The Story of an African Farm

PDF EBook by Olive Schreiner

EBook Description

What led me to this novel was the Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, said to be the only autobiographical work about the First World War written by a woman. The Story of an African Farm PDF EBook If my recollection is right, this novel was a hot topic of discussion between Vera Brittain and her fiance during the few last moments of peace they enjoyed before he, Vera's brother and several of their male friends went to the Front and perished one- PDFby-one in the battlefields of Europe.

But why would these Englishmen be discussing a novel about an African farm during the brink of a world war? Well, the novel is not about any farm though the setting is in a farm in South Africa where the author was born in 1855. It is almost about EVERYTHING except farming.

Olive Schreiner's parents were devout Christians (Calvinists). Her father was a missionary among the tribesmen in the frontiers of the colony whom he was trying to convert to the faith. Yet at the young age of ten (as she confessed later in life), shortly after the death of her younger sister who was dearly loved, she had become an atheist.

She never attended school, even of the most basic nursery-type thing, spending childhood years in lonely missionary outposts. At age twelve she left home to work: as a housekeeper to some of her older married siblings and, on several occasions, as a governess for various white (Boer) families.It was while working as a governess that she began writing this novel. It was published in 1883 with much acclaim mainly because of its feminist theme (two of its principal protagonists were unconventional, strong-willed women, although both looked stupid to me on matters of the heart). And it was also a platform for the 28-year-old author's anti-religious bent where, for example, she made a character say:

"Now we have no God. We have had two: the old God that our fathers handed down to us, that we hated, and never liked; download; the new one that we made for ourselves, that we loved; but now he has flitted away from us, and we see what he was made of—the shadow of our highest ideal, crowned and throned. Now we have no God.

"'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.' It may be so. Most things said or written have been the work of fools.

"This thing is certain—he is a fool who says, 'No man hath said in his heart, There is no God.'

"It has been said many thousand times in hearts with profound bitterness of earnest faith.

""We do not cry and weep; we sit down with cold eyes and look at the world. We are not miserable. Why should we be? We eat and drink, and sleep all night; but the dead are not colder.

"And, we say it slowly, but without sighing, 'Yes, we see it now: there is no God.'

"And, we add, growing a little colder yet, 'There is no justice. The ox dies in the yoke, beneath its master's whip; it turns its anguish-filled eyes on the sunlight, but there is no sign of recompense to be made it. The black man is shot like a dog, and it goes well with the shooter. The innocent are accused, and the accuser triumphs. If you will take the trouble to scratch the surface anywhere, you will see under the skin a sentient being writhing in impotent anguish.'

"And, we say further, and our heart is as the heart of the dead for coldness, 'There is no order: all things are driven about by a blind chance.'"


The novel is marred by imperfections. A more careful publisher would have sent it back to the author for revisions or restructuring. As it is, it seems to be one where it has not made up its mind whether it wants to be humorous, tragic or polemical. But it stood out proud during its time, more than a century ago, and at its unique place in the sun, authored by this remarkable young woman.

It certainly still deserves to be read to this day. Like this book? Read online this: God and the World He Made, At the Farm.

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