To hell with Cronjé

by Ingrid Winterbach

Paper Book, 2010




Rochester, NY : Open Letter, 2010.


"This unforgettable novel establishes Ingrid Winterbach as one of the most important novelists writing in Afrikaans."--Thys Human Two scientists, Reitz Steyn and Ben Maritz, find themselves in a "transit camp for those temporarily and permanently unfit for battle" during the Boer War. Captured on suspicion of desertion and treason--during a trek across an unchanging desert of bushes, rocks, and ant hills to help transport a fellow-soldier, who has suffered debilitating shell-shock, to his mother--they are forced to await the judgment of a General Bergh, unsure whether they are to be conscripted into Bergh's commando, allowed to continue their mission, or executed for treason. As the weeks pass, and the men's despair at ever returning to their families reaches its peak, they are sent on a bizarre mission... A South AfricanHeart of Darkness, Ingrid Winterbach'sTo Hell with Cronjé is a poetic exploration of friendship and camaraderie, an eerie reflection of the futility of war, and a thought-provoking re-examination of the founding moments of the South African nation. Ingrid Winterbach is an artist and novelist whose work has won the M-Net Prize, Old Mutual Literary Prize, the University of Johannesburg Prize for Creative Writing, and the W.A. Hofmeyr Prize. She's also received the Hertzog Prize, an honor she shares with Breyten Breytenbach and Etienne Leroux. Elsa Silke translates from Afrikaans and was the winner of the 2006 South African Translator's Institute/Via Afrika Prize for her translation of Karel Schoeman'sThis Life.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member maryreinert
Having recently visited South Africa, I have become interested in South African literature and stumbled upon another wonderful review of this book. First and foremost, I found Winterbach's writing to be beautifully clear yet lyrical, expressive and sensitive. Naturally having just seen the South
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African countryside, the descriptions are vivid; however, her writing allows one to almost feel the heat and smell the dust. The characters in this novel are not perfect, yet so easy to like. The background of the Boer War might be a bit confusing for the reader who is not familiar with the basics of the war, but the issues of the war become mere background for the individuals attempting to survive in its midst. This is one of the few novels I have read which so exactly paints a picture of the chaos created by war -- not "in the midst of battle" chaos, but the uncertainty, the disorder, the ambiguity, the hope and hopelessness created by war. Can anything really be so important to cause so much destruction and ruin to so many lives.

The relationship between Reitz and Ben is one of the best portrayals of male friendship I have read -- no undue drama, no philosophizing, just simple caring one for another. In short, a thoughtful, sincere, and memorable book.
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LibraryThing member Gypsy_Boy
Those who call this a South African Heart of Darkness are, I think, wrong. Although it is, like Conrad’s novella, an inner journey mirroring an outer journey (in this case of two men—a geologist and a biologist—caught up in the shifting fortunes of the Second Boer War, 1899-1902), I think the
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Conrad metaphor is overdone. The pace is slow but it is not about the pace. I was very taken with the story but not so much with the writing. I grew more involved as time went by and it reminded me in some ways of another South African writer I am very find of, Karel Schoeman (perhaps in part because they share a translator, Elsa Silke). Recommended—and I will read more by her to see where it leads.
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The Sunday Times Fiction Prize (Longlist — 2008)
Hertzog Prize (Prose — 2004)


Original language

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