Dance of Life
The Novels of Zakes Mda in post-apartheid South Africa

By Gail Fincham

Dance of Life offers a wealth of critical insights into Mda’s novels in chapters that are compellingly argued, very perceptive in their readings of individual works, utterly persuasive in the overall argument that is developed, and presented in a lively style that makes for a very satisfying reading experience…. The book may serve both as a work for the literary specialist and as an introduction to Mda for the newcomer. It will make an important and necessary contribution to Mda studies.”

Johan U. Jacobs, coeditor with David Bell of Ways of Writing: Critical Essays on Zakes Mda

“This book is intense, but it reads easily. Fincham educates through a progressive process of utilizing ‘known‘ literary territories. She draws the reader into her critical space by linking Edward Said, Ngugi wa Thiong'O, Frantz Fanon, and others to the writings of Mda.”

“Gail Fincham’s comprehensive study of Zakes Mda’s post-apartheid novels is both readable and intellectually engaging…. (A) valuable consideration of Zakes Mda’s fiction. Professor Fincham has marshaled an impressive set of diverse scholarly arguments and managed to organize them into a convincing treatment of some of the most complex and evocative literature coming out of Africa today.”

African Studies Quarterly

“It is a committed, often engaging reading of the novels, with reference to the writer's dramaturgy as well.… In addition to an extended discussion of Mda's use of magical realism, the study also explores the controversy that surrounded the publication of Heart of Redness [2000], triggered by the historian Andrew Offenberger. … [The study is] an invaluable resource.”

Year’s Work in English Studies

In recent years, the work of Zakes Mda—novelist, painter, composer, theater director and filmmaker—has attracted worldwide critical attention. Gail Fincham’s book examines the five novels Mda has written since South Africa’s transition to democracy: Ways of Dying (1995), The Heart of Redness (2000), The Madonna of Excelsior (2002), The Whale Caller (2005), and Cion (2007). Dance of Life explores how refigured identity is rooted in Mda’s strongly painterly imagination that creates changed spaces in memory and culture. Through a combination of magic realism, African orature, and intertextuality with the Western canon, Mda rejects dualistic thinking of the past and the present, the human and the nonhuman, the living and the dead, the rural and the urban. He imbues his fictional characters with the power to orchestrate a reconfigured subjectivity that is simultaneously political, social, and aesthetic.

Gail Fincham is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Cape Town.

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African Authors · African Studies · Literary Criticism



Retail price: $28.95, S.
Release date: Apr. 2012
224 pages · 6 × 9 in.


Release date: Apr. 2012