Agaat, by Marlene van Niekerk

Staff Pick


Like a South African Faulkner, van Niekerk has written a stunning, densely layered narrative of race, class, and frustrated dreams.  Looking back from 1996, the paralyzed and mute Milla recalls her life on an Africaaner farm: she struggles to understand her bitter marriage, her son’s estrangement and, most of all, her complex relationship with Agaat. Over forty years ago Milla saved the black child from starvation and abuse and, but for the strictures of apartheid, would have continued to treat her as an adopted daughter instead of making her a servant. Now Milla’s sole caregiver, Agaat is capable and inscrutable, tender and petty. The two women know each other so intimately they communicate without speaking. They intuit each other’s needs and know how to inflict fresh pain, even as the wounds of the past continue to fester. Resentment, unspoken love, and withheld secrets make Milla’s last months as tense, dramatic, and rich as any in her life.

Agaat Cover Image
By Marlene Van Niekerk, Michiel Heyns (Translated by), Mary Gaitskill (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781951142209
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Tin House Books - December 1st, 2020

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