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Agaatby Marlene Van Niekerk
Synopses & Reviews
Set in apartheid South Africa, Agaat portrays the unique relationship between Milla, a 67-year-old white woman, and her black maidservant turned caretaker, Agaat. Through flashbacks and diary entries, the reader learns about Milla's past. Life for white farmers in 1950s South Africa was full of promise — young and newly married, Milla raised a son and created her own farm out of a swathe of Cape mountainside. Forty years later her family has fallen apart, the country she knew is on the brink of huge change, and all she has left are memories and her proud, contrary, yet affectionate guardian.
With haunting, lyrical prose, Marlene Van Niekerk creates a story of love and family loyalty. Winner of the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2007, Agaat was translated as The Way of the Women by Michiel Heyns, who received the Sol Plaatje Award for his translation.
"[Agaat] is absolutely the most extraordinary book I've read in a long time. You must read it." Toni Morrison
"Books like Agaat...are the reason people read novels, and the reason authors write them." The New York Times Book Review
"Few books I've read carry the visceral impact of Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat...it is stunning....each dichotomy — love, sorrow, purity, shame, betrayal, fidelity, goodness, and brute political will — is equally and tragically real." Bookforum
"Agaat is a tangle of language and rhyme, of wordplay and digressions...Both absorbing in its minutiae and provocative in its allegorical approach to apartheid, Agaat explodes the domestic sphere to encompass the world." Portland Mercury
"Fascinating and moving, this is, above all, a love story." Kate Saunders, The Times (London)
"[Agaat] is a family saga of mothers and daughters; a deconstruction of the Little-House-on-the-Veldt romanticism in which noble white settlers tame a hostile land; a massive, wrenching catalog of illness (physical and metaphysical); and a poetic exploration of control and the loss of control. It's a stylishly inventive book..." The Rumpus
Set in apartheid-era South Africa, Agaat portrays the unique relationship between Milla, a 67-year-old white woman, and her black maidservant turned caretaker, Agaat.
About the Author
Marlene van Niekerk is an award-winning poet, novelist, and short story writer. Her publications include the short story collection The Woman Who Forgot Her Spyglass, the novella Memorandum, and the novels Triomf and Agaat. Triomf was a New York Times Notable Book, 2004, and won the CNA Literary Award, the M-Net Prize in South Africa, and the prestigious Noma Award. Agaat, which won the Sunday Times Literary Prize 2007 and the Hertzog Prize 2007, was translated as The Way of the Women by Michiel Heyns, who won the Sol Plaatje Award for his translation. Van Niekerk is currently an associate professor in Afrikaans and Dutch literature and creative writing at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa.
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