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Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A traumatic revenge by Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho 2011 Timbila Publishing Isbn 978-0-9869991-2-3

I’m always amazed by how small independent publishers bring literary works to hungry audiences with a blockbuster budget of passion and dedication, yet no resources for marketing. How can it be that in a country that constantly speaks of ‘stories that need to be told’ these books which are written, printed and published then disappear into the mulch of marginalised consumerism? What agents of mediocrity ignore new talent? Timbila Publishing, which first exposed other notable writers including Myesha Jenkins, Makhosazana Xaba and Vonani Bila, has once again revealed a gem.

This debut collection of short stories was written during the author’s prison sentence at the Kutama Sinthumule Maximum Security Prison at Makhado, in northern Limpopo. He was released on parole in November 2010 after serving eleven years.

This is a portrait of a rarely-witnessed South Africa, where Mukhwevho’s humanity goes behind the masks of poverty, aggression and despair. With a gaze that is controlled and unafraid, he reveals our society’s fears. With precision and patience he dissects our shameful emotions. I say ‘our’ because even though many of his protagonists will not be his readers, we identify with them, even if we’re repulsed by them. His preoccupation with retribution is explored through several sharply observed characters in various settings. He captures social tensions with a poet’s economy, instantly placing the reader in the shifting chorus of onlookers.

Mukwevho’s linguistic palette includes tshiVenda, sePedi, xiTsonga, and English, and he can hear Shona. He moves effortlessly between the mental spaces of his characters, making them audible to one another: his writing language is polyrhythmic, lyrical and vivid.

Even as an outsider, one can roam from rural Eden to inner-city pub to burnt out squatter camp, led by Mukwevho’s radiant prose. In Music to Ears, he probes the tensions and regrets of musicians torn apart by apartheid legislation and corporate cowardice. In Strange Demise, he explores a daughter’s bereavement, capturing the mood exquisitely: “Days elapse like small, uneven stones pelted at the dirty water of a songless dam.” He takes the reader to the edge of despair in the title story, where the revenge meted is as traumatic for the victim as for the perpetrator. He reveals in a series of resonant images, the systematic violation of a human psyche.

From setting to setting, story to story, I was absorbed, delighted and repulsed. It’s not possible to have a neutral, disengaged perspective with these traumatised scenarios, the flesh and blood of news stories told with a disarming humour and humanity. In a country where the line between right and wrong is typically hijacked by the powers of big money and big reputation, this book reveals, through its exploration of ordinary stories, the damaged landscape of morality, and the enduring power of the dream.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    August 14th, 2013 @20:13 #

    Where can a person get a copy? Google is being un-helpful.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 15th, 2013 @10:12 #

    Vonani Bila might be able to help. I have his contact details - will send 'em.


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