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REVIEW | Zakes Mda's latest novel is a wonderfully rich tale of loss and reinvention

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Wayfarers’ Hymns by Zakes Mda (Umuzi).
Wayfarers’ Hymns by Zakes Mda (Umuzi).

Review: Wayfarers' Hymns (Penguin)

Synopsis: Meet the boy child Kheleke, a wandering musician, and his surprising sister Moliehi. Then sigh with pleasure at being reunited with Toloki, the professional mourner from Ways of Dying, and his beloved Noria. Passionate and ambitious, Kheleke is a weaver of songs, and his own story is intertwined with the incredible yet true social history of the music: the time of the concertina and the accordion, the wars of the famo gangs, and the battle for control of illegal mines. The end is always a journey – and what a journey this is!

Zakes Mda is not only one of our most prolific authors, delivering novels bearing the by now unmistakable Mda signature of emotional heft, playfulness in the narrative and shards of dry or dark humour, but also a writer and thinker who continues to revel in the magic of the written word. Mda's best work – searingly honest, acutely critical of the ways that power operates on the one hand, and wickedly funny, markedly energetic and buoyant when zoning in on the intricacies, faultlines and contradictions embedded in his characters' single-minded pursuits of happiness, self-fulfilment and enrichment – leaves little doubt about his continued interest in subjects left of centre.

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