Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Passing of a great intellectual

Mbulelo Mzamane

By Siphiwo Mahala

When I first read Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane's Mzala (1980), a series of comical short stories about misadventures in townships, the short story genre instantly became my favourite. At the time the author was also the vice-chancellor and principal of the university I was attending.
The year was 1995 and I was a first-year student at the University of Fort Hare. Mzamane was the first post-apartheid vice-chancellor. It would paradoxically become the highest and lowest point of his career. In later years he would confess that it was not in his interest to be at the helm of the university. He always saw himself as a teacher: he wanted to teach.
As a vice-chancellor he was one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan personalities we had ever known. Born in Port Elizabeth in 1948, Mzamane grew up in Brakpan and attended high school in Swaziland before completing a Master's degree at the University of Botswana and receiving a doctorate from the University of Sheffield (England). He had held academic, research and visiting appointments at Sheffield (UK), Vermont (US), Essen (Germany); Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria), Yale (US), Boston (US), the University of South Australia and the Australian National University, among others. He had won numerous awards for his creative and scholarly works and published several works of fiction, essays and academic articles.
He was loved and respected by the late president Nelson Mandela and other leaders across the continent. Mandela described him as "a visionary leader, (and) one of South Africa's greatest intellectuals". He had been appointed by Mandela and later president Thabo Mbeki to various national positions, including the SABC Board and the Heraldry Council, and served as the director and chairman of several structures in the arts, culture, education and communications sectors. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the University of Fort Hare in 1996, Mzamane was able to bring to Alice Fort Hare alumni including Mandela, Robert Mugabe, Julius Nyerere and other prominent individuals across the continent. The image of Mandela and Mugabe standing on the university sports field and sharing jokes with students was unforgettable!
As an educationist, Mzamane promoted a culture of reading. He would give impromptu lectures whenever there was a platform. He was a popular choice as a guest speaker on literary, arts and educational matters. In his essay, Continuities and Discontinuities in South African literature, he argues, "Mental dexterity, the love of learning, and the intellectual life of a nation depend on an early obsession for reading." He also opines: "It is widely accepted that history is written by the conquerors. The converse must be equally true that, if previously colonised people have not begun to write their own history, they still have a mental bondage."

Exposing prejudice in Austen's Pride

By Mary Corrigall

If you were lucky (or unlucky) enough to have avoided a close study of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice during your school education, undoubtedly you would not have escaped viewing an adaptation of this popular classic on TV or at a cinema.
It's hard to account for its popularity in this age; universal themes may tie us to this period piece but its almost as if we are gripped by a nostalgia for this very unprogressive period of British history where class and gender completely determined someone's fate.
Such limits provide the friction in the fiction. Of course, Austen embedded her social discourse in an understated brand of British prose. Her commentary is so subtle - a snide remark made over a cup |of tea or a look that betrays disappointment.
The characters in this book occupy a coded world governed by conventions and a kind of language that like the layer of petticoats women wore in that era to conceal their bodies, keeps the truth buried beneath a fluff of civility. This is perhaps why the novel makes such a feast for English lit students; every banal exchange or incident requires rigorous decoding.
Not surprisingly, part of our assiduous dissection of this classic novel has also taken the form of revisionist postmodern literary products where authors' reworking of the novel results in a new narrative or is fused with another genre to produce something familiar, though novel.
Such was the case with PD James's Death comes to Pemberley (2011), where the British crime queen sets a whodunnit in the world Austen created in Pride and Prejudice. Other writers have pursued more unlikely genre mash-ups, such as Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009).
Jo Baker's Longbourn (Random Struik House) isn't in this vein; it is not a parody nor is Pride and Prejudice transplanted in genre literature; instead Baker creates a parallel narrative that maps the invisible worlds and characters that might have existed at the periphery of Austen's original.
In this way, she brings the unseen or unexplored territory at the edges into view. In the context of this 19th century class society, the invisible world and characters are the servants and their living conditions. The Bennets' home, therefore, remains the main setting, but instead of Elizabeth and her sisters functioning as the characters upon which the story pivots, Sarah and other servants, such as Mrs Hill, her husband and Polly become the focus.
This is not an upstairs/downstairs drama, in the mould of the uber popular TV series Downton Abbey for we are not fully privy to the world upstairs belonging to the Bennets, the Bingleys and such. We only learn of the events that take place in Austen's novel from a distance; in this way, the narrative focuses on the servant's perspective entirely, rendering Austen's characters as the ghostly "other". As such, Baker reverses the perspective on Austen's story so that she fleshes out Pride in Prejudice in interesting ways that overturn our conceptions of the original. More plainly put: she kills the romance of Pride and Prejudice, forcing us to question this fascination for British period pieces that focused on the landed gentry and the morality of this perspective when such gross exploitation supported this dominant social echelon.
Primarily, Baker sheds light on the overlooked minutiae of the period and the hard work behind the scenes that allowed the upper classes and their relatives to exist. The cleaning, cooking and tedious labour required to keep these large family homes running are the initial focus of the narrative. Baker has obviously relied on research into that period to impart an accurate picture, but it's a work of imagination too as she envisages the psychic cost to the servants, who because of their duties and activities or supporting roles are made to feel as if they are less important than their employers.
For example, when one of the Bennet daughters is prevented from walking into town to purchase ribbons for a dance because of the risk to her health, Sarah is sent instead and indeed catches a cold from making the trip in inclement weather. Her life and health are negligible in comparison to those she serves. Polly, the younger servant, is forced to adopt this name because she couldn't share the name Mary with one of the Bennet girls. At every turn, the servants' status as secondary citizens is affirmed, though in instances they are reminded how fortunate they are to have a place to live - both Sarah and Polly are orphans who have spent time in the poorhouse and the world outside Longbourn or other family homes is presented as being dangerous and difficult to survive in. Domestic service is therefore positioned as offering safety and security, making it that much harder for individuals trapped by it to escape it.

