In Corner B

Es'kia Mphahlele, Author
Es'kia Mphahlele, Penguin, $15 trade paper (237p) ISBN 978-0-14-310602-9
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
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Raw and carefully examined portraits of life during apartheid dominate this sterling collection from the late Mphahlele (1919–2008). While the oppressive atmosphere of the times serves as an ominous force as often as backdrop, these stories pivot on the innermost thoughts of ordinary people. In "Man Must Live," a near microscopic analysis of the brazenness of a railway police officer ends up being a larger cautionary tale of rise and fall. A similar inspection of haughtiness and pride is made of a white farm owner living in constant fear of being overthrown by his workers in "The Master of Doornvlei." The title story focuses on a freshly widowed woman whose questioning of her dead husband's love and devotion to her and their children doubles as love story and a taut commentary on education, violence, and corruption. Later stories, such as "Nigerian Talking Points" and "A Ballad of Oyo," explore life in exile, reflecting the author's own experiences. Mphahlele delivers devastating details without ignoring the sometimes comic intricacies of the human psyche, resulting in an impressive survey of a career spent documenting harsh inequality. (Feb.)
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