Rip-roaring, farcical novel makes fun of life in South Africa

2008-01-09 00:00

Miss Kwa Kwa (MK to her friends) is one busy woman. Stephen Simm’s first novel about her activities, Miss Kwa Kwa: Traditional Weapon, came out in 2006, and you do get the sense reading the second that the author does not sweat blood or take too much time over crafting each word and creating rounded characters.

But he has still produced another rip-roaring, farcical novel which makes fun of life in South Africa, while at the same time proving that it is often an entertaining place to live.

When the novel opens, MK has just woken up to discover that a whole week of her life has gone missing. She has no idea where she has been, or what has happened. Except that someone has been feeding her kitten. It’s a plot strand that will only be improbably tied up right at the end, but it serves to spook MK into heading off to Cape Town for a change of scene.

Once he has got her there, Simm produces a sharp satire on international celebrities of the Paris Hilton sort; local television in all its soapy horror; Looney Toons white right wingers and the brainwashing advertising industry and its brainwashed detractors.

Most of the characters are stock types — drunken sunburnt Brits, sinister CIA operatives and the like — but there are enough of them who are likeable and funny to keep the action rolling fast and furious.

Miss Kwa Kwa may not be great “literature” but it is entertaining, pacy and above all, local, with no apologetic hand-wringing in sight. Lekker.

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