Stepping out of Biko's Shadow

By Rob Gaylard

Mamphela Ramphele's name will always be linked with that of Steve Biko - as she points out, she is a kind of honorary "widow" - but here in A Passion for Freedom (Tafelberg) we have her own story, in her own words. It is a story of loss and (although this sounds clichéd) survival and triumph over adversity. It is told dispassionately and honestly, with grace and dignity.
Her academic training affords her a degree of detachment - she is, to use her own term, a kind of "participant observer" - and allows for perceptive analyses of her position as a black female activist in the struggle, as a community health worker, as a medical doctor - and eventually as an academic, as vice- chancellor of UCT, as a director of the World Bank, and lately as the leader of Agang and now presidential candidate for the DA.
A common thread runs through her story: this is her determination not to be dictated to by circumstances, and her passionate concern for the freedom and advancement of the people of South Africa.
Her story starts with an exploration of her familial roots in Kranspoort, situated in what is now Limpopo Province, and she takes care to delineate the communal fabric of life in her home village. As a young black woman she seems destined to become a teacher (few other options were available to black women), and her first life-defining assertion of independence is her decision to become a medical doctor: "I would not become a teacher."
This leads her to the University of Natal Medical School - and to her encounter with Biko and the circle of activists he led. The story of her difficult, multi-faceted relationship with Biko is the pivot around which the book turns. Theirs was a deep, personal and political engagement, complicated by the fact of Biko's marriage. She pays tribute to his presence and personality.
This period was also her initiation into activism: "The formation of SASO and the subsequent maturation of the Black Consciousness Movement into a political force to be reckoned with became the main focus of Steve Biko's life.
"One could not help admiring this tall, handsome, eloquent and totally dedicated activist."
This resulted in the transformation of Ramphele "from an innocent rural girl to a person who became alive to the vast possibilities which life has to offer". It was in the crucible of BC activism that her personality as a fighter and political actor was forged.
Ramphele is relatively silent on the position she must have found herself in as a result of the predominantly masculinist discourse and orientation of the BC movement, as evidenced by the default use of the masculine pronoun, and the restricted use of the term "man". The overwhelming emphasis on race as the determining factor in South African life and politics led to a neglect of gender and of sexual politics.
Ramphele indicates (later in the book) that she had yet to develop a full awareness of the role of gender in personal and societal relations. However, she does describe her growing self-confidence and self-assertion ("I became quite an aggressive debater and was known for not suffering fools gladly") and records the emergence of a group of "similarly inclined women? who became a force to be reckoned with at annual SASO meetings".
At the same time, she states that "ours was not a feminist cause"; it was, rather, an insistence on the need to be taken seriously as activists in their own right.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Dissecting the American Identity: Amity Gaige

By Michiel Heyns

Ernest Hemingway famously maintained that all American novels could be traced back to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. That may have been an overstatement, but it is true that the basic pattern of Huck's story - a raft trip down the Mississippi with a runaway slave on board, in flight from "civilisation" and its constraints - is a recurring one in American fiction and film.
The road movie - Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise - and the road novel - Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Cormac McCarthy's The Road - have become a genre unto themselves; and nearly always the protagonists are outlaws on the run? think of Bonnie and Clyde, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Movement, in American fiction, is freedom or gives the illusion of freedom, no matter that the flight more often than not ends in capture or death. Ultimately, keeping going is more important than any destination that may at some stage have lent some spurious illusion of purpose to the flight.
Amity Gaige's wonderful novel, Schroder (Faber & Faber) is squarely in this tradition, though the specifics are entirely original: Eric Schroder, a first generation refugee from East Germany, involved in a heated custody battle for his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, resorts to the simple expedient of abducting her, ostensibly to show her Mount Washington, but in fact because he can't stand being without her.
The endeavour is of course doomed, as we know from the first paragraph of the novel, which is written from jail, as a letter to his estranged wife, Laura.
The novel's achievement is in the creation of Eric Schroder - or Eric Kennedy, as he reinvented himself at age 14. Quite aware of his own failings - irresponsibility, impulsiveness, duplicity - without being abject about it, he nevertheless manages to make the reader root for him unreservedly: we want him to have the daughter he loves to distraction, and we resent his prosaic, unimaginative, conventional wife for her lack of generosity. (I should mention that not all reviewers have been as easily charmed by Eric Schroder.)
Since this is a first-person narrative, it is hardly surprising that we side with the narrator against The Opposition, as he calls the combined forces of his wife, her parents and her lawyer. Eric himself, however, is generally fair to Laura, or tries to be: "You were prompt," he tells her, "You were responsible. You were deliberate. You were health conscious. ? You were easily offended. There was a whole list of social issues over which you took quick offense."
In short, Laura has every virtue except warmth, generosity and humour, and if she sounds like a bit of a prig, that is not because Eric thinks she is one. To him, she is the model young American woman, and, as a first-generation immigrant, he admires all things American - to the extent of adopting a false identity as Eric Kennedy.
This fraud is perpetrated at age 14, at summer camp, when he decides that in order to be fully American he must have an American name, and selects for himself the most illustrious America name he knows.
He also invents a childhood near the Kennedy enclave at Hyannisport to go with his distinguished surname. When people assume he is related to "Those Kennedys", he denies the assumption only vigorously enough to seem modest. "I had chosen my own childhood," he reflects. "I had found a past that matched my present."
But Eric does not reinvent himself only in order to be an American: he is also trying to divest himself of his East German past, and of the mother who, he suspects, obtained an exit visa from East Berlin for him and his father through services she rendered to a Communist functionary: "All I knew was that for as long as I was Eric Kennedy, she was neither living nor dead." Creating a new identity, he opts for a past in which his mother "did not exist at all" - and if it also involves negating his gentle, patient father, that is a price Eric is prepared to pay.

Best Novels of 2013: SA Authors share their picks

Siphiwo Mahala: 

