Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Njabulo Ndebele Muses on Lying, Stealing and Laughter after Re-reading Niq Mhlongo’s After Tears

Rediscovery of the OrdinaryAfter TearsAcademic Njabulo Ndebele, most recently the author of Fine Lines from the Box: Further Thoughts About Our Country, has re-read Niq Mhlongo’s 2007 novel After Tears, which set him thinking about lying and stealing in the historical social context of South Africa.

Mhlongo’s novel tells the story of Bafana Kuzwayo who lies to his family, telling them that he passed his law degree at the University of Cape Town but needs to pay outstanding fees amounting to R20 000 before he can get his degree. This tragically leads to his mother selling their house to cover the cost.

Ndebele looks at the historical reality in which black people had to lie about a death in the family to be granted leave from work. He says that both employer and employee would often laugh at such a request, but that “mirthful laughter transforms into pain”.

Njabulo also looks at how words such as “repossession” and “redistribution” have jokingly been used to justify stealing. While tales of lying and stealing may still make us laugh and have a “narcotic” effect, Ndebele says “they will always call for a higher order of self-questioning”.

A story has seized hold of me again, not that it ever let go from when I first came across it in 2007. After Tears is the title of the novel that tells the story.

Niq Mhlongo, who has written the novel that tells this story, is bold.

He tackles a theme I recognised immediately from my boyhood.

Book details


Please register or log in to comment