The Whale Caller by Zakes Mda
A Novel

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"A voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration." --The New York Times

The Whale Caller, Zakes Mda's fifth novel, is his most enchanting and accessible book yet-a romantic comedy of sorts in which the changing face of post-apartheid South Africa is revealed through prodigious, lyrical storytelling.

As the novel opens, the seaside village of Hermanus, on the country's west coast, is overrun with whale watchers-foreign tourists wearing floral shirts and toting expensive binoculars, determined to see whales in their natural habitat. But when the tourists have gone home, the Whale Caller lingers at the shoreline, wooing a whale he calls Sharisha with cries from a kelp horn. When Sharisha fails to appear for weeks on end, the Whale Caller frets like a jealous lover-oblivious to the fact that the town drunk, Saluni, a woman who wears a silk dress and red stiletto heels, is infatuated with him.

After much ado-which Mda relates with great relish-the two misfits fall in love. But each of them is ill equipped for romance, and their on-again, off-again relationship suggests something of the fitful nature of change in post-apartheid South Africa, where just living from one day to the next can be challenge enough.

Mda has spoken of the end of apartheid as a lifting of the South African novelist's burden to write on political subjects. With The Whale Caller, he has written a tender, charming novel-the work of a virtuoso among international writers.


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 October 17, 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 242 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Romance, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Whale Caller

Kirkus Reviews

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One suspects allegorical contrasts among the primitive simplicity of immemorial Africa that the whale caller appears to embody, the emergent—and urgent—demand for entitlement and inclusion represented by Saluni’s hunger for attention and love, and perhaps a hint of the Dark Continent’s dark futur...

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The New York Times

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Hermanus exists, furnished with whales, kelp horns and a real whale crier, who appears in the novel only to be distinguished from the Whale Caller.

Jan 08 2006 | Read Full Review of The Whale Caller: A Novel

The Guardian

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While the real town is famed for its whale crier, who trumpets the mammals' appearance, Mda's Whale Caller uses his kelp horn to summon not the tourists but the migrating southern right whales.

Aug 27 2005 | Read Full Review of The Whale Caller: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Saluni herself is torn between love for the Whale Caller, love of the bottle and what she calls an "addiction" to a pair of singing, nine-year old sisters whom she has dubbed the Bored Twins.

Oct 24 2005 | Read Full Review of The Whale Caller: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Earthy, bizarrely charming, and a tiny bit creepy, Zakes Mda's lyrical new novel features an unlikely romantic hero: a bushy-bearded South African pensioner whose primary erotic attachment is to Sharisha, a whale.

Dec 07 2005 | Read Full Review of The Whale Caller: A Novel

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