This has been a dramatic year in the world of letters. The death of Chinua Achebe, who was affectionately known as the "father of African literature", and Doris Lessing, the British Nobel laureate for literature, were obviously the biggest and saddest news in the literary fraternity.
However, there was more growth than loss, as we saw the emergence of new voices, the return of seasoned writers from the solitude of literary production, as well as the excitement around literary awards.
Sabata-mpho Mokae scooped two M-Net Literary Awards for his Setswana novel, Ga ke Modisa. South Africa embraced the Zimbabwean-born NoViolet Bulawayo, whose shortlisting for the Man Booker Prize was announced while she was at a literary festival in Cape Town.
Another major African voice, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, released her third novel, Americanah.
It was also a year of reckoning for short story writing. The greatest news was the announcement of Canadian short story writer, Alice Munro, as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
We also saw the return of former chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Achmat Dangor, with a collection of short stories, Strange Pilgrimages (Pan MacMillan). His previous novel, Bitter Fruit, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2004.
Other notable authors who published short story collections include Reneilwe Malatji, Russell Kaschula, Liesl Jobson and Makhosazana Xaba.
The release of Zakes Mda's novel, The Sculptures of Mapungubwe, was like the falling of rain after a long spell of drought. The internationally acclaimed novelist had deprived readers of his creative genius (in a form of a novel) since the release of Black Diamond in 2009. The Sculptures of Mapungubwe deploys history as a means of commenting on the present.
The story is set in the timeless kingdom of Mapungubwe, beginning in 1223 CE, "except in Mapungubwe they didn't count years that way". It is an epic tale of the royal sculptor who had two heirs whose talents and rivalry set them apart as they got older.
With this fantastical novel, Mda affirms his status as a cartographer of words and a fabulist of note.
The much anticipated third novel by Lauren Beukes, Shining Girls, took the world by storm. Beukes created a whirlwind as she travelled the US and the UK, promoting her book.
It is probably her ability to transcend different cultures, historical moments as well as geographical boundaries that places Beukes's work in an elite class of world literature.
With this time-travel thriller set in Chicago, Beukes makes it more difficult to define African literature.
Angela Makholwa burst into the scene in 2007 with a crime novel, Red Ink, and followed with a mellow feminine narrative, Thirtieth Candle, in 2009. The curious question has always been whether Makholwa is more comfortable with the latter or the former.
Her latest novel, Black Widow Society, confirms her insatiable penchant for bloody crime scenes. Black Widow Society is a gripping thriller of a secret society of women who have taken control of their destinies, as well as those of their husbands.
Makholwa's grisly crime narrative is written with great erudition and acumen, which makes it seem so authentic and hard not to believe. The strangest thing is that she still has a husband?

Michiel Heyns:

I did not read all the novels I intended to in 2013 (when does one ever?), so my list may not be as representative as it might have been.
Still, my three chosen novels are by no means here only because they're the frontrunners in a small field; they could hold their own in any company - this despite the fact that two of the three are debut novels. It is heartening that publishers continue to invest in the unlucrative field of literary translation. This year we had, among a few others, Etienne van Heerden's In Love's Place (Penguin), Leon de Kock's translation of the 2005 In Stede van die Liefde (Human & Rousseau).
Van Heerden's forte is the interaction between the city and the country. Here, too, he moves effortlessly between the hamlet of Matjiesfontein and the big city in dynamic interaction. A large canvas, painted with the ease of an Old Master.
When Claire Robertson's The Spiral House (Umuzi) landed on my desk, I was apprehensive - yet another historical novel with a slave woman as a main character?
But Robertson's take is fresh and original: Katrijn van de Caab is a freed slave, and works as a wigmaker's apprentice at the end of the 18th century. As in Van Heerden's novel, the interaction between the metropolis and the hinterland is intriguingly explored, the discoveries of the Enlightenment jostling against the unquestioned verities of rural life. The 18th century narrative is intercut with a 20th century story featuring another type of enslavement, that of Sister Vergilius to her order.
A beautifully written, meticulously researched work of the imagination.
Another well-visited sub-genre is the childhood-under-apartheid. Dominique Botha's False River (Umuzi, published simultaneously in Afrikaans) fits into this mould, with her largely autobiographical account of growing up in the conservative heartland of the Free State, living, at times rebelliously, with parents active in opposition to the government of the day.
Botha's account of the absurdities of apartheid are horrifying and yet often hilarious but the novel is also a sobering account of the life and early death of her brother. A powerful and moving novel.

