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The Unlikely Secret Agent [NOOK Book]

Overview

Winner of South Africa’s top literary prize, the Alan Paton Award, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the thrilling true story of one woman’s struggle against the apartheid system. It is 1963. South Africa is in crisis and the white state is under siege. One August 19th, the dreaded Security Police descended on Griggs bookstore in downtown Durban and arrest Eleanor, the white daughter of the manager. They threaten to “break her or hang her” if she does not lead them to her lover, “Red” Ronnie Kasrils, who is wanted ...
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The Unlikely Secret Agent

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Overview

Winner of South Africa’s top literary prize, the Alan Paton Award, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the thrilling true story of one woman’s struggle against the apartheid system. It is 1963. South Africa is in crisis and the white state is under siege. One August 19th, the dreaded Security Police descended on Griggs bookstore in downtown Durban and arrest Eleanor, the white daughter of the manager. They threaten to “break her or hang her” if she does not lead them to her lover, “Red” Ronnie Kasrils, who is wanted on suspicion of involvement in recent acts of sabotage, including the toppling of electricity pylons and explosions at a Security Police office in Durban.   But Eleanor has her own secret to conceal: she is, like Ronnie, a clandestine agent for the underground ANC and must protect her handlers and Ronnie at all costs. Astutely, she convinces the police that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and, still a prisoner, is relocated to a mental hospital in Pietermaritzburg for assessment. It is here that she plots her escape.   This remarkable story of a young woman’s courage and daring at a time of increasing repression in apartheid South Africa is told here for the first time with great verve and élan by Eleanor’s husband, Ronnie Kasrils, who eventually became South Africa’s Minister of Intelligence Services in 2004.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…Ronnie Kasrils…remembers his late wife and the remarkable life she lived. He paints his portrait with the honesty of a good biographer but always with the bittersweet memory of a great love lost. "It is a huge testament to her inner strength and will," he writes, "that she remained staunch and true to her principles and commitment through the decades." And it's a testament to his that he was able to sculpt his recollections into such a poignant and beautiful book.
—James McAuley
Publishers Weekly
In 1963, officers of the South African Security Branch arrested a white woman, Eleanor, from the bookstore where she worked for her father. Under the new Ninety-Day Detention Act, they could hold and question her, without attorney or trial, almost indefinitely. The officers only suspected the extent of Eleanor’s activities: a member of the African National Congress rebel movement, she had imported banned books, organized unions, stolen and placed explosives, and delivered secret messages. Winner of South Africa’s Alan Paton Award, this loving portrait written by Kasrils, Eleanor’s husband and later the country’s minister of intelligence services, tells the harrowing and exhilarating story of her arrest and escape. Eleanor’s strength and resolve enabled her to negotiate a transfer from prison to a mental institution, from which she broke out. With the help of the ANC underground, she and her soon-to-be-husband, Kasrils, left the country. Unfortunately, Kasrils avoids examining the ANC’s tactics in light of either historical movements or current geopolitical contexts, and resists analyzing the sacrifices Eleanor made for the cause—living in exile for most of her life and separated from her young daughter for 12 years. Rather, the book is an extended eulogy for an activist whose perseverance inspired the ANC movement. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
A husband tells the story of his wife's detention and their daring escape into exile from apartheid-era South Africa. On Aug. 19, 1963, police from South Africa's notorious Security Branch entered a bookstore in Durban and arrested Eleanor, the daughter of the owners. This book, which won the prestigious Alan Paton Award, tells the harrowing story of Eleanor's arrest, detainment and escape into exile. At the time Eleanor was dating Kasrils (Armed and Dangerous: My Undercover Struggle Against Apartheid, 1993), the book's author who was the Durban Security Police's target at the time of the raid on the bookstore. They hoped she'd give them precious information leading to the arrest of Kasrils and his colleagues. Little did they know that Eleanor had been quietly operating in a series of sabotage campaigns against the government. The book covers a brief period of time, reconstructing Eleanor's arrest, detainment in a Durban jail and the menacing questioning she endured, her placement in a mental institution after she engaged in a hunger strike and her subsequent escape and flight into exile to Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and then Tanzania. As readers will learn in the book's appendix--a touching memorial to Eleanor, who died of a stroke in November 2009--the couple soon moved on to London where they became prominent members of the African National Congress in exile. They returned to South Africa in 1990, and Kasrils served in a number of cabinet positions in post-apartheid governments. The book serves as something of a valentine to the author's beloved wife and a useful reminder of just how draconian the apartheid state and its security apparatus could be. A thriller-like look at one of the harshest periods in South African history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583672792
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Ronnie Kasrils is the former Minister of Intelligence Services in South Africa and the author of Armed and Dangerous, a bestselling autobiography about his own experiences in the African National Congress during the 1960s.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 29, 2014

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

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