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C Louis Leipoldt has long been received as a major figure within the Afrikaans literary canon. The recent posthumous publication of his English-language Valley Trilogy (written in the 1920s, when the white between Anglophone and Dutch or Afrikaans political lobbies) now reveals him as a dedicated liberal, squarely set against the isolationist policies of his Afrikaner peers. Leipoldt is a complex figure who fits partially into both these camps. His background in Moravian mission culture was more continental than Cape Dutch; his experiences as a journalist and medical student gave him broad perspectives of Britain, Europe and the Far East. He worked with nationalists such as Gustav Preller, yet his sympathies lay in the liberal Cape. The essay reads these dynastic novels as novels of ideas in which from 1840 to 1920 the characters enact in microcosm the formation of South African civil society, and engage with the unfolding tragedy of racial rivalr.