Sunday, January 03, 2010

Meshack Masondo

Let's stay in South Africa awhile longer, this time with Meshack Masondo's "The Love of Money" from the Bad Company anthology of short South African crime fiction.

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

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Anonymous solo said...

Please forgive me for the length of this comment but I offer it to underscore what to a 48yr old like me is the extraordinary, if not to say, mindboggling openness and comprehensivity of the internet age. As Dorothy said, 'We're not in Kansas anymore.' (BTW, If you think it's too long or not relevant please feel free to delete altogether.) The following details (and I've deleted 50% of it to fit in your comments) come from
Surname : Masondo
Names : Meshack Mfaniseni
Nationality : South African
Home Language : IsiZulu
Other Languages : English, Afrikaans (Speak, read, write)
IsiXhosa, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana,
SiSwati (Speak, read)
IsiNdebele and Xitsonga(Understand)
Sex : Male
Residential Address : 205 Klipspringer Ave
Leondale, Germiston 1401
Telephone number : (011) 865-2522
Cell Number 072 – 478 - 8383
Religion : Christian (St. Mathews Church, Leondale)
Nceceni Reserve
P O Box 436
Nqutu 3135
Criminal records : None
Health status : Excellent
Drivers licence : Code 10
Endorsements : None

Primary School : Kingsley Combined School
P O Kingsley 3105
STD 5 First Class

Junior Secondary : Ekucabangeni J S School
P O Box 3 Nqutu 3135
Highest qualification : J C Certificate (1st Class)
Subjects : Zulu, English, Afrikaans, History,
Agricultural Science, Biology and
Functional Maths

High School : Swelihle Senior Secondary School
Unit C
Umlazi Township
Ntokozweni 4066
Highest qualification : National Senior Certificate with full
Subjects : Zulu, English, Afrikaans, History, Biology,
Economics, Maths,

Tertiary Education : University of South Africa
Highest qualification : B A Degree
Courses : Zulu I, II, III, English I, II, III
Afrikaans I, II
History I
Psychology I

University of Pretoria
Main Campus
Highest qualification : B A(Hons) Zulu Degree
Courses : Literature (Prose, Drama, Poetry and
Historical Linguistics

Vista University
Soweto Campus
Highest qualification : B A (Hons) English Degree
Courses : Post Modern Novel
Self Subject, Knowledge and Power
Language and Literature
Narrative and National Identity in Africa
Mini Dissertation : Conflict, resolution and reconciliation in
Alan Paton’s novel “Cry The Beloved
Supervisor : Mr James Sey

University of Cape Town
Main Campus
Highest qualification : M A (African Languages & Literatures)
Dissertation : The detective novel in Zulu: Form and
theme in C T Msimang’s “Walivuma Icala”
Supervisor : Prof. R H Kaschula

: University of Pretoria
Lynnwood Campus
Only Course Work Completed…….: MA (Publishing by Course work)
Course work components are:
Advanced Editorial Techniques
Advanced Publishing Practice
Publishing Management
Design Practice & Techniques

Mini Dissertation : Statistical trends and Initiatives in the
Development and promotion of IsiZulu
Literary publishing during 1930 - 2000
Supervisors : Dr Francis Galloway & Prof Rachel

Current Studies : University of the Witwatersrand
Main Campus
: M A (African Literature by Course work)
Only Course Work Completed : Course work components are:
Publishing A
Publishing B
Canonical Writers and the Post-Colonial
Conditions in Africa
Critical Approaches to African Literature
At the moment working on a mini –
The female Experience in five short stories
of South African women
Supervisor : Prof James Ogude

Other training
Institution : Engineering College of South Africa
(A division of The Rapid Results College
Group World Wide)
Training : Supervision Studies, Certificate: 1985

January 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had found that file when looking for something to post about Masondo. I was astonished by its length, its detail, and the number of languages at his command. The introduction to his story in Bad Company says he knows "many" languages. If this file is correct, the introduction is accurate.

January 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I was astonished his address, phone number and cell number were there, as well as many other details, but perhaps that says more about me than it does about him. Probably my sense of privacy is some anal compulsive disorder for which some treatment is available.

January 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps privacy is less taken for granted there than here. perhaps if Masondo attains wider popularity among English-speaking readers and is flooded with spam, he'll rethink this matter.

January 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I took these comments from a SA website called crimebeat:

‘”Everything about the crime should be surprising,” noted Masondo. “Nothing should be predictable.” And while based to an extent on the English model, the Zulu detective novel adds its own themes to the “classic recipe”, he added.

‘This usually centres around, as in Msimang’s novel, issues related to social problems caused by the meeting of modern life and Zulu traditional customs, whether related to arranged marriages, ukuthwala (marrying a woman without agreement) and many other customs that “end up by being interpreted as unlawful practices according to western laws”.

‘”In many cases, Zulu detective stories touch on the complications caused by modern life and the ‘accepted’ Zulu traditional customs.”’

I've heard of disagreement after marrying a woman but how should one regard 'marrying a woman without agreement?'

I don't know exactly what this means but I'm sure with your expertise you'll be able to put me right.

January 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

If my last comment suggested you were unfamiliar with crimebeat please consider me mortified.

January 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, you overestimate who you are dealing with. I know Crimebeat, but I had not seen the bits you cited. Masondo's comments in the introduction to "The Love of Money" appear to be taken from the same source.

Mike Nicol, who helps run Crimebeat, wrote a guest post for me about a year ago. You can read it here. He offers further interesting observations here. As for marrying a woman without agreement, my guess would be that that refers to some sort of arranged marriage.

January 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I assumed I underestimated whom I was dealing with and, unfortunately, for the most part, my assumptions have proved correct.

January 03, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Thanks for the links Peter

It was fascinating, reading about SA crime fiction

It was interesting to see they used the german term 'Krimi' for crime fiction. I think English might usefully adopt that term.

The Germans also call their phones 'Handy's' which strikes me as a better term than mobiles or cell phones as they are called on either side of the atlantic

January 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, you overestimate the degree to which you underestimated.

January 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I noticed the South African use of krimi. A term such as that, or our own crime novel, would usefully cover the wide variety of stories now subsumed, sometimes misleadingly so, under the rubric mystery, at least in the U.S.

Mobile strikes me as the simplest and most accurate of the terms for handheld phones. I don't mind cell phone, but cell as a synonym for cellular telephone drives me nuts. I once got laughed at for referring to a phone as a mobile. The laugher was a North American whose European sophistication went only so far.

January 03, 2010  

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