ASSEGAI! by Nickie McMenemy


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A disturbing semihistorical novel based on the life of Tshaka, bloodthirsty founder of the Zulu nation in the early part of the 19th century -- a person of such prepossessing power that his subjects praised him with their dying breaths as he lopped off thousands of their heads for reasons both arbitrary and Machiavellian (to inspire the Absolute Obedience based on Absolute Fear). The fictional, ""romantic"" aspect of the story is provided by Thola, a former slave (from a more civilized part of Africa) who becomes the platonic lover of this semi-mad ruler; obsessed with love yet disgusted by his cruelties, she acquiesces in Tshaka's assassination only to realize that (as Tshaka said) the white man is indeed lurking at the edge of the bush, ready to move in as soon as he is dead. This is a sympathetic portrait of the Black Africa that slumbers in the nightmare of every colonial European -- a perhaps implausible, somewhat overwritten tale that nonetheless succeeds in making its unpleasant yet convincing point: in the light of history whose crown is more bloodstained? the savage Tshaka's or the ""civilized"" Victoria's?

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1973
Publisher: Saturday Review Press