Estienne Barbier, born in the Loire Valley in 1699, lays claim to service in the armies of the kings of France and Prussia, but he is an inveterate liar, and the truth is less glorious: irate husbands have made the Lowlands too hot to hold him, and he has deserted his pregnant wife to stow away for the Cape of Good Hope.
An expedition to the hinterland opens his eyes to the majesty of the African landscape and its wondrous animals and he is enchanted by the rumour of a fabled city of gold. But he also begins to see clearly the sordid dealing that underlies the self-righteous pomposity of the East India Company. It is a vision that makes him powerful enemies. Taking cover on a remote farm, and energetically consoling sundry widows, Barbier finds himself, to his own surprise, fomenting rebellion.
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An immensely generous novel, vivid and adroit in its use of history - The Times
Peter Carey, Garcia Marquez, Alexander Solzhenitsyn: André Brink must be considered with that class of writer - The Guardian
On the surface, On the Contrary is a picaresque historical novel... Underneath, of course, the novel is about today's South Africa and the dilemmas facing people challenging the status quo. Brink has written a novel which entertains first and only later assumes a political significance. To rake over the old embers with such skill and ingenuity represents a considerable acheivement - Sunday Telegraph
André Brink is the author of several novels in English, including A Dry White Season, Imaginings of Sand, The Rights of Desire, The Other Side of Silence and, most recently, Philida. He has won South Africa's most important literary prize, the CNA Award, three times and has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.