A New York Times Notable Book
Winner of the 2003 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
In The Heart of Redness—shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize—Zakes Mda sets a story of South African village life against a notorious episode from the country's past. As the novel opens, Camagu, who left for America during apartheid, has returned to Johannesburg. Disillusioned by the problems of the new democracy, he follows his "famous lust" to Qolorha on the remote Eastern Cape. There in the nineteenth century a teenage prophetess named Nongqawuse commanded the Xhosa people to kill their cattle and burn their crops, promising that once they did so the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive the occupying English into the ocean. The failed prophecy split the Xhosa into Believers and Unbelievers, dividing brother from brother, wife from husband, with devastating consequences.
One hundred fifty years later, the two groups' descendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camagu is soon drawn into their heritage and their future—and into a bizarre love triangle as well. The Heart of Redness is a seamless weave of history, myth, and realist fiction. It is, arguably, the first great novel of the new South Africa—a triumph of imaginative and historical writing.