Burger's Daughter Characters

Burger's Daughter Character List

Rosa Burger

Rosa is the child of two white liberal activists who worked and lived in Africa during Apartheid. Having lost both her parents and her "adopted" brother as a child, she sort of resents her parents' work now as an adult. Both of her parents died in jail. Rosa inherits her parents' appearance and the hopes of the people they had helped, as well as the South African government's suspicion. Unwilling to bear all of these things alone, she becomes infuriated with the South African Communist Party and their goals. She's determined to take her life as far away from that madness as possible, so she manages to get a passport and go to France and eventulaly England. When she runs into her childhood friend, with whom she was raised like a sibling, in London, she's thrilled to reunite with him. He treats her like a traitor and insults her. This moment is of paramount important in Rosa's life because she chooses to embrace her parents' legacies and to resume their work in South Africa.

Lionel Burger

He is Rosa'a father. His death in 1974 incites the events of the book. Working, often with his wife, for years to help the SACP gain control of the political scene in South Africa, he has made a reputation for himself as a communist traitor. Everyone around him is surveilled by the government and considered a threat to national security. Before his death in 1974, he serves three years in prison for treason.

Cathy Burger

Rosa's mom is an activist of equal vehemence to her husband. When Rosa is 14, she receives word that her mom has died in prison. Cathy devotes her entire life to the cause. Consequently Rosa and Baasie are sent away to live with other obscure family members when Rosa is nine.


Baasie is the son of another SACP member who died in prison. He comes to live with the Burgers when Rosa is very young, so she considers him like a brother to her. When they are both sent away at age nine, they are sent to live with different families. In fact Rosa has no way of contacting Baasie again. By happenstance they reunite at a communist political event in London years later. Having devoted his life to following in his real dad's footsteps, Baasie has established a name for himself in the movement. Has has, however, become particularly embittered toward white activists for stealing the coverage of the "legitimate" members of the SACP. He accuses Rosa of all sorts of treason and cowardice for abonding the movement and still using her father's name as if it meant anything to her. He reveals that his real name is Zwelinzima Vulindlela.


Conrad meets Rosa when she's twenty, during the time of her father's trial. He's a student at one of the local colleges. He's intrigued by her curious upbringing and treats her like royalty. They move in together, but it doesn't last because neither of them know who they want to be yet. Eventually Rosa decides to work as a physiotherapist and outwears Conrad's curiosity, so she moves into her own place.


Katya is Lionel's first wife. Living in Nice, she has respectfully removed herself from his unstable political affiliations. She invites Rosa to stay with her for a while after she makes it out of South Africa.

Bernard Chabalier

Bernard meets Rosa when she's staying with Katya. Originally from Paris, he's visiting Nice for an academic conference. He charms Rosa with his wit and intellect, and the two become lovers. Knowing his time is short, he convinces Rosa to come live with him in Paris. His hopes are crushed, however, when she runs into Baasie in London in the meantime. When she is reminded of her familial inheritance, she sacrificies her desire for him to her duty back home in South Africa.

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