Ways of Dying Paperback – Dec 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Novelist and playwright Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying was a big hit in his native South Africa, where it was even adapted into a jazz opera. Toloki is a Professional Mourner, making a meager living by attending funerals in the violent city where he lives. In his ratty suit he adds "an aura of sorrow and dignity," often serving as peacemaker when fights break out. He encounters Noria, a childhood acquaintance whose son has just died, and the two renew their friendship, finding comfort in reminiscing over the harrowing events of their lives. There are shades of the absurd in Mda's darkly humorous descriptions of the crime, poverty, violence and ethnic unrest that plague the characters in this oddly affecting novel.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Writing from the heart of the new South Africa, Mda tells his country's stories through beautifully realized characters whose search for love and connection takes you up close to the black experience, past and present.Ways of Dying is set in the transitional years before the first democratic elections. Toloki has invented his job as professional mourner in a shantytown, and he finds plenty of work. The violence is horrific--by soldiers and police as well as migrant tribal groups and locals--but even after the worst massacre, where children are "necklaced" with burning tires, Toloki finds love, tenderness, and laughter with a woman from his childhood home and they build a shack together in the urban wasteland. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
'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.
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.
The "theme" is death and ways that people die, thought the story is about two people from the same village, things that happened in their lives and how the meet again and go on from there.
The optimism of the main character is painful yet not unrealistic.
I enjoyed recognising the typical South Africna expressions and the atmospere.