TO EVERY BIRTH ITS BLOOD by Mongane Serote

TO EVERY BIRTH ITS BLOOD

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A raging depiction of life in a black township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, by a South African poet living in london. A black journalist called Tsi narrates the first part of the novel. He's so thrown by the regular killings, brutal treatment and veiled threats on the part of the white police, and by the imprisonment of his brother Fix that he regularly drinks himself numb. He neglects his wife, Lily, finds passing solace in the music of Coltrane, and burns out of jobs. The narrative then shifts to a new group: John, whose beloved young wife was shot down by the police; two composed young women, Onalenna and Dikeledi; Tuki, another ground-down journalist; and Tsi's nephew, the precocious Oupa. Slowly this crowd coalesces: by fits and starts, they join The Movement and begin to carry out acts of sabotage. So much, then, for plot. The time sequence jumps around crazily, and the cast is shuffled so often that only Tsi--who's mysteriously absent from most of the second half of the book--emerges in any clear focus. What does work, though, is the painful portrayal of the way fear and uncertainty poison even the most mundane daily acts. Each cup of tea shared is marred by hopes and terrors that can't be voiced; each purposeless stroll is made sinister by the pervasiveness of random violence. The situation, Serote implies; precludes the luxury of continuity and character development. An abundance of tangible pain, a dimly lit portrait of the way desperation leads into revolutionary fervor--and a novel that's both affecting and impossibly fragmented.

Review Posted Online:




MORE BY MONGANE SEROTE