cover image Sometimes There Is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider

Sometimes There Is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider

Zakes Mda. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (576p) ISBN 978-0-374-28094-9

It is easy to become immersed in this memoir by the acclaimed and peripatetic South African playwright involved with the Market Theatre, a novelist, poet, visual artist, and musician who today is an academic at the University of Ohio. Throughout these pages is Mda’s quest for a form of assimilation while maintaining self-identity and acceptance. He ponders himself as adrift and on the periphery: the ultimate outsider—even to family and perhaps, most tellingly, to himself. Growing up in Soweto with four siblings in the 1950s and 1960s, Mda vividly remembers the toe-eating rats and sexual abuse of his childhood; perhaps even more importantly, there was the snobbism of the rich toward the more ramshackle, and the lifelong influence of his stern father, a self-sacrificing attorney who was forced into exile. Mda is drawn into the politics of Lesotho and falls in with a bad crowd, but reads voraciously, everything from Asterix comics to literature on world religions, converting from Catholicism, to atheism. Mda has been three times married, with the unraveling of marriage number two taking up a large swath of the book. In all, Mda’s deeper struggles parallel those of all South Africans seeking identity and freedom. Illus. not seen by PW. (Jan.)