Tsotsi: A Novel by Athol Fugard

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tsotsi: A Novel by Athol Fugard

Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: February 14th 2006
Pages: 256
Source: library
Buy It: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Borders
Tsotsi is a real find, by one of the most affecting and moving writers of our time (Financial Times)-- and the novel is now being reissued to coincide with the release of a feature film, which is already being compared to 2004 s runaway hit City of God.

One of the world s preeminent playwrights, who could be a primary candidate for either the Nobel Prize in Literature or the Nobel Peace Prize (Mel Gussow, The New Yorker), Athol Fugard is renowned for his relentless explorations of personal and political survival in apartheid South Africa -- which include his now classic plays Master Harold . . . and the Boys and The Blood Knot. Fugard has written a single novel, Tsotsi, which director Gavin Hood has made into a feature film that The Times (London) calls a remarkable achievement and is South Africa s official entry for the 2006 Academy Awards.

Set amid the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto, where survival is the primary objective, Tsotsi traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader. When we meet Tsotsi, he is a man without a name (tsotsi is Afrikaans for hoodlum ) who has repressed his past and now exists only to stage and execute vicious crimes. When he inadvertently kidnaps a baby, Tsotsi is confronted with memories of his own painful childhood, and this angry young man begins to rediscover his own humanity, dignity, and capacity to love. --Goodreads
Tsotsi has a cold heart—he’s a criminal, doing jobs by killing people and stealing their money. He doesn’t feel, he doesn’t sympathize until he tried to rape a woman, who, in a desperate attempt to run away, gives Tsotsi a shoebox. The lady escapes, leaving her baby behind. Tsotsi is a young man without a past; he can’t recall any memories of his childhood until he lays eyes on this baby. He is brought deep into the recesses of his mind, but will he like what he sees?

I saw the movie first. The movie was great and that’s why I picked this one up in the first place. As I was guessing, the movie was not like the book, there were some scenes that were similar but the overall storyline was totally different. After I think about it, the book was in so many ways much better.

Tsotsi was unique and where I tolerated him, in the movie, I loved him in the book. (Sorry for the constant comparison). In the movie, he shot a woman, stole her car and inside was a baby. In the book, