TSELANE by Jacqueline Louw van Wijk


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An author who is obviously compassionately familiar with her subject matter writes sympathetically and engrossingly about South Africa. Tselane, young, beautiful and popular with her isolated asultoland mountain tribe, is about to bear her first child, while her husband, Khama, goes away to work in the white men's mines. Most of the tribe is still, however, half primitive and, panicky, agrees to help when the tribe's young chief seeks magic from the old medicine man to cure his wife's childlessness. Tselane is chosen to be the victim of the ""necessary"" ritual murder but she is warned, flees to the local priest, and is sent, by plane and train, to Khama. She never arrives. Reduced to almost catatonic Lerror by her fear of the medicine man and by her first encounter with civilization, she kills her child when it is born prematurely on the train; she is arrested and tried for murder; she is too speechless with catastrophe to defend herself. Khama and the priest finally locate her. In a final, dramatic scene, Tselane is confronted with the medicine man (who has also, though more coldbloodedly murder in an attempt to cope with a bewildering world) and her terror frees her -- on the grounds of temporary insanity, and the old man's final speech of self-justification is an oddly touching contrast. Real characters, with real motivations, against a vividly detailed background, make this an unusually moving novel.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1961
ISBN: 1166126951
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin