OVERRIDE

The Madonna of Excelsior

A Novel

Zakes Mda

Picador

An American Library Association Notable Book

In The Madonna of Excelsior, the new novel by the acclaimed South African writer Zakes Mda, a sex scandal in a small town is transformed into an emblematic story of a country whose racial history can be rendered authoritatively only in art.

In 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior, a farming community in South Africa's rural Free State, were charged with breaking apartheid's Immorality Act, which forbade sexual relations between blacks and whites on the pretext of avoiding miscegenation. The women were jailed as they awaited trial and their white counterparts were released on bail. In the end, the state withdrew the charges, but the accused women's lives, already complicated, became harder than ever.

Mda tells the story of a family at the heart of the scandal, revealing a country in which apartheid, even as it sought to keep the races apart, concealed interracial liaisons of every kind. Niki, the fallen Madonna, transgresses boundaries for the sake of love; her choices have profound repercussions in the lives of her black son, Viliki, and her mixed-race daughter, Popi, who come of age in the years after the end of apartheid, when freedom allows them—indeed compels them—to figure out their racial identities for themselves. As the story advances to the present, the mixed society of Excelsior comes to suggest South Africa today, a society far more complex—and more dramatic—than conventional notions of black and white will allow.

In this, his fourth novel—his first since the acclaimed The Heart of Redness—Zakes Mda once more reclaims the troubled history of his country as the terrain of the imaginative writer. Many novels have sought to dramatize the consequences of apartheid; The Madonna of Excelsior is the rare work in which the political issues are only one aspect of a vital and complex human drama.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt


WOMEN, DONKEYS AND SUNFLOWERS
ATHESE THINGS flow from the sins of our mothers. The land that lies flat on its back for kilometre after relentless kilometre. The black roads that run across it in different directions, slicing through one-street platteland towns. The cosmos flowers that form a guard of honour for the lone motorist. White, pink and purple petals. The sunflower fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. The land that is awash with yellowness. And the brownness of the qokwa grass.
Colour explodes. Green, yellow, red and blue. Sleepy-eyed women are walking among sunflo
READ THE FULL EXCERPT
BACK

REVIEWS

Praise for The Madonna of Excelsior

"A marvelous work, rich with 'beautiful madness.'"--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The Madonna of Excelsior has the captivating symmetry of an altarpiece."--Peter Campion, San Francisco Chronicle

"Graceful...Sharp and unsparing...Mda refuses to undermine his nation's problems with cheap melodrama. Yet his gift, in addition to being an extraordinary writer, is to infuse the past with meaning, to make urgent the challenges of the present, and to reveal the gentle, often stinging, human comedy in both."--Boston Globe

"The extraordinary social and political transformation of South Africa as it affects the residents of the village of Excelsior...Zakes Mda, a canny writer, knows that sometimes the best way to approach history is to view it through the lives of people at its periphery...[Mda is] a subtle and evocative writer who can range from lyricism to satire with surprising effect, and never descends to the formulaic."--Charles Matthews, The Tallahassee Democrat

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Zakes Mda

  • Zakes Mda has received every major South African prize for his work. Born in 1948, he has been a visiting professor at Yale and the University of Vermont. He is now a dramaturg at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, and a Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Ohio University.
  • Zakes Mda Sal Idriss
    Zakes Mda
BACK

BUY THE BOOK

Available Formats and Book Details

The Madonna of Excelsior

A Novel

Zakes Mda

ALA Notable Books - Winner, Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award - Finalist, ALA Notable Books - Winner, Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award - Finalist

BOOKS FOR COURSES AVAILABLE

BACK

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

BACK