Cover image for A dry white season
A dry white season
Brink, André P. (André Philippus), 1935-2015.
Publication Information:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England ; New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin, 1984.

Physical Description:
316 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published: New York : Morrow, 1980, c1979.
Reading Level:
750 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.9 17.0 71290.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Reading List

On Order



As startling and powerful as when first published more than two decades ago, Andre Brink's classic novel, "A Dry White Season," is an unflinching and unforgettable look at racial intolerance, the human condition, and the heavy price of morality. Ben Du Toit is a white schoolteacher in suburban Johannesburg in a dark time of intolerance and state-sanctioned apartheid. A simple, apolitical man, he believes in the essential fairness of the South African government and its policies the sudden arrest and subsequent "suicide" of a black janitor from Du Toit's school. Haunted by new questions and desperate to believe that the man's death was a tragic accident, Du Toit undertakes an investigation into the terrible affair quest for the truth that will have devastating consequences for the teacher and his family, as it draws him into a lethal morass of lies, corruption, and murder.

Author Notes

André Brink was born on May 29, 1935 in Vrede, South Africa. He studied English and Afrikaans at the University in Potchefstroom and comparative literature in Paris. He was a South African writer and educator.

He became a part of a group of writers known as Die Sestigers upon returning to South Africa in the 1960s. The group aimed to broaden Afrikaner fiction by writing about sexual and moral matters and the failings of the traditional political system. His books included Rumors of Rain, Looking on Darkness, A Dry White Season, and States of Emergency. Some of his books were banned in South Africa.

He became a professor of Afrikaans and Dutch literature at Rhodes University and professor of English at the University of Cape Town. He has received the 1980 Martin Luther King Prize, the 1980 French Prix Medicis Etranger, and the 1982 Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. He was shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice and nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature on several occasions. He died on February 6, 2015 at the age of 79.

(Bowker Author Biography)



A Dry White Season Chapter One It all really began, as far as Ben was concerned, with the death of Gordon Ngubene. But from the notes he made subsequently, and from newspaper cuttings, it is obvious that the matter went back much further. At least as far as the death of Gordon's son Jonathan at the height of the youth riots in Soweto. And even beyond that, to the day, two years earlier -- represented in Ben's papers by a receipt with a brief note scribbled on it when he'd started contributing to the schooling of the then fifteen year old Jonathan. Gordon was the black cleaner in the school where Ben taught History and Geography to the senior classes. In the older journals there are occasional references to "Gordon N." or just "Gordon"; and from time to time one finds, in Ben's fastidious financial statements, entries like "Gordon -- R5.oo"; or "Received from Gordon (repayment) -- R5.00", etc. Sometimes Ben gave him special instructions about notes on his blackboard; on other occasions he approached him for small personal jobs. Once, when some money disappeared from the classrooms and one or two of the teachers immediately blamed Gordon for it, it was Ben who took the cleaner under his wing and instituted inquiries which revealed a group of matric boys to be the culprits. From that day Gordon took it upon himself to wash Ben's car once a week. And when, after Linda's difficult birth, Susan was out of action for some time, it was Gordon's wife Emily who helped them out with housework. As they came to know each other better Ben discovered more about Gordon's background. As a young boy he had arrived from the Transkei with his parents when his father had found employment in the City Deep Mine. And since he showed interest in reading and writing from an early age he was sent to school -- no cheap or easy undertaking for a man in his father's position. Gordon made steady progress until he'd passed Standard Two, but then his father died in a rockfall in the mine and Gordon had to leave school and start working to supplement his mother's meagre income as a domestic servant. For some time he was houseboy for a rich Jewish family in Houghton; later he found a better paid job as messenger for a firm of attorneys in the city, and then as an assistant in a bookshop. Somehow he managed to keep up his reading and the manager of the bookshop, pleased by his interest, helped him to continue his studies. In this way he eventually passed Standard Four. At that stage Gordon went back to the Transkei. A traumatic experience, as it turned out, since there was no work for him back home, apart from lending a hand with the paltry farming activities of a great-uncle: planting maize, scouring the veld with a lean dog in search of hares for meat, sitting in the sun in front of the hut. He'd left the city because he couldn't stand life there any more; but it proved to be worse on the farm. There was something fretful and desultory in his blood after the years he'd been away. All the money he'd brought with him had gone into lobola -- the dowry for a wife; and barely a year after his arrival in the Transkei he returned to the only place he really knew, Johannesburg, Gouthini. After a brief unsettled spell he landed at Ben's school. One after another his children were born: in Alexandra, then Moroka, then Orlando. The eldest was Jonathan, his favourite. From the outset Gordon had resolved to rear his son in the traditions of his tribe. And when Jonathan turned fourteen he was sent back to the Transkei to be circumcised and initiated. A year later Jonathan -- or Sipho, which Gordon said was his "real" name-was back, no longer a kwedini but a man. Gordon had always spoken about this day. From now on he and his son would be allies, two men in the house. There was no lack of friction, since Jonathan obviously had a mind of his awn; but on the main issue they agreed: Jonathan would go to school for as long as possible. And it was just after he'd passed Standard Six and secondary school was becoming an expensive business, that they turned to Ben for help. Ben made enquiries at Jonathan's school and the family's church and, finding everybody in agreement on the boy's intelligence and perseverance and promise, offered to pay for Jonathan's school fees and books for as long as he continued to do well. He was quite impressed by the youngster: a thin, shy, polite boy, always neatly dressed, his shirt as starkly white as his teeth. In exchange for the financial support, Gordon saw to it that Jonathan agreed to help out in Ben's garden over weekends. At the end of the first year there were smiles all round when Jonathan produced his school report, showing an average of over sixty per cent. As a reward for his achievement Ben gave him an old suit that belonged to his own son Johan -- the two boys were roughly the same age -- as well as an almost new pair of shoes and two rand in cash. But in the course of the second year Jonathan began to change. Although he was still doing reasonably well he seemed to have lost interest and often played ,he no longer turned up over weekends for his stint of gardening; his attitude became sullen and truculent and a couple of times he was openly cheeky with Ben. According to Gordon he was spending more time on the streets than at home. Surely no good could come of it. His fears were soon realised. One day there was trouble at a beer-hall. A gang of tsotsis -- hooligans -- attacked a group of older men, and when the owner tried to throw them out they ran amok in the place, smashing everything in their way. The police arrived in two vans and carted off whatever youngsters they could lay hands on in the vicinity of the beer-hall, Jonathan among them. The boy insisted that he'd had nothing to do with the commotion, that he'd been on the scene purely by accident when the fighting broke out; but the police witnesses testified that they'd seen him with the gang. The trial was very brief. Owing to a misunderstanding Gordon didn't attend: he had been told it would take place in the afternoon but when he arrived at the courtroom it was all over. He tried to protest against Jonathan's sentence of six cuts, but by that time the flogging had already been administered. A Dry White Season . Copyright © by Andre Brink. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from A Dry White Season by André Brink All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.