The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda
A Novel

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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.


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 May 15, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 290 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Mda explores both the comic and the tragic consequences of this contention to marvelous effect, in a fascinating dual narrative that contrasts the story of believer (Zim’s son) Twin’s ill-fated love for Bhonco’s Western-educated, “progressive” daughter Xoliswa with Camugu’s various pursuits of a...

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Publishers Weekly

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In Mda's richly suggestive novel, a Westernized African, Camagu, becomes embroiled in a village dispute that has its roots in the 19th century.

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Entertainment Weekly

Camugu, a South African native son who fled his homeland during apartheid and returned only to be disillusioned by job difficulties in Johannesburg, seeks solace in a coastal village on the Eastern Cape.

Aug 23 2002 | Read Full Review of The Heart of Redness: A Novel

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