Read of the Week


Mohale Mashigo

Pan Macmillan

Review: Lindiwe Mlandu

I’m not a science fiction fanatic. However, I enjoyed Mohale Mashigo’s first book, The Yearning, which won the 2016 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize for South African Writing in English, so I had to read her second offering, Intruders.

The book, which was released in 2018, is a collection of 12 short stories with illustrations by Shubnum Khan.

I could relate to them because the author draws from South African urban legends such as Waar is my Kop about the headless man who prowled the streets at night asking people: “Where’s my head?” As children, we couldn’t (still can’t) speak Afrikaans, but we all knew Waar is my Kop and we used it to scare each other.

There’s also the story of The High Heel Killer. A young woman, who is overworked while earning peanuts, kills a man who disrespected her at a taxi rank in Johannesburg. If you are a woman who’s used public transport in South Africa, you’ll relate to the story. It highlights the constant harassment women are subjected to in public spaces. It also touches on how mothers, whether consciously or unconsciously promote patriarchy. It’s a powerful story of someone who snaps after years of being victimised by society.

Intruders also tackles femicide. In BnB in Bloem, orphan sisters Busisiwe and Belinda, are on the hunt for the Vera, a spirit that’s believed to have appeared following many cases where women were killed by their intimate partners in Bloemfontein. The Vera is intent on avenging their murders.

I enjoyed the various stories because they are not set in some faraway place that I’ve never heard of. The book is very intentional in telling South African, in fact, African stories. It’s very familiar because it tackles everyday issues using speculative fiction genres, from fantasy, to science-fiction and magical realism.

Intruders is entertaining while commenting on socio-economic challenges that we face. It’s very easy to read and it’s full of adventure.