Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

Challengin­g reads for the weekend

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children – some as young as

9 – by the apartheid state. Some of the evidence amassed by the committee helped lay the groundwork for the Truth and Reconcilia­tion Commission.

The book tells the story of the committee and how the antidetent­ion movement became part of a mass uprising that eventually brought apartheid to its knees. And it inspires in relating how ordinary people stood up against the terrible scourge of racism and

the malicious abuse of power.

The grisly opening of this book is the harbinger of things to come. Set in war-torn Iraq, its first paragraph describes how a village wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates.

One belongs to one of Iraq’s most wanted men. The secret of why he has been beheaded lies in the scarred battlefiel­ds of the Gulf War and in the President’s Gardens.

Translated from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren, this beautifull­y written, albeit tragic, story describes the horrors of war – the carnage, the fear and the shreds of dignity that are clung to – with a tenderness and honesty that has been lauded as a masterpiec­e of Middle Eastern literature.

Robert Poole remained in South Africa at the end of the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century and was recognised for his bravery with a Queen’s medal and a King’s medal.

He went on to work as a telegraphi­st in Heidelberg (Transvaal) and then at the

Post Office’s head office in Johannesbu­rg in 1914. He joined the South African forces under General Louis Botha and served in German South West Africa as an engineer and then from 1916 to 1919 in France.

In both countries, he was again awarded for his military expertise and bravery, ending up a lieutenant colonel.

Back in South Africa, he was a chief engineer at the South African Post Office and was later involved in broadcasti­ng. This is his story, in the form of a diary, and makes fascinatin­g reading as an account of the times in which Poole lived during war and peace. – Orielle Berry

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