BOOK REVIEW | Making peace with demons and those that torment ...

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BOOK REVIEW | Making peace with demons and those that torment others

At its heart, ‘They Got To You Too’ is about seeking forgiveness and finding paths to inner calm

Monique Verduyn

When retired police general Hans van Rooyen finds himself in an old-age home, frail, anxious and alone, the last thing he expects is to be cared for by the daughter of former freedom fighters. They Got to You Too, SA writer Futhi Ntshingila’s third novel, is a multilayered tale about the power of compassion. Ntshingila has a master’s degree in conflict resolution, so it’s not surprising that at its heart, the novel is about seeking forgiveness and finding paths to inner peace. 

Van Rooyen, referred to as “Madala”, was raised by two women who survived the 1899 SA War — his “oumagrootjie” (great-grandmother) and family servant Kristina, on the farm Groot Dame. At 80, he carries with him the memories of crimes he committed as an officer under the apartheid government. Having eluded public confession at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for his time in the Border Wars, he retained his position in the new SA because his knowledge and experience was seen as a way to preserve institutional memory for a new generation of police recruits.

In the care home, Van Rooyen is plagued by ghosts and his nightmares are brutal: “When a man comes face-to-face with mortality, he battles. I suppose my default is rage but this time, I must admit, my mind is already surrendering. I am fooling no one. I feel myself going down the drain. I fear the unknown.”..

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