Literary Review

Ancient vibes

Matabele Dawn; Saad Bin Jung, Rs. 449.  

Two things are very clear from Saad Bin Jung’s Matabele Dawn — the author has an incredible love for culture and history, and he goes out of his way to paint a picture so vivid, that the reader is often transported to the shrub jungles of Africa or the reeling palaces of Northern India. Matabele Dawn is a book about two men and two lands.

Chenjerai is born at a time when Africa is going through trying times. He is seen as an inopportune addition to the world, even if his name means “be careful, be wise”. Much like the iconic scene in Lion King, he is lifted up to the sun by Lobengula, the king of the Matabele tribe, who proclaims, “You are the son of a slave born to a Scotsman, you will remain a mystery all your life, my child…”

On the other side of the world, born in the Polish town of Weilun, is Shaaz, who was born just before World War II began. “The second thing you heard in your life was the rumble of Panzers as they rolled into the village,” says his adopted mother. Misfortune follows him and soon, his reputation precedes him wherever he goes. Both characters are faced with many ups and downs but the ultimate challenge may destroy not just their own lives but their families and generations ahead.

Both Shaaz and Chenjerai are well-etched and thought out. Their voice is strong throughout the narratives and both are prone to wry humour. The story is colourful, often giving a peep into the protagonists’ contrasting lives. While Shaaz is regaled, even if temporarily, in the luxury of his father’s royal lineage; Chenjerai grows up in the African bush, hardened by the country’s history.

The narrative flows fast and the vast landscapes of both places merge into a seamless tale. The author opens up a whole new Africa to the reader — delving into the histories of different tribes, slavery, and Africa's fight to regain its identity. The issues are handled sensitively and there is a profound respect and love for the country.

Spanning two generations, the book is not just a story of identity but a peep into the lives and the history of two ancient societies.


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 9:49:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/ancient-vibes/article6667650.ece

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