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Thando Mgqolozana (born August 27, 1983, Cape Town) is a South African novelist. His novels include A Man Who is Not a Man (2009), Hear Me Alone (2011), and Unimportance (2014). He was selected as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans (2016) and a Mandela Rhodes Scholar (2006). His is the co-author of Inxeba: The Wound (2018), an Oscar-shortlisted, record breaking film. He is the founder of Abantu Book Festival, a hallmark annual literary event staged in Soweto.
Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is Not A Man is a coming-of-age tour de force. The writing is exceptional - always muscular, often raw, occasionally wry - as it explores masculinity through a young man’s journey to selfhood in the wake of a rite of passage that goes devastatingly wrong. After going off the rails in Cape Town, Lumkile resolves to put his days of drugs, theft and violence behind him when he moves to his mother’s rural village. Here he “went clean” and “decided to make something of myself”, and it’s not long before “Item One on my grand plan was just around the corner”. Namely, Lumkile begins the initiation process that will lead to his circumcision, to his journey to manhood. Above almost everything, he’s warned by elders to avoid hospital at all costs, for that would mean failure and “there is no living space for failed men in our society. Either you become a man in the expected way, or you are no one at all.” After being circumcised, he remains alone in the mountains, alone with his “burning agony”, alone with the stench of putrefying flesh - such is his fear of the shame and social ostracism seeking medical assistance would bring. Lumkile’s resistance to hospitalisation is incredibly harrowing, and there’s little respite when he’s admitted and continues to suffer in silence. But through surviving this physically and mentally excruciating experience, he summons the strength to speak out, realising that “Survival starts from within... As a so-called failed man, I have had to gain a new understanding of myself in context...My self-image is no longer dependent on what my society thinks of me but what I think of it.” Powerful stuff from an exceptional writer.
The daring author of A Man Who is Not a Man has challenged the conventional once again with his wonderfully original second novel, Here Me Alone. Sticking to his non conventional themes, in Hear Me Alone Mgqolozana offers a possible alternative to the story of the conception and the birth of Jesus as we know it in the synoptic texts. In the narrative Epher returns to Nazareth, where he meets his childhood sweetheart, Bellewa Miriam, who reveals she has been promised for marriage to the woodwork merchant, old man Joseph, and has been visited by an angel, who informed her that she would conceive on that night. Many years later, when the son of Bellewa Miriam had come and gone, Epher writes a letter to his patron and friend, Theophilus, telling him what happened on the night he met Bellewa Miriam, recounting the consequences suffered as a result of this meeting, which he hopes will be included in the bible.