No Man's Land
36-year-old Paul du Toit, a covert army operative in the twilight years of white-ruled South Africa, believes he has buried his violent past, until events force him to apply for amnesty from the TRC for the deaths of two anti-apartheid activists. He gets dismissed from his job and his wife sues him for divorce. Having become a pariah, and on discovering that Louise has fled to London, he follows her there, where he joins the South African expatriate community. Adrift in an inhospitable city, he reflects on his past and his guilt. However, the truth is as elusive as Louise is, and his journey to London also becomes a painful journey into himself. He finds out that his wife harbours some secrets of her own. He becomes involved in a violent feud with London criminals, and once again he is faced with a moral test, a test he has failed before. When he returns to South Africa he visits the relatives of the two dead activists and admits his guilt. He also finds out that even he did not know the full truth about what had happened. He now has to decide whether his future lies in South Africa or London. No Man's Land is Carel van der Merwe's debut novel.
From No Man’s Land, page 25
In the ensuing days he seldom leaves the house. After the newspaper articles and his brief appearance on the television news he feels exposed and vulnerable in public places. He sometimes detects furtive glances in his direction; once in a shop he catches a flash of recognition in a stranger’s eyes. The smell of food nauseates him and he eats little. One evening he tries, and fails, to get drunk – it seems he has even lost his taste for alcohol. The top of his ribcage aches and the thin layer of flesh over his breastbone feels bruised, as if he has been dealt a staggering blow to the chest. In the evenings he watches television on a small portable set until his eyes are numb; afterwards he struggles to fall asleep. Sometimes he wakes up during the night with a racing heart and drenched in sweat.
... an engrossing and thoughtful novel ...
Read the entire review by Michiel Heyns in the Sunday Independent.
Works on more than one level: as a really good read, and as a prompt to readers to think about what the truth of their life really is.
Jen Crocker, Fair Lady
A delightful South African novel ... Penned in a refreshingly different style.
Heinz de Boer, Daily News
A suspenseful story that combines politics, mystery and a love interest.
Gavin Barfield, Cape Times