I came to know about Zakes Mda and his novels when my sister gave me this book. It had been one of her setwork books at school and since I had read a different selection of setwork books when I was at school I had asked her to give me her novels at the end of each year. Zakes Mda is a highly acclaimed South African author and has won both national and international literary prizes.
When I looked up this and Mda’s other novels, the one I most wanted to read was not The Madonna of Excelsior but The Heart of Redness which I have yet to get my hands on. After closing The Madonna of Excelsior, though, I have a very good idea why this book is chosen for students to read. This story, to me, is the story of South Africans past and present, black, white, and coloured, in the setting of a small Free State town. It felt both local (the small town of Excelsior) and global (South Africa as a whole) at the same time. It was uplifting and sad. It felt allegorical and honest. The best way to describe how this book left me feeling is to let you read the excerpt from GoodReads of what Neil Gordon of The New York Times Book Review said of the novel:
“A generous, patient, wry and intelligent voice…[that] suggests not just a writer who can seduce us through beautiful language and unfailing humor. We also encounter a writer who has the power to shock and frighten us, to astound and anger and unsettle us…In short, his is a voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration.”
Yes. All of those emotions. Mda is indeed a writer to be admired in my opinion. His writing is not only beautiful, but honest and unencumbered. He is a great storyteller. I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in African literature.
KinnaReads 2015 Africa Reading Challenge Review #1