A look at the man at the helm of the Cape Colony frontier at the end of the 18th century: Coenraad de Buys is a legend, a polygamist, a swindler and a big talker; a rebel who fights with Xhosa chieftains against the Boers and British; the fierce patriarch of a sprawling mixed-race family with a veritable tribe of followers; a savage enemy and a loyal ally.
...a sensational novel ... Anker writes like a talented demon ... Coenraad is detestable. He is vile to the women in his life. He kills his best friend. He relishes violence. He is without remorse. But he leaps with incredible vivacity from the page. You won’t like him, but you won’t forget him quickly either.
Red Dog is an ambitious hybrid of a book...and has been expertly translated by Michiel Heyns, who has retained the cadence and some of the vocabulary of the original Afrikaans ... Anker draws skilfully on the Cape’s patchily written archives ... Anker spares no detail in describing a brutal frontier society, in which slavery was legal and the genocide of southern Africa’s original inhabitants, the Bushmen, was sanctioned ... Gaps in the official record are filled by Buys’s vividly evoked interior life, and an omniscient narrator who draws the reader to him ... This reprise of the murderous origins of colonial dominion over South Africa is timely—and depressing, in that the violence of the past continues to blight the present.
Anker is not a writer wholly without talents, but imitation cannot be counted among them. Beckett’s Molloy provides clear inspiration for one of Red Dog’s primary conceits, as 'Omni-Buys' warps and betrays his own narrative ... Yet these interjections become tedious from early on, lacking the wit or intrigue that might justify them—not to mention the originality. It is, however, McCarthy who is served worse, and by some considerable margin. Anker often drifts and indulges in the author’s most recognizable tropes, with long, polysyndetic passages, rampant violence and a grasping for some godly weight ... Red Dog seems very far from flattery.