Jacob Dlamini reviews The List in The Johannesburg Review of Books
The List, the debut novel by former anti-apartheid activist and uMkhonto weSizwe member Barry Gilder, is a meditation about betrayal, faith, loss and trust, writes Jacob Dlamini in The Johannesburg Review of Books.
‘Does it matter now?’ asks the character S’bu Dlamini in Barry Gilder’s wistful novel The List. Does it matter whether S’bu trusts his uncle William Dlamini, an apartheid agent who used his position as headmaster of a Lowveld school to spot black talent for the Security Police and the National Intelligence Service? Does it matter that the uncle took advantage of his position as an authority figure to recruit his best students to spy on the ANC for the apartheid state?
The novel moves between the past, the present and the future; when S’bu asks his question, it is August 2019. S’bu, a former trade unionist, underground operative and MK combatant, is talking to Jerry Whitehead, a veteran intelligence officer of the ANC and retired member of post-apartheid South Africa’s security service. Whitehead has been plucked from retirement by members of the ANC concerned about The Signs, traces of apartheid-era networks that have wormed their way into the new order, corrupting and destroying everything in their path.