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BOOKS & THE CULTURE branch, Bloemfontein for the judiciary, and Cape Town for the legislature. Moving across majestic landscape to visit all three, an awestruck traveler understands why, pace Alan Paton, foreign investors might, now that sanctions have been lifted, wish to buy the beloved country. Books are not banned in the new South Africa. Under the old regime, Nadine Gordimer, Breyten Breytenbach, Henry Miller, Alex Haley, and even the haplessly titled Black Beauty were embargoed. However, during July, while neighboring Zimbabwe barred openly gay publishers from its international book fair, South Africans exulted in the novelty of cultural freedom. The most widely discussed new book was The Scent of Apples, a homosexual coming-of-age novel by Mark Behr that created almost as . much stir as its novice author’s public confession of having served as a government spy. Miscast, a disturbing exhibition at the National Gallery, exposed the systematic dehumanization and extermination of the indigenous Bushmen/San by both Europeans and Bantus. Under the title Faultlines, artists and authors of varied backgrounds came together in Cape Town to exhume the legacy of hate and drive a stake through its heart. To the delight of more than 100,000 visitors, the annual arts festival in Grahamstown, whose streets abounded with buskers, vendors, and good cheer, offered up theatrical provocations, including: a Brechtian adaptation called The Good Woman of Sharkville, Pieter-Dirk Uys’ transvestite impersonations of South African dignitaries, and actors in varying states of exposure in several of 500 other productions. On a Durban stage, Umabatha proffered Macbeth performed in Zulu and transposed to dynastic intrigues among heirs to the Emperor Shaka. However, seats to the most intense drama in South Africa during my stay were available at hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Charged with investigating abuses committed under apartheid and empowered to offer amnesty to malefactors and compensation to vic tims, the seventeen commissioners, led by Tutu, began work in April and are aiming to complete their task in two years. On the day I caught up with the TRC, it was hearing testimony, mostly in Zulu, about intimidation, assault, abduction, rape, torture, and murder carried out against supporters of the United Democratic Front. The perpetrators, according to riveting accounts, were members of the Inkatha movement, in collusion with state security services. When the apartheid regime was not itself performing atrocities against its opponents, it was, insisted a witness, guilty of “cowardice, complacency, and complicity” toward those who did. Later accounts recalled how the ANC, too, harmed innocent victims in its struggle for justice. “An ethical drain cleaner” is what an academic historian demanded of the TRC. “Sengathi Iqiniso Lingenza Isize Sibuyisane /Ha nnete e tlise poelano setjhabeng/ Mag die waarheid ons yolk ondersteun / May the Truth reconcile our nation,” proclaimed a banner in the hearing room, in four of the eleven official languages. The moot premise of the TRC is that truth and reconciliation are compatible and mutually dependent. Nuremburg is a precedent, but Argentina and Chile, where official crimes were acknowledged but not punished, seem closer analogies. The albatross, totem of guilt, ought to be the national bird of South Africa. Who needs a Unabomber when the government itself was sending booby-trapped letters that killed Ruth First and maimed Albie Sachs? But in the Karoo, the vast semiarid central region, fields are filled with thousands and thousands of ostriches. Television did not come to South Africa until 1976. South Africans, kept ignorant through state censorship, can now raise their heads out of the sand. But ostriches are gawky birds; despite their wings, they cannot fly. However, South Africa’s culture and economy now seem poised to soar. Despite the best efforts of righteous foreigners to preserve the country as a kind of moral theme parkH. F. Verwoerd’ s wax museumSouth Africa is aspiring to banality. Ordinary muggers, not sadistic jailers, are a serious menace now. The notorious Robben Island has, like Alcatraz, become a tourist attraction. I rambled from Soweto to the Cape of Good Hope in mixed company, but none of us was ever able to relish indignation over being refused accommodation. A visit from Michael Jackson or an Australian rugby team is bigger news than ceremoniesmy first encounter with Mandelamarking the fiftieth anniversary of non-violent resistance. Kentucky Fried Chicken is easier to find than kudu biltong. To see how commercialization has replaced eradication of native cultures, visit Shakaland, where patrons lodge in thatched huts and pretend they are warriors under the emperor who was the Washington and Stalin of Zulu nationhood. “If you wrote a novel in South Africa which didn’t concern the central issues, it wouldn’t be worth publishing,” wrote Paton. But either circumstances or the central issues have changed, and Paton’s compatriots can no longer be expected to write passionately and exclusively about the racial crisis. Imagine Belfast poets suddenly able to turn their attention to anything but “The Troubles” or Israeli novelists not ‘expected to address the geopolitics of the Middle East in every Hebrew sentence. South Africans are expressing themselves freely in each of their languages, including Afrikaans; once the language of the oppressor, it was also the language of the oppressed, spoken by a majority of coloreds and more widely by nonwhites than Afrikaners. South Africa is not utopia; Greek-speakers know that no place is. Gaping economic disparities persist. So, along with unemployment, illiteracy, and crime, do fear and rancor. The resurgent National Party is gaining solid support from coloreds, who feel threatened by black ascendancy. Mandela will relinquish power in 1999. At the end of the millennium, South Africa must work social magic with nothing beneath it but a cape called Good Hope. Steven G. Kellman writes for the Observer on film and books. He is the Ashbel Smith Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Texas, San Antonio. “TO BE FREE IS A WAY THAT NOT MERELY TO CAST OFF ONE’S CHAINS, BUT TO LIVE IN RESPECTS AND ENHANCES THE FREEDOM OF OTHERS. ” SEPTEMBER 27, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27