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  • Published: 5 June 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787332171
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $59.99

Dreaming the Karoo

A People Called the /Xam




A spellbinding new book by the much-acclaimed writer, a journey to South Africa in search of the lost people called the /Xam - a haunting book about the brutality of colonial frontiers and the fate of those they dispossess.

In spring 2020, Julia Blackburn travelled to the Karoo region of South Africa. She had long been fascinated by the indigenous group called the /Xam, who were brutally forced from their ancestral lands by European settlers in the nineteenth century. Facing extinction and the death of their language, several of the /Xam people related their stories to a European philologist Wilhelm Bleek and his English sister-in-law, Lucy Lloyd. In 12,000 pages of notebooks, Lloyd and Bleek meticulously recorded their words - their dreams, memories, hopes, history and beliefs - creating an extraordinary archive of this now extinct people.

Blackburn's journey to the Karoo was cut short by the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. As the world is plunged into a bewildering new state, she immerses herself in the stories of the /Xam. The /Xam saw themselves as just one small part of the complexity of nature. Their belief system gave voice and dignity to everything that surrounded them, the dead and the living, birds and animals, the wind and the rain, the moon and the stars. All things were once people, they said - everything was speaking to you, if you only knew how to listen.

This is a haunting book about loss, colonialism, nature, and about how we live in the world and what we leave behind. In mesmerising, deceptively simple and often profoundly beautiful prose, Blackburn conjures the voices of a silenced people, revealing the weight of their omission from our collective memory and our imaginations. Dreaming the Karoo is a spellbinding new masterpiece by one of our greatest and most original non-fiction writers.

  • Published: 5 June 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787332171
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $59.99

About the author

Julia Blackburn

Julia Blackburn is an author and scriptwriter whose radio plays include A Good Death, Betsy and Napoleon, The Need for Nonsense and The Spellbound Horses.

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Praise for Dreaming the Karoo

It is such a wonderful book. It made me stretch my hand to my lover. It made me want to show my children the footprints, scars and stones under our feet. It made me want to sit down to look at the sea... It made me deeply grateful that I am alive.

Max Porter (Praise for Time Song)

Both Wordsworthian and Woolfian ... This book is a wonder.

Adam Nicolson (Praise for Time Song)

Breathtaking... [a] splendidly rich book... I admire the intelligence, the appetite for discovery and the shining imagination that have gone into it.

Gillian Tindall (Praise for Time Song)

This book gripped me by its clairvoyant and poetic conversation with the past and Julia Blackburn's extraordinary sympathy and perspicacity in finding in the lightest and smallest traces the story of our human species

Antony Gormley (Praise for Time Song)

Poetic and fascinating

Olivia Laing (Praise for Time Song)

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