"A generous, patient, wry and intelligent voice...[that] suggests not just a writer who can seduce us through beautiful language and unfailing humor. We also encounter a writer who has the power to shock and frighten us, to astound and anger and unsettle us...In short, his is a voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration." Neil Gordon, New York Times Book Review
Selection, Summer Reading, New York Times Book Review
In 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior in South Africa's white-ruled Free State were charged with breaking apartheid's Immorality Act, which forbade sex between blacks and whites. Taking this case as raw material for his alchemic imagination, Zakes Mda tells the story of one irrepressible fallen madonna, Niki, and her family, at the heart of the scandal.
"A marvelous work, rich with 'beautiful madness.'"Los Angeles Times Book Review
"The Madonna of Excelsior has the captivating symmetry of an altarpiece."Peter Campion, San Francisco Chronicle
"Graceful...Sharp and unsparing...Mda refuses to undermine his nation's problems with cheap melodrama. Yet his gift, in addition to being an extraordinary writer, is to infuse the past with meaning, to make urgent the challenges of the present, and to reveal the gentle, often stinging, human comedy in both."Boston Globe
"The extraordinary social and political transformation of South Africa as it affects the residents of the village of Excelsior...Zakes Mda, a canny writer, knows that sometimes the best way to approach history is to view it through the lives of people at its periphery...[Mda is] a subtle and evocative writer who can range from lyricism to satire with surprising effect, and never descends to the formulaic."Charles Matthews, The Tallahassee Democrat
Zakes Mda has received every major South African prize for his work. Born in 1948, he has been a visiting professor at Yale and the University of Vermont. He is now a dramaturg at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, and a Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Ohio University.
The Madonna of Excelsior is a book of huge emotions, a book with the depth, if not the breadth, of a classic like Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. Like his other novels, it paints a winning and irresistible picture of Zakes Mda. But here, the voice that emerges suggests not just a writer who can seduce us through beautiful language and unfailing humor. We also encounter a writer who has the power to shock and frighten us, to astound and anger and unsettle us. The Madonna of Excelsior suggests, in short, that his is a voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration. Neil Gordon