From Commonwealth Book Prize Shortlisted Author Bridget Pitt
Finalist for the Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction
A Zulu foundling and a white missionary’s child raised as brothers in a world intent on making them enemies. A sweeping tale of identity, kinship, and atonement, set in 1870s South Africa, a decade of ruthless colonial aggression against the nation's indigenous people.
Moses, a Zulu baby discovered on a riverbank, and Daniel, the son of white missionaries, are raised as brothers on the Umzinyathi mission in 19th century Zululand, South Africa. As an infant, Daniel narrowly escapes an attack by a rhino and develops an intense corporeal connection to animals which challenges the religious dogma on which he is raised. Despite efforts by his adoptive mother to raise the boys as equals, Moses feels like an outsider to both white and Zulu society, and seeks certainty in astronomy and science. Only through each other do the brothers find a sense of belonging.
At Umzinyathi, Moses and Daniel are cushioned from the harsh realities of the expanding colony in neighboring Natal—where ancient spiritualism is being demonized, vast natural beauty faces rampant destruction, and the wealth of the colonizer depends on the engineered impoverishment of the indigenous. But when they leave the mission to work on a relative’s sugar estate and accompany him on a hunting safari, the boys are thrown into a world that sees their bond as a threat to the colonial order, and must confront an impossible choice: adapting to what society expects of them or staying true to each other.
With elements of magic realism, Eye Brother Horn is the heart-wrenching story of how two children born of vastly different worlds strive to forge a true brotherhood with each other and with other species, and to find ways to heal the deep wounds inflicted by the colonial expansion project.
"South African writer and environmental activist Pitt's latest novel meshes the lush beauty of South Africa with a bond between two boys and juxtaposes this pairing against divisive and unforgiving racism in a developing colonial system." — Booklist
“[A] heartwarming—and wrenching—tale of brothers forced to exist at odds. Eye Brother Horn is a creation myth in [and] of itself, not for any religion or group, but of harmony." — World Literature Today
"Eye Brother Horn is a compelling examination of the effects of colonisation on people and the environment, that is, on the human and the ‘more-than-human’; as well as an exploration of the life-changing impact of Christian missionary interventions in Natal. With its portrayal of brothers whose fates subvert stereotypically expected roles, it questions the in/ability to intervene in human and ‘extra-human’ lives and is a call to more conscious and empathetic interactions." — Africa Book Link
"This novel presents a unique insight into the history of colonial South Africa during a time of great turmoil and change. [...] [A]n engaging and thought-provoking book." — Historical Novel Society
“Unique and bold. This critique of the colonial enterprise is unlike any other you have read before. Through an ingenious use of African indigenous knowledge systems, Pitt tells the story of two brothers, connected by blood, who must not only navigate but also survive the delicate and often volatile ecosystem created by their histories and traditions. This is one of those wonderful stories that both break and mend the heart.” — Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, Recipient of the 2022 Windham Campbell Prize, author of The Theory of Flight and The History of Man
"Eye Brother Horn is an engaging time travel to 19th-century Zululand. The British colonial enterprise is in full swing, discharging both its soft power — missionaries — and its hard one — land dispossession and game hunting. This happens alongside deforestation to create more land for sugar plantations as the demand for the sweet stuff back in England soars. [R]ecommended to readers of all walks, especially those who have a fondness for history.”—Sunday Times (South Africa)
"Bridget Pitt has written a sensitive and unusual novel of late 19th Century life in the depths of the Natal bush on a small mission station. The novel has a magical quality where Pitt has taken African beliefs and the mysticism that surrounds them and employed them in a rich and spiritual story. [...] [A] poignant story of bonds, of defying convention and being true to oneself – at whatever cost." —Woman Zone (South Africa)
"Eye Brother Horn is a brilliant novel—subtle, imaginative, and richly rendered. Pitt has crafted a tale that is at once intimate and expansive, tender and unflinching. Her characters reach beyond the page and their message, one of both censure and hope—remains with you long after the end." — Amanda Skenandore, author of The Nurse's Secret and The Second Life of Mirielle West
"This powerful political fable of two brothers, Moses and Daniel, bound together by the intimate violence of British colonialism in 19th century South Africa, is beautifully and urgently told. Bridget Pitt delineates the social and environmental destruction wrought by colonial expansion into Zululand, the wanton slaughter of wildlife by white hunters, and the racism of rigid-minded and punitive Christian evangelists. This compelling historical novel illuminates the present as much as it does the past." — Margie Orford, The Eye of the Beholder
"Eye Brother Horn is a compelling cocktail of brother love, colonial conquest and rhino magic set in British-ruled Natal in the 1870s. It covers the seizure of land, the subjugation of people and the slaughter of animals in a tale of two brothers, one black, the other white, that weaves in a touch of magic in its gritty depiction of late-19th century life in British-ruled Natal." — Gavin Evans, Skin Deep: Dispelling the Science of Race
“By providing a fascinating fantastical glimpse into the past, this remarkable book informs the present. Eye Brother Horn reveals the brutality of colonial rule which shaped racial domination and severed our relationship with nature and provides an extraordinarily powerful parable for our times.” — Professor Ian Goldin, University of Oxford Professor of Globalisation and Development, author of Rescue: From Global Crisis to a Better World
"[B]rilliantly crafted and meticulously researched [...] EYE BROTHER HORN is like a rip current by which the reader is swept into an inescapable historical reality. The reader of this novel feels the tug of numerous enchanting, poignant, astonishing and mystical undertows. This novel is alive with myths, superstitions, dangers and legends." — Maretha Maartens, LitNet
“Stunning... one of the most beautiful novels I have read. Family bonds, fear, mysticism, the cruelty of colonialism: Pitt masterfully connects personal experiences of love and conflict with wider social strife." — Anne Brooker James, The Marsh Bird
"Beautifully written, Eye Brother Horn explodes with the violence of colonisation—the exploitation of land, the slaughter of wildlife, the misguided early Christian mission stations—yet aspires towards atonement and hope. Of mythic proportions, the prose aches with raw desire." — Joanne Hichens, Death and the After Parties