Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Whale Caller

The Whale Caller

A Novel

Zakes Mda

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



"A voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration." --The New York Times

The Whale Caller, Zakes Mda's fifth novel, is his most enchanting and accessible book yet-a romantic comedy of sorts in which the changing face of post-apartheid South Africa is revealed through prodigious, lyrical storytelling.

As the novel opens, the seaside village of Hermanus, on the country's west coast, is overrun with whale watchers-foreign tourists wearing floral shirts and toting expensive binoculars, determined to see whales in their natural habitat. But when the tourists have gone home, the Whale Caller lingers at the shoreline, wooing a whale he calls Sharisha with cries from a kelp horn. When Sharisha fails to appear for weeks on end, the Whale Caller frets like a jealous lover-oblivious to the fact that the town drunk, Saluni, a woman who wears a silk dress and red stiletto heels, is infatuated with him.

After much ado-which Mda relates with great relish-the two misfits fall in love. But each of them is ill equipped for romance, and their on-again, off-again relationship suggests something of the fitful nature of change in post-apartheid South Africa, where just living from one day to the next can be challenge enough.

Mda has spoken of the end of apartheid as a lifting of the South African novelist's burden to write on political subjects. With The Whale Caller, he has written a tender, charming novel-the work of a virtuoso among international writers.


Praise for The Whale Caller

“An Exuberant and quirky tale of the New South Africa.. Zakes Mda ... is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom. His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour, revelling in the beauty of aloe-covered mountains or Cape marine life. Yet THE WHALE CALLER, his fifth and perhaps most imaginatively freewheeling novel, also captures malaise in the 'new South Africa' ... The novel charts this bizarre triangle ['man, woman and whale'] with quirky humour and a keen delineation of character, its tragicomic passion between marginal misfits reminiscent of Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena. ...A wise and seductive tale of love and jealousy, THE WHALE CALLER also hints at the precarious euphoria of a society in transition.” —Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

“'THE WHALE CALLER is a novel of love and art. It unfolds in the simple, elliptical outlines of a ballad .. But behind this simplicity lies a carefully woven text of symbolism. ... In novel after novel, Zakes Mda seems to have cultivated a mode of writing which the realistic and the magical co-exist with unruffled ease. ... This novel is - in my opinion - his finest artistic achievement yet.” —Harry Garuba, Independent

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Zakes Mda

Zakes Mda is a South African writer, painter, composer, and filmmaker. He commutes between South Africa and the United States, where he is a professor of creative writing at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Zakes Mda

Sal Idriss

Zakes Mda

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook