Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: André Brink’s Philida (Review #2)

PhilidaRating: 3.0
Philida
A Novel by André Brink
2012 / 320 Pages

The Setup: The year is 1832 and the Cape is rife with rumours about the liberation of the slaves. Philida made a pact for freedom with Francois Brink, the son of her master, but he has reneged on his promise to set her free. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Philida risks her life by setting off on foot for distant Stellenbosch, in a journey that begins with the small act of saying no. (from the hardcover edition)


This review was simultaneously published on Opinionless on 08/20/2012

A review in which the reviewer wonders if the novel could have used a dash less penis talk or perhaps at least some descriptions of vaginas to even the playing field for members of the opposite sex

Philida. It’s hard to describe exactly what this novel is really all about. I mean, on the one hand it is most definitely about slavery and injustice, but on the other it’s also about peni and religion. Lots of peni. Semi erect peni. Shooting peni. Slimy peni. All ages of peni. All shapes. All sizes. All colors.

Two times, because the first time the rope break, and I remember how the man keep dancing at the end of the rope round his neck, and how his thing get all big and stiff and start to spit.

I lead the way with stiff legs, following my half-rampant member that tries half-heartedly to point the way.

It has really lost the ability to stand up properly. But it remembers. Oh my God, how it remembers. Old One-Eye forgets nothing. In its blue head memory lies embedded.

From the thick, dark tip of his thing a drool of slime still comes trickling.

And my personal favorite:

I’m going to press out your balls. I’m your mother. Do we two understand each other?

Eventually the penis talk does peter out (ha!) and what we’re left with is a piece of historical fiction that is based on a life of the brother of one of the author’s direct ancestors. In this respect Philida is a daring work for the author to tackle, delving backward in time to recreate some not so proud moments in his family’s heritage, but the story moves far too slowly and is told from too many perspectives for it to properly pack the emotional charge one would expect from this kind of tale.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of heinous acts perpetrated against human beings here that one should feel outrage against, but the way Brink describes and justifies these events actually has the opposite effect on the reader, separating and desensitizing them from the violence by repeatedly dismissing it as simply a sign of the times and laws that both slaves and masters were forced to adhere to. Just because it was the law doesn’t make it right, but writing from the perspective of the slavers in an attempt to humanize them ultimately hurts the story being told and makes most of the events that occur come off as being a tad ridiculous.

White boy Francois Gerhard Jacob Brink is in lust with his family’s black slave Philida. He coerces her into making sweet love and several children with him by promising that he’ll see to it that she becomes a free woman. Philida believes him at first, but when push comes to shove it by way of an arranged marriage it becomes painfully obvious to her that he’s nothing but a liar and a coward so she reports him to the slave protector.

Oh how he loves her though! In his own twisted way he does try to do right by her. Instead of drowning an entire litter of kittens, he begrudgingly lets her keep one of them all for herself. Instead of admitting that he’s the father of her children he denies the charge by claiming that Philida’s statement is “as true as it is false.” He refuses to write her name in his family’s history books. He refuses to get her shoes. All this is enough to drive a girl to convert from Christianity to Islam! And so she does.

Where the peni talk ends, religion takes over. Philida is sold at auction and is reborn in ways of Al-lah at her new home thanks to a ball-less (yes, we can’t escape over analyzing even a single man’s junk when introducing him for the first time as a major character) slave named Labyn. Together they hopefully count down the days until their promised freedom will ring throughout the land. And when it finally arrives? Then what? Nothing. Finished. Fin. End. Over. Done. There’s not a single word dedicated to describing what her post-slave life is truly like, which is a shame because despite how awkwardly written the novel was, I really wanted her to overcome the hardships she endured so that she could make a better life for both herself and for her children.

If you want happy, you best look elsewhere.  If you ended up here by accident because you were looking for that other book with lots of peni and a different type of slave and master relationship I’m pretty sure it’s titled 50 Shades of Grey.

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