The Heart of Redness: A Novel

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Macmillan, 2003 - Fiction - 277 pages

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.

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THE HEART OF REDNESS

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A brilliant central metaphor ties together several gripping stories in this compact epic novel (winner of a recent Commonwealth Fiction prize) from the South African author of Ways of Dying (below ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Zakes Mda, a novelist and playwright, has received every major South African prize for his work. A former visiting professor at Yale and the University of Vermont, he teaches at Ohio University and is the dramaturge at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

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