The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey

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Overview

History lies heavily on South Africa, and Adam Hochschild brings to bear a lifetime's familiarity with the country in an eye-opening work that blends history and reportage. Hochschild looks at the tensions of modern South Africa through a dramatic prism: the pivotal nineteenth-century Battle of Blood River—which determined whether the Boers or the Zulus would control that part of the world—and its contentious commemoration by rival groups 150 years later. This incisive book offers an unusual window onto a society that remains divided. In his epilogue, Hochschild extends his view to the astonishing political changes that have occurred in the country in recent years—and the changes yet to be made.

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Editorial Reviews

Edward Hower
No recent book can better clarify South Africa's dilemma than 'The Mirror at Midnight,' by Adam Hochschild, a former editor and co-founder of Mother Jones magazine. During his several visits to the country, he visited historic shrines, ob- served political trials, interviewed scores of people in wealthy white suburbs and crowded black townships. He has brought back a thoroughly researched, immensely readable book, a work of vivid reportage and astute political analysis. --San Francisco Chronicle
Robin Cohen
There is an old adage that an observer sometimes sees more of the game than a participant. An even better combination is a disinterested observer who none the less shares an intimate connection with his subject. Adam Hochschild, an American re- porter, first saw South Africa as an adolescent accompanying his father on a business trip in the 1950s. He immediately recognized that the country's political convulsions were not merely an inter- nal matter but a moral battleground of worldwide significance, in much the same way as the implications of the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Hitler's Germany transcended their immediate context....

By cleverly weaving in his own experiences and contempo- rary interviews with the warp and woof of South African history, the author has successfully confronted some key themes unre- solved in a post-apartheid society. He even has the grace to concede that American history is not that dissimilar from that of South Africa and, had the population ratio between native Ameri- cans and white settlers been reversed, a development kindred to apartheid would have emerged. -- Daily Telegraph (London)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a stunning blend of reportage, travelogue, history and meditation, Hochschild focuses on the Great Trek of 1836-1839, when Boer coastal settlers, armed with muskets, ox whips and Bibles, staked out the borders of modern South Africa. He reenacts the pivotal Battle of Blood River in 1838, in which countless Zulus were massacred, and explains how Dingane, tall, stout chief of the Zulus' military kingdom, was demonized later by white historians. Today the Great Trek is part of ``the 150-year-old national myth of Afrikaners- as-victims.'' Turning to reportage, Hochschild Half the Way Home , who visited South Africa in 1988, interviewed the head of a neo-Nazi group, a ``coloured'' racially mixed teacher who spent 10 years in a black-only prison, and the four Watson brothers, rugby stars who have been targets of repeated assassination attempts for refusing to play on all-white teams. An epilogue covers events up to the present. One of the most illuminating books ever written on contemporary South Africa, this biopsy probes the racial divide in razor-sharp prose. Nov.
Library Journal
Hochschild, a cofounder of Mother Jones magazine and author of the acclaimed memoir Half Way Home LJ 5/15/86; an LJ ``Best Book of 1986'', here takes readers on a journey back to the Battle of Blood River in 1838. This was a pivotal point in South African history, Hochschild says, since it was the beginning of white South Africans' sense of manifest destiny and the root of their current apartheid policies. Antagonism between Dutch and English settlers in South Africa led to a great trek to supposedly unclaimed land; Hochschild shows how this was really achieved by displacing and killing the native black inhabitants. In the retelling of this history, Hochschild gives readers food for thought and reassessment about modern South Africa, and provides American readers with some uncomfortable parallels to our own sense of manifest destiny and treatment of natives. Many good books on South Africa have been published recently, but this offers an intriguing new perspective. A good choice for all libraries.-- Louise Leonard, Univ. of Florida Libs., Gainesville
School Library Journal
YA-- A plethora of books about apartheid and South Africa have appeared in this column recently, but Hochschild's book puts forth a historical outlook explaining modern South African problems. By retelling the story of the 1838 Battle of Blood River, he focuses on conflicts between Dutch and English settlers as they moved into ``unclaimed'' land and thus uprooted and killed native blacks. Hochschild indicates that feelings of apartheid had their beginnings here. This is a strong addition to African history sections, and bright, mature YAs will draw comparisons to this continent's white man and the Native American.-- Mike Printz, Topeka West High School, KS
Christopher Hitchens
Adam Hochschild has written a good book...an anatomy of the way in which racism depends upon racists, and the ways in which racists become a menace even to what they consider their own kith and kin. -- Newsweek
Newsday
Adam Hochschild has written a good book...an anatomy of the way in which racism depends upon racists, and the ways in which racists become a menace even to what they consider their own kith and kin.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618758258
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/24/2007
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,373,632
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Hochschild

ADAM HOCHSCHILD has written for The New Yorker , Harper's , The New York Review of Books , Granta , The New York Times Magazine , and many other newspapers and magazines. In King Leopold’s Ghost, Bury the Chains, and other books, Hochschild has earned a reputation as a master of suspense and vivid character portrayal. His skill at evoking such struggles for justice has made him a finalist for the National Book Award and won him a host of other prizes.

Biography

Adam Hochschild was born in New York City in 1942. His first book, Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, was published in 1986. It was followed by The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (1990) and The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (1994). Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels won the 1998 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay.

Hochschild's books have been translated into five languages and have won prizes from the Overseas Press Club of America, the World Affairs Council, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, and the Society of American Travel Writers. Three of his books -- includingKing Leopold's Ghost -- have been named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review and Library Journal. King Leopold's Ghost was also awarded the 1998 California Book Awards gold medal for nonfiction.

Hochschild has also written for The New Yorker, Harper's magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones (which he co-founded), The Nation, and many other magazines and newspapers. A former commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," he teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997-98 he was a Fulbright Lecturer in India.

He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Arlie, the sociologist and author. They have two sons.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

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    1. Hometown:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 5, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B., Harvard College, 1963

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    Splashkit

    Raced away

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    Envy

    Correction. Its Myntlight. She doesn't go by Mynt anymore. And I know because I rp her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    Lionpaw

    Gtg bbt aanyway

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013

    BIOS IN

    Result three

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    Moving

    Adam Hochschild's book is incredibly moving and enlightening. It unveils the true life that is in South Africa under the Apartheid. Anyone who is interested in human rights should read this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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