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Ways of Dying [Paperback]

Zakes Mda
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug 2002
Written in the style of "magic realism," this tragic-comic contemporary novel is set against the backdrops of shabby but vibrant city slums and a rural South African community. The story's hero, Toloki, is an eccentric yet dignified professional mourner whose different worlds are reconciled, amid an atmosphere charged with bizarre realism, when he finds love and makes peace with his past.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 1 edition (Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420918
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 738,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

About the Author: Zakes Mda is Visiting Professor in the School of Dramatic Art at the University of Witwatersrand. He was previously Visiting Professor at the University of Vermont and Full Professor at the University of Lesotho. He held a research fellowship at Yale, was the winner of a Fulbright-Hayes fellowship, and was Amstel Playwright of the Year in 1979. His books include She Plays with Darkness, When People Play People, Four Works, and We Shall Sing for the Fatherland and Other Plays. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary African Magic Realism 24 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This is an extraordinary book. The central characters are compelling, and the Cape atmosphere is stunningly evocative. It is a book written with great love. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is how tragic events and circumstances are lifted by humour and affection, so that one is left rejoicing rather than depressed. Read it, for its own sake, and to gain a more real picture of South Africa in dark times than any work of non-fiction can give.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful terrible book 6 Mar 2003
By John Anderson - Published on
WAYS OF DYING is one of the most fascinating novels that I have read in years. The book is set in South Africa during a period that seems to span the end of the apartheid regime and focuses exclusively on the lives (and deaths) of poor South African Blacks in rural villages and urban shanty towns near what I suspect is Durban. Fans of Marquez will feel very much at home here in a world of "magical realism", yet while Mda may have been influenced by novels like 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE he has a voice that is uniquely his own, and one that I sense is profoundly rooted in Africa. Mda's "hero" is a self-declared Professional Mourner, who ekes out an existence at the edge of society. Some aspects of his life are almost grotesque in form, and the deaths that surround him are often truly horrifying, yet somehow I found this a profoundly optimistic and human book. In spite of the worst that the world can throw at him the Professional Mourner is able to transcend mere existence & by the end I was shamelessly rooting for him. I should add that I used this book in a course on the Turn of the Century, and one of my toughest-case students, whom I had failed to excite with anything else, came into my office today saying "I just LOVE Mda" You will too,
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last a new African writer! And he's good! Yay! 13 Jan 2003
By artemis - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an avid reader of African literature, both fiction and non-fiction (especially memoirs). I am always searching for contemporary non-white writers (the white writers are good, but it is not unreasonable to want other perspectives), so I was happy to learn about Zakes Mda from a recent New York Times book review column, and I ordered his two books immediately.
'Ways of Dying' is not about post-apartheid South Africa, though the blurb suggests that. I estimate it to be set in the late 1980s, shortly before the end of the old regime was drawing near.
It's a short book, but it's well written, and paints a vivid picture of life in South Africa. And yes, the 'black perspective' is different, and very interesting, and most welcome.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Original!!! 29 May 2009
By Chris Spencer - Published on
What a great, somewhat abstract, work of fiction. All that you need to know about the plot is that it follows a man that takes it upon himself to serve as a professional mourner. He cries at funerals for a living! Its a brilliant idea, as harrowing as it is hilarious. The cover explains the novel perfectly. Full of colorful personalities and satirical undertones. I loved it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost surreal 25 Jun 2008
By Weber Baker - Published on
I loved this book; and I cannot tell why. For me it was one of those disturbing reads that I could not put down. The imagery is pointed; the themes uniquely universal. I say uniquely because this story grows out of its setting, but is imaginable in Durban, Gaza, Burma, or Sarajevo (of the last century).
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of south africas black celebrated authors 22 Aug 2005
By Kinalma Bashman - Published on
Recently i had the pleasure of reading material from one of South Africa's most celebrated black authors, Zakes Mda. An Oxford University Press published book titled "Ways of Dying", this is a South African fiction selection. Being a fiction, it is wtitten in a very creative manner that i could hardly associate with any of the books i had read before.

This is a story of love written with expectation of one's imagination to take over. The wording, grouping, style and context of this book make it so. It is mainly based on two characters and the way they live their lives. Toloki is a man consumed with the profession of mourning the dead whilst his love Noria has lost immensely through life, still has the ability to show Toloki how to live.

There are various different characters in this novel, which make it as interesting. Even with their differences, they jell well together making the story line easily readable and understandably creative enough to follow. The vast lines go from Toloki who grew up as the ugliest boy in the village and people taking no note of him to the same character turning into a man who is widely respected for his chosen profession in the city outskirts where it was the only place he found recognition. In the village where he grew up Toloki had a friend who had the identity he wanted. Her name was Noria. Toloki hated and loved her with the same heart. Noria was everyone's favorite in the villafe; she had her mother's beauty and brought all the boys and towns' man attention and had the most amazing laugh that made all the village people happy whenever they heard it. When she was sad, everyone was too.

The writing style used in this book is that which is very easy to follow. There are no bombastic (big) words used nor are there times where you could lose the story. Every word flows into a paragraph that combines to others that make this a brilliantly written story.

One of the other things that make this an interesting read is the humor infused.

This is a brilliant written book that everyone with a sense of adventure and imagination will enjoy.
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