In yet another South-African-book-now-made-into-a-movie-which-I-haven’t-seen is Tsotsi (the other ones are Cry, My Beloved Country, which I’ve since seen the 1995 movie version, and Country of my Skull). I got the book back in South Africa in October 2004, but it’d been sitting in my stack of books until I saw a preview for Tsotsi, which has since been nominated for an Oscar. So I decided I should read it before it’s out in the theaters.
It’s by Athol Fugard, known mostly as a playwrite. I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of his plays, including Sorrows and Rejoicings. This is his only novel.
It’s about a young thug in Johannesburg in the apartheid days (published in 1980, it was written in the 60s and set in the 50s, though it’s pretty timeless). His life changes when he is left with a baby after a woman he’s accosting runs away. Similarly to Cry, My Beloved Country, though it’s not about the conditions under apartheid, there is a lot that reflects on and reveals those conditions.
It’s a largely psychological novel with relatively little dialogue. The characters are very well fleshed out . The descriptions of events, people and places throughout are sometimes a little much but are always thorough. The ending is a bit unsatisfying, but in a book like this, the ending isn’t as important as the journey.
I like this book a lot. If you want a more narrative story from South Africa, you might want to start with Cry, My Beloved Country.
Slightly related note: is there an equivalent to IMDB for books? Wouldn’t that be useful?