This book, republished after almost 40 years, has survived as a South African classic while most other memoirs about life under apartheid have been forgotten. It’s not just because it’s beautifully written, in a plain, unpretentious style, but also because it conveys, with acute observation, the combination of ordinariness and danger which is implicit in any totalitarian state.
The author quotes W.H. Auden: ‘Suffering...takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.’ And she quietly conveys her own suffering as a political activist who was also a dedicated mother of young children, facing growing persecution, fear and eventual exile.
Hilda Bernstein was a young English- woman who had lived in South Africa as a girl and returned there before the second world war as a communist, married to another comrade, ‘Rusty’ Bernstein, a promising architect.