Last week, while I had my nose in Wahbie Long’s new book, reading about “the brokenness at the heart of the nation”, community vigilantes in Zandspruit abducted nine young men accused of home invasions and necklaced them on a soccer pitch. One victim had his arms hacked off when he refused to kneel; eight died. When Msindisi Fengu of City Press visited two days later (the piece would run on page six, way behind accounts of Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule’s lawfare), children were playing soccer “joyfully” on the massacre site while locals went about their business at the surrounding spazas.

That children are playing football on the site of a fresh massacre — it must be called that — is a sign of life’s irrepressibility. But what does this insouciance say about their future? This is the type of question Wahbie Long sets out to answer in his book. A psychology professor — his lodestars are both Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx — he insists on grappling with the internal as well as exter...

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