Sometimes There Is a Void by Zakes Mda
Memoirs of an Outsider

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This book is like a beloved, garrulous uncle who has no idea when to stop. It’s a mess, and I can’t recommend it...
-NY Times

Synopsis

Zakes Mda is the most acclaimed South African writer of the independence era. His eight novels tell stories that venture far beyond the conventional narratives of a people's struggle against apartheid. In this memoir, he tells the story of a life that intersects with the political life of his country but that at its heart is the classic adventure story of an artist, lover, father, teacher, and bon vivant.

Zanemvula Mda was born in 1948 into a family of lawyers and grew up in Soweto's ambitious educated black class. At age fifteen he crossed the Telle River from South Africa into Basutoland (Lesotho), exiled like his father, a "founding spirit" of the Pan Africanist Congress. Exile was hard, but it was just another chapter in Mda's coming-of-age. He served as an altar boy (and was preyed on by priests), flirted with shebeen girls, feared the racist Boers, read comic books alongside the literature of the PAC, fell for the music of Dvorák and Coltrane, wrote his first stories—and felt the void at the heart of things that makes him an outsider wherever he goes. The Soweto uprisings called him to politics; playwriting brought him back to South Africa, where he became writer in residence at the famed Market Theatre; three marriages led him hither and yon; acclaim brought him to America, where he began writing the novels that are so thick with the life of his country. In all this, Mda struggled to remain his own man, and with Sometimes There Is a Void he shows that independence opened the way for the stories of individual South Africans in all their variety.

 

About Zakes Mda

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Zakes Mda is a professor of creative writing at Ohio University. He has been a visiting professor at both Yale and the University of Vermont. Among his novels, The Heart of Redness (FSG, 2002) won the Richard Wright Zora Neale Hurston Legacy Award. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Athens, Ohio.
 
Published January 3, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 576 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Sometimes There Is a Void
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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Rob Nixon on Jan 27 2012

To his credit, in a deeply unsettled life, he has nurtured this capacity to find within the creative act itself new, reviving forms of homecoming.

Read Full Review of Sometimes There Is a Void: Me... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jan 05 2012

This book is like a beloved, garrulous uncle who has no idea when to stop. It’s a mess, and I can’t recommend it...

Read Full Review of Sometimes There Is a Void: Me... | See more reviews from NY Times

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