalist, this was really fascinating to read because it combines journalism and a tiny bit of fiction. Steinberg certainly knows how to set a scene and get you into a topic. He digs really deep into this murder and the external forces that made it happen, going back decades. It's not a novel, it's a very long column about the midlands and race relations post-apartheid.

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    He speaks from a very informal tone ie I will tell you more about this later which jarred me a little bit. I'm not use As a journalist, this was really fascinating to read because it combines journalism and a tiny bit of fiction. I'm not used to that from a journalistic piece. Sometimes I wonder if he actually got back to the thing he said he would get back to.

    Which was my only beef with this book. It's pacing is a bit off, and reads a bit disorganized.

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    I would have to remember who a person was and his relation to the murder many, many chapters later. Feb 17, Dillon rated it really liked it Shelves: After a son of white farmer is murdered sniper style on the edge of the farm, Steinberg interviews the family of the dead, and the tenants of the farm, and realizes that the murder didn't happen in a vacuum, could have many different causes, none of them easy to explain. More than anything, this is a story about how little black and white South Africans understand each other in the post apartheid era.

    Both sides believe stereotypes about the other, and blame the other for the problems, crimes and After a son of white farmer is murdered sniper style on the edge of the farm, Steinberg interviews the family of the dead, and the tenants of the farm, and realizes that the murder didn't happen in a vacuum, could have many different causes, none of them easy to explain.

    Both sides believe stereotypes about the other, and blame the other for the problems, crimes and death that is ravaging the midlands and the whole of South Africa. Interesting read for anyone interested in South African current affairs. Jan 06, Julia Hill rated it liked it.

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    Finished this book just before a trip to Kwa-Zulu Natal. Even though the events in this book happened 15 years ago, the misunderstandings of culture, race and history that Jonny Steinberg brings to life to illustrate some of the reasons for the death of a white farmer's son, still ring true in present-day South Africa. Great read, though is at times a little patronizing when the narrator addresses the reader while telling the story.

    Jun 03, Katie added it. This book is by an anthropologist who is good at describing the dilemma of population pressure on limited land, post-apartheid generations, and white nativity. However, he also paints himself as a boob until the very end. Ultimately, this would have made a fascinating short story or novella, but is too long for its conclusions. Sep 27, Nicholas rated it really liked it.


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    • Interesting look at the land issue in South Africa. It is, however, quite bleak--probably too much so. But Steinberg is a very good writer and researcher, and thus, it is worth reading, especially if you have some familiarity with South African history and culture.

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      Jul 31, Sean de la Rosa rated it really liked it. This book deserved all the awards it won! Jonny has great insight into the racial challenges we South Africans all still encounter. I learnt a great deal about how Black South African's family structures and traditions work. Oct 29, Tomigirl44 rated it it was amazing. A look into the culture of South Africa with all it's complexities.

      A novel written by a journalist - perfect. May 25, J.

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      I think his more recent books are better. I expected this to be a bit more chilling, a little more In Cold Blood-esque. But still a good read. Dec 30, Dan O'Meara rated it it was amazing Shelves: If you want to know why things are going so wrong in South Africa, this book is a very good place to start. Er rated it really liked it Mar 27, Robin rated it really liked it Jun 13, Ludwig Wagner rated it it was amazing Jan 10, Debbie Wakelin rated it really liked it Jul 24,

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