Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Heart of Redness

The Heart of Redness

A Novel

Zakes Mda



A startling novel by the leading writer of the new South Africa

In The Heart of Redness -- shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize -- Zakes Mda sets a story of South African village life against a notorious episode from the country's past. The result is a novel of great scope and deep human feeling, of passion and reconciliation.

As the novel opens Camugu, 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 Nonqawuse 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' decendants are at odds over plans to build a vast casino and tourist resort in the village, and Camugu 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.

Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award - Finalist, Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award - Winner

"Tears are very close to my eyes," says Bhonco, son of Ximiya. "Not for pain . . . no . . . I do not cry because of pain. I cry only because of beautiful things."
And he cries often. Sometimes just a sniffle. Or a single tear down his cheek....

Praise for The Heart of Redness

“Brilliant...A new kind of novel: one that combines Gabriel García Márquez's magic realism and political astuteness with satire, social realism and a critical reexamination of the South African past.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Quiet, subtle, and powerful...Mda's enormous skills as a storyteller are everywhere in evidence, making the book impossible to put down.” —The Washington Post

“A major step in the new South African novel.” —The Village Voice

“At once legend and historical document...Mda's novel is the next Things Fall Apart....This is a major new novelist.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune


Reviews from Goodreads

Zakes Mda

Zakes Mda, a novelist and playwright, has received every major South African prize for his work. A former visiting professor at Yale and the University of Vermont, he teaches at Ohio University and is the dramaturge at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

image of Zakes Mdao
Sal Idriss

Zakes Mda


Latest on Facebook