The History of Man

Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu. Catalyst, $17.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-946395-56-6
Ndlovu impresses with a fresh and astute perspective on colonialism, race, and family that focuses on white South African-born civil servant Emil Coetzee, who appeared in the author’s debut, The Theory of Flight. Ndlovu follows Emil’s life chronologically from the short-lived bliss he felt while living among natives in a small village in the 1930s through a series of episodes in his childhood and adolescence marked by animated moments of camaraderie with boarding school classmates, family conflicts (his parents separate after his mother catches his father dressing as a woman), and the feeling of not belonging. In the 1950s, having moved to the City of Kings in his unnamed country in southern Africa, he founds the Organization of Domestic Affairs to keep records of Black people’s births, marriages, divorces, education, work, and deaths, after learning a woman’s killing couldn’t be investigated because the police had no information about her. It’s an altruistic project, and an example of Emil’s complexity despite his racism, support of torture during a civil war in the 1970s, and homophobia, which impacts public policy. Through the narrative can grow tiring at times and get bogged down in minor details, Ndlovu deserves credit for her brilliant and meticulous characterization. This leaves readers with much to think about. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/14/2021
Release date: 01/01/2022
Genre: Fiction
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