Craig Higginson:

My South African novel of the year has to be Dominique Botha's False River, a semi-autobiographical novel triggered by the tragic death of the protagonist's brother - but in fact it is the narrator's journey from adoring and diffident younger sister to fully mature adult writer that makes the novel memorable for me.
The writer's evocations of the Free State landscape and her description of a politicised Afrikaans family during apartheid may feel like familiar territory, but Botha is already a remarkable writer with a style entirely her own and her book sits quite comfortably alongside the best "farm novels" that have been written.
Botha has written the book in both English and Afrikaans - so it is available in both languages. I hope this is the first of many more novels by a writer of major talent and remarkable emotional and psychological range.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Boykie Sidley's Stepping Out, which follows the misfortunes of Harold Cummings, a middle-aged middle-class American who leaves his comfortable bourgeois existence in search of something more urgent and meaningful.
This is a funny, moving and humane novel by a writer who has only gathered in strength since his award-winning debut novel Entanglement.
He is also one of several South African novelists who is beginning to set his stories outside the constraints of contemporary South Africa.
For younger readers, I recommend Hamilton Wende's delightful Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut, which takes place in Parkview and tells the story of Arabella, who is grieving over the death of her father.
From the Grimm stories onwards, magic in stories for young people usually erupts out of extreme necessity or suffering - and this book takes us on a journey through a world at once familiar - with its mealie ladies and hadedas - and completely transporting.

Marguerite Poland:

Listening to Patricia Glyn talk about her experiences during her foot travels around South Africa is a mesmerising experience at best. Being able to discuss them with her and reading her most recent work, What Dawid Knew: a Journey with the Kruipers (Pan Macmillan), has been a moving encounter, both with author and text.
The Bushmen have long been the subject of research, interest and also exploitation. Their unique position - historically, culturally and (more urgently) within the context of a modern technological age - has put pressures on their communities, which are complex and tragic.
Perhaps, more than anything, they have suffered either from reprehensible neglect or a patronage which - at opposite ends of the scale of concern - have been deeply divisive.
Without illusions, Glyn set off to discover something of the truth concerning a particular community and tapped into the heart of a history which she tells with moving honesty, admitting to often being stumped for answers and profoundly changed by the experience herself.
It is the story of parallel journeys, and important reading for anyone wishing to understand life at the margins. It is told without sentiment and without apology, and is written by an engaging storyteller, a courageous and deeply compassionate woman.

On a lighter note, there has been a plethora of local cookbooks adding to the cooking frenzy on TV and the new celebrity of chefs. Therefore, it was a comfort to stumble upon a cookbook written by Margaret Wasserfall, the well-loved writer, journalist and editor. Called My Granny's Pantry: a Kitchen Memoir (Jacana ) and beautifully illustrated and presented, Margaret's book takes cooking off the stage, strips it of pretension and posturing and returns it (reliably!) to the family kitchen. It's a delight - a book for real people. - published January 5, 2014.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Upending representations of violence against women

By Mary Corrigall

Of all the rape scenes depicted in cinematic products it is the infamous one in the 1972 American film Deliverance that the real horror of the act is driven home, proposes author Margie Orford.
So close was the line between fiction and reality that the actor, Ned Beatty, who played the victim of the rape in the "squeal like a pig" scene, suffered so many taunts after the movie, that he eventually felt he had been victimised.
This prompted him to pen a 1989 editorial in The New York Times, where he recognised his "own anxious desire to distance himself from the victimisation of the role".
The gritty rendering of that rape scene is directly related to the gender of the victim, suggests Orford. Violence against women in the realm of fiction (and perhaps in how it is reported in the press) is portrayed in quite a different manner; it is "so built into the aesthetics of pleasure and pornography which has bled into everything", says Orford. Certainly, it is a feature of crime writing.
"The genre is a misogynist genre, based on killing the femme fatale. Women must be shown their place," observes the Cape Town-based writer over a cup of tea at 54 on Bath. The genteel setting seems at odds with the dark subject matter.
The misogynist aspect to crime writing presents somewhat of a dilemma for Orford, who by all accounts (including her own) is pegged not only as a crime writer, but one of the most celebrated, both here and abroad - she recently signed a five-book deal with a UK publisher.
Water Music (Jonathan Ball) is the fifth novel in the Clare Hart series, but she admits that she hasn't quite worked out how to resolve the ethical dilemma that working with the crime genre entails.
"I wanted to disrupt (the model) and avoid the torture of women as spectacle and entertainment; you have to find a way to disrupt that visual pleasure cycle but it is really difficult."
It's a familiar refrain; Lauren Beukes struggled with a similar trope while writing Shining Girls, a sci-fi serial killer thriller that pointedly deals with femicide. There has been much discussion in literary circles around the value of the crime genre as an alternative model for the political novel - in fact, it was a review of Orford's last novel, Gallows Hill, that sparked the discussion. However, it can't be a coincidence that it has proved a vehicle for female writers interested in upturning the gender politics attached to genre literature. Can this be done without perpetuating the model they reject?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Diaspora writers dominating the Caine Prize

