The author says in an introduction to the story that "While based to an extent on the English model, the Zulu detective novel adds its own themes ー related to social problems caused by the meeting of modern life and Zulu traditional customs ー to the `classic recipe.'"
In time-honored manner, the detective protagonist of "The Love of Money" relates his solution to the crime. But his account has an edge that must make South African readers smile ruefully: "So many security firms springing up all over the place, you'd think there was room for all of them with this crime wave, but no. Your husband needed money."
Masondo writes for the most part in Zulu; I'm not sure if he wrote "The Love of Money" in that language or in English, but, like Roger Smith's Wake Up Dead, the story manages the difficult task of conveying in one language the cadences of another:
"Magwegwe replied feebly, `Nobody was injured, my wife. It is just that... "
"Popi persisted: `What is wrong, love?'"Omitting a contraction goes a long way. South Africa is a country of many languages. Perhaps hearing this Babel of tongues makes authors sensitive to the rhythms of languages other than their own.
Masondo's Detective Themba Zondo is capable of delicious deadpan, and there's the hint of amusing interplay between him and his sidekick, Sgt. Thulani Zungu. Masondo's 1987 novel The Hunter and the Snakes features the two and is to appear soon in English translation, according to the introduction in Bad Company. I'll look forward to it.
(Click here for discussion of another short story from a non-traditional crime-fiction country that adopts a traditional crime-fiction form.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2010