Books: White Walls Waiting: the Whites of South Africa

by Vincent Crapanzano Random House; 358 pages; $19.95

Emotionally cornered and widely condemned, the whites of South Africa are the prisoners of a status quo that is murderous to sustain and suicidal to abandon. Their response to this dilemma is not in itself surprising: the more their racist system is branded as offensive, the more defensive, and dangerous, they become. "The first habit we instill," says Hennie van der Merwe, "is the habit not to ask questions."

Hennie is the pseudonym of an outspoken Anglican priest in Wyndal, a pseudonymous white settlement in a lush, isolated valley north of Cape Town. His audience is Vincent Crapanzano, an anthropologist at...

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