By Rob Gaylard

A feature of this year's Caine Prize collection of stories, A Memory this Size and Other Stories (Jacana), is the prominence of what one might call diasporic stories, such as Tope Folarin's prize-winning story, Miracle. Given the salience of novels like Brian Chikwava's Harare North and NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, this seems to reflect an emerging trend in African writing. (Bulawayo was the 2011 Caine Prize winner.)
A second feature of the collection is the absence of any stories from South Africa. Since our writers have clearly not suddenly stopped writing short stories, this seems surprising, and may be a comment on the process of selection or the criteria for inclusion in the collection.
There are five short-listed stories of which four are, rather remarkably, by Nigerian authors (or authors with a connection to Nigeria). A further 13 stories came out of this year's Caine Prize workshop, held on the shores of Lake Victoria. Four of these 13 stories were submitted by Ugandans.
The first story in the collection is Folarin's Miracle - on the evidence of this story, the author is clearly Nigerian/American. He tells us, "I'm a writer situated in the Nigerian disapora, and the Caine Prize means a lot - it feels like I'm connected to a long tradition of African writers."
It seems pointless to debate whether someone who was born in America can be described as an "African" - one infers from the story that the author's Nigerianness is an important part of his identity, and he falls squarely within the definition of "African writer" inscribed in the Caine Prize rules.
The story explores the issue of faith and belief, and provides a vivid first-person account of a revivalist service at which a blind prophet performs what are alleged to be miracles. The story does not confirm that any miracle has taken place - but it does affirm the ties of family and community, and suggests that "both (truths and lies) must be cultivated for the community to survive".
The congregation consists entirely of Nigerian exiles or sojourners in America, and the story balances the narrator's scepticism against the repeated affirmation, "We need miracles".
The American connection is reinforced by the second story in the collection, Pede Hollist's Foreign Aid. The story is a deftly narrated, somewhat ironic, cautionary tale about the folly of the "Been-to" who imagines he can return to his native land (in this case Sierra Leone), rather like a deus ex machina, putting right whatever is wrong and making up for his 20-year absence (and neglect of his family).
As the story unfolds the scales are lifted from Logan's eyes and he comes to realise the futility of his efforts. His sister, Ayo, points out, "Out here. We manage. We do what we have to do". The story could have been subtitled The Americanisation of Balogan/Logan: it explores the dissonance set up by the manners and expectations of the returnee, Logan, the "self-made man from ICU (the Inner City University)", whose "fanny pack" of dollars rapidly runs out. One quotation will help to illustrate the inventiveness of the writing:
"Logan was left severely to himself. He felt powerless, useless like a kaka bailer who arrives at a large family latrine with only a small tamatis cup, unable to and incapable of handling the crap that had been generated."
Ironically, much of the "crap" has been generated through Logan's efforts to assist his family.
In contrast, Elnathan John's Bayin Layi, set in a Hausa-speaking and predominantly Muslim part of Nigeria, plunges us in media res. The narrator is Dantali, one of a group of homeless boys who sleep under the kuka tree in the town of Bayan Layi.
These boys "like to boast about the people they have killed". We are introduced to their seemingly amoral perspective: without the security or guidance of home or parents, they are easily sucked up into what seems to be standard election-time violence in Nigeria.
Driven by desperation or greed, they stop at nothing; in their hands machetes become lethal weapons. They seem to have internalised the worst aspects of the society around them. These include ethnic hatred (one boy is killed partly "because he has the nose of an Igbo boy") and homophobic violence (another victim is referred to as "a disgusting dau dauda" (or effeminate homosexual).
The effect of the plain, unvarnished narrative is chilling: "I am not thinking as we move on, burning, screaming, cutting, tearing. I don't like the feeling in my body when this machete cuts flesh so I stick to the fire and take the matchbox from Banda." At the end our narrator is running "far, far away from Bayan Layi" - but to what possible future? The references to Allah and the call of the muezzin form an ironic backdrop to the grim action of the story.