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In South Africa, the controversial topic of botched traditional circumcisions has been very much in the news of late. A Man Who Is Not A Man recounts the personal trauma of a young Xhosa initiate after a rite-of-passage circumcision has gone wrong. With frankness and courage, author Thando Mgqolozana's powerful novel details the pain and lifelong shame that is experienced as a result of not just the physical trauma, but the social ostracism of being labeled 'a failed man.' He decodes the values and mysteries of this deep-seated cultural tradition and calls to account the elders for the disintegrating support systems that allow such tragic outcomes to happen. But it is also through this life-changing experience that his protagonist is forced to find his strength and humanity, and reassess what it really means to be a man.
"I think people who take the awarded status of importance with grace first have to accept that they are important. You have to be very conceited to think that of yourself. If I should accept that I am in some way important, I should also accept that there are others who aren't. How do I live with myself with that sort of rubbish in my head? Do you know what I wish for? "What?" "To be good and unimportant." There was silence. "So I have made my decision. I am going home. By the end of today I will be free and unimportant." In 12 hours, your life could change forever, as Zizi discovers. On the night preceding his Student Representative Council presidential manifesto, and not for the first time, Zizi physically abuses his cheating girlfriend, Pamodi. But Pamodi flees. During a night that turns out to be the longest in Zizi's memory, instead of writing the manifesto speech, the reader follows the anxiety-stricken politician in his race against time and cover of the night, as he searches the campus for his missing girlfriend. While Zizi is haunted by the fear that Pamodi might expose him for what he really is, forever damaging his pristine image as the favourite presidential candidate, Pamodi evades detection, and is nowhere to be found. In the morning, the speech he delivers is not anything anyone could have expected from an SRC star: it is a litany of confessions for his questionable integrity and violence. As Zizi's words fade, and a sense of shock lingers in the air, he is faced with the reality of his actions; as they realise that they may vote a highly flawed man into office, how will these students vote? What will it mean, either way?
The daring author of A Man Who is Not a Man has challenged the conventional once again with his wonderfully original second novel, Here Me Alone. Sticking to his non conventional themes, in Hear Me Alone Mgqolozana offers a possible alternative to the story of the conception and the birth of Jesus as we know it in the synoptic texts. In the narrative Epher returns to Nazareth, where he meets his childhood sweetheart, Bellewa Miriam, who reveals she has been promised for marriage to the woodwork merchant, old man Joseph, and has been visited by an angel, who informed her that she would conceive on that night. Many years later, when the son of Bellewa Miriam had come and gone, Epher writes a letter to his patron and friend, Theophilus, telling him what happened on the night he met Bellewa Miriam, recounting the consequences suffered as a result of this meeting, which he hopes will be included in the bible.
A Man Who Is Not A Man recounts the personal trauma of a young Xhosa initiate after a rite-of-passage circumcision goes wrong. With frankness and courage, this powerful novel details the pain and lifelong shame this protagonist experiences as a result not only of the physical trauma, but the social ostracism from being labeled 'a failed man.' He decodes the mysteries of this long-standing cultural tradition and calls to account the elders for the disintegrating support systems that allow such tragic outcomes. But it is also through this life-changing experience that the protagonist is forced to find his strength and humanity, and reassess what it really means to be a man.
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