Edited by Persiflage, 01 July 2011 - 11:52 PM.
Tsotsi: A Novel (1980) - Athol Fugard
Posted 09 May 2011 - 08:53 AM
Posted 19 May 2011 - 05:46 PM
Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:21 PM
Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:54 PM
Posted 02 June 2011 - 07:54 PM
So, first thing I learned: Ahtol Fugard wrote Harold and the Boys, which I remember seeing performed in college. The story was a decent drama, but I was amazed at the time that it was, if memory serves, one act. That floored me. I couldn't fathom how the actors remembered all their lines without once getting a break. Not that most actors check their lines during their time off-stage -- I have no idea; never been in a play. But I remember thinking there was a LOT of dialogue, and that the actors pulled it off flawlessly.
Posted 03 June 2011 - 11:53 AM
Edited by David Smedberg, 03 June 2011 - 11:53 AM.
Posted 03 June 2011 - 06:50 PM
Posted 07 June 2011 - 09:20 PM
I was surprised, reading this book for the third time, to see how spare and unsentimental Fugard's prose is. To be sure, it has the occasional flourish of simile or description, but I had not recalled it being this dispassionate. When Fugard describes emotions, he does so primarily to help us understand them--rather than trying to force us to feel them ourselves--at least, that's my opinion.
I think I misremembered this because the story itself is quite melodramatic, in at least two senses. The first sense is that the story is built of stark contrast between good and evil. The actions of Tsotsi's gang that open the book literally add insult to injury, in a way that can't be justified by material poverty. They truly are evil, and 2 of the 4 aren't even slightly aware of it. The second sense that this book is a melodrama is that how the characters feel, and even their ability to feel at all, is at center stage. The difference between the 2 gang members who can see the evil of their handiwork, and the 2 that cannot, is that 2 of them had mothers that loved them. Thus, even though the style of Fugard's writing may be spare, his chosen story is teeming with sentiment.
For me, this incongruity creates a rich experience. After all, love--which is the most powerful feeling one could ever hope to feel--is far more than just a feeling, it is a choice, and it is also a fundamental basis of reality! Thus, the mystery of being human, which I think Fugard has captured remarkably. Think of what the beggar, Morris Tshabalala, says:
I'd just read a very different book before I read this, and it reminded me of something from that. Let me share that connection that I made, and see what you think. The Book is Alexandre Kojeve: Wisdom at the End of History.
Kojeve was a post-modern philosopher and politician. It was the philosophy that really grabbed me. The author, James Nichols, has a gift for pulling out the key points.
I have more to say, about the ending as it is and the hints we have about the ending as it was before it was edited. Maybe next week? I make no promises. Hope all are enjoying the book.
Edited by David Smedberg, 07 June 2011 - 09:24 PM.
Posted 15 June 2011 - 12:08 PM
Posted 15 June 2011 - 09:06 PM
Posted 19 June 2011 - 05:41 AM
I wasn't planning to take part this time, but I happened to find a used copy a couple weeks ago for dirt cheap and bought it. I'm about four chapters in and I've found it to be fairly brisk so far, but I'm only reading it on the morning commute at the moment, so it might be a few weeks before I'm done. It's my first Fugard, and I think at this point I'm most impressed by the nonstop edginess of Tsotsi -- I get tense just thinking about him musing to himself on the street about his past, let alone doing his business on the trains (which is one of the most blood-chilling passages I've ever read).
I'll try to chime in with some thoughts soon. Thanks for hanging in there, guys.
Edited by N.W. Douglas, 19 June 2011 - 05:41 AM.
Posted 22 June 2011 - 01:25 PM
I'm not even opposed to giving our discussion on this another month. (Not that picking a book for July/August won't stop us from picking up speed on this discussion.)
Posted 27 June 2011 - 03:08 PM
A note on the politics of the story: as I mentioned, the interplay between material poverty and moral poverty is inescapable here. Tsotsi's journey to becoming a killer isn't shown in depth; instead, we see him as an innocent child picking up wastepaper to stay warm, and then we skip several years, and we meet him again as a heartless thug. It couldn't be clearer: The social injustice of South African society made him what he is. If I thought that this political message was the most important theme of the book, I wouldn't have nominated it. I think instead that the book is affirming that even such a man has a way home--and then showing, in at least an imperfect way, what home will mean.
As I progress in writing my book review, I'll have a number of other thoughts to add.