We have waited for over seven years for Mandla Langa to give us yet another one of his masterpieces. And boy-oh-oh this was worth the wait. Langa has once again proven that he is a powerful literary giant with his latest novel titled The Lost Language of the Soul.
In The Lost Language of the Soul, Langa narrates a story of a young Zambian boy named Joseph who is on a mission to look for his ‘missing’ parents, particularly his mother, who had randomly disappeared after having had an encounter with some freedom fighters at a family dinner.
With turns and twists in the narration of Joseph’s painful search of his mother, Langa shows his deep struggle credentials by taking us, the readers, back to the days in Lusaka when freedom fighters were wedging war against the apartheid regime in the trenches.
Perusing through the pages of the book, it became clear to me that through the character Joseph and his family, Langa is narrating a story that he is well familiar with. And one that many- particularly children of freedom fighters who were in the trenches will easily relate to.
It is how Langa fuses politics of the struggle days and the contemporary which makes this story shines the spotlight not only on the current challenges faced by the liberation movement (the talks of apartheid collaborators occupying top government’s positions), but masterfully confronts xenophobia, othering, and prejudices that many African immigrants from other parts of the continent face in the democratic South Africa.
While this is a work of fiction, however, reality reminded me of how Zambians- and I am not just talking only about the political elites, but ordinary Zambians all risked their lives to ensure that South Africa becomes a democratic country.
Take for an example Chanda Lisulo Mabaso ( the ‘missing’ mother), by just been married to a South African freedom fighter, Sobhuza(the ‘missing’ father), she not only risked her life, but inflicted pain on her own children by having had a romantic relationship with this South African freedom fighter.
And the truth is, there are many Zambian men and women who- by having had romantic ties with South African men and women during the struggle days did put their lives and their loved ones in danger.
However, today, we, South Africans call the children from such unions by names and we even take our economic frustrations on them now and then.
With this book, Langa- in a way educates us, particularly us the young generation, who have this deep hatred for our fellow sisters and brothers from other parts of Africa about the sacrifices that they made for us to be free people.
While we can rightly glorify the political elites, we should also treat with equal respect to the many Chanda Lisulo and their children like Joseph, and stop treating them like second class citizens in this country. And also goes to the current government, which massively benefited from the generosity and sacrifices of their parents.
The Lost Language of the Soul is a cracking novel, and it will go down as one of the best novels to come out of this year.