One of the biggest pleas from South Africans in the literary scene is the need for local authors to tell local stories. Stories that encapsulate and reflect our daily life experiences.
It truly warms my heart that the message seems to be finding expression in the hearts of many South African writers.
Sifiso Mzobe’s latest book titled Searching for Simphiwe elegantly affirms the point that our local authors are heeding our calls.
I need to first admit that Mzobe has outdone himself with this book. The stories in this book position him as one of the artful writers in contemporary South African literature.
In Searching for Simphiwe, Mzobe narrates eclectic short stories that form part of the complexities of contemporary South Africa. Crime, addiction, femicide, religious beliefs, love, unemployment, corruption, police brutality, sibling rivalry, and mental illness are some of the themes that form part of the stories being dished out in this offering.
Now, I need to admit that even though I was not born in Umlazi township in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, which is the setting of all the stories in the book.
However, while perusing through the pages I felt that Mzobe was just telling stories that are similar to what’s happening in my own neighbourhood. Stories of black South Africans in the new democratic South Africa are so alike no matter which part of the country you find yourself in.
If you are not unemployed, you are bound to know someone in your township/village who is suffering from drug addiction like Simphiwe or you know children who are kidnapped all the time like Philasande.
This is brilliant and original storytelling at its best. The scribe makes a reader see themselves in the stories with his crisp writing style. The plotline in all the stories leaves the reader in suspense throughout until the end of each chapter.
However, On a Knife’s edge is one story that truly touched my heart, because it is one story that continues to dominate news headlines on a daily basis in South Africa.
Femicide is on the rise in the country, as women continue to be abducted and killed by those who are mostly close to them. Lerato was lucky to have survived and managed to tell a tale on her ordeal under the brutal hands of her husband, Kasi Chef. However, the likes of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Tshegofatso Pule, and Karabo Mokoena and many others end up losing their lives.
Stories such as this make this book an urgent voice in the fight against femicide and gender-based violence meted out to the most vulnerable in our society.
I also liked the fact that Mzobe gave every character a voice in all the stories, making their voices more relatable.
The only bummer for me is the long chapters and many names that the scribe used. He gave names to many characters who do not necessarily form a huge part of the storylines. This makes it difficult for readers to remember all the characters’ names.
However, despite all of that, this is a riveting slice of the pertinent issues faced by many South Africans. A must-read book.