Synopses & Reviews
A startling novel by the leading writer of the new South Africa
In The Heart of Redness -- shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize -- Zakes Mda sets a story of South African village life against a notorious episode from the country's past. The result is a novel of great scope and deep human feeling, of passion and reconciliation.
As the novel opens Camugu, who left for America during apartheid, has returned to Johannesburg. Disillusioned by the problems of the new democracy, he follows his "famous lust" to Qolorha on the remote Eastern Cape. There in the nineteenth century a teenage prophetess named Nonqawuse commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that once they did so the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the occupying English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the Xhosa into Believers and Unbelievers, dividing brother from brother, wife from husband, with devastating consequences.
One hundred fifty years later, the two groups' decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future -- and into a bizarre love triangle as well.
The Heart of Redness is a seamless weave of history, myth, and realist fiction. It is, arguably, the first great novel of the new South Africa -- a triumph of imaginative and historical writing.
"[R]ichly suggestive....Mda's sympathies are with the Believers, but his eminent fairness forbids mere didacticism, and his joy in the back and forth of village politics beautifully communicates itself to the reader through poetic language enlivened by humor and irony." Publishers Weekly
"[A] new kind of novel: one that combines Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magic realism and political astuteness with satire, social realism and a critical re-examination of the South African past....Reflecting the startling contrasts in such a world, tender humor and brutal violence vie with each other in Mda's pages, as do vibrant life and sudden death. The struggle between them creates an energetic and refreshing literature for a country still coming to terms with both the new and the old." Tony Eprile, The New York Times Book Review
Camugu, recently returned to Johannesburg and disillusioned by the new democracy, moves to the remote Eastern Cape. There in the nineteenth century a teenage prophetess commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the people in two, with devastating consequences. One hundred and fifty years later, the two groups decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort, and Camugu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future—and into a bizarre love triangle as well.
About the Author
Zakes Mda, a novelist and playwright, has received every major South African prize for his work. Born in 1948, he has been a visiting professor at Yale and the University of Vermont. He is writer-in-residence at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. His previous novel, Ways of Dying, is available from Picador.