By Zakes Mda
This recent novel is firmly rooted in African village life and the life of African townships and informal settlements during the tempestuous transition period of the early 1990s. It is a postmodern work with many mini-narratives woven together to form a complex whole. The central thread concerns the lives and adventures of Toloki, who becomes a professional mourner at funerals, and the always slightly mysterious Noria. The novel encompasses a wide range of moods: it is at times horrifying, seriously analytical, romantic, funny, fantastic, satirical. There are also moments of magical realism, in which everyday normality seems to be transcended. A recurring theme is that of art: Toloki can draw magically with crayons and can with magazine covers turn a shack into a stately dwelling; his blacksmith father has made metal figurines; and Noria's voice has inspired them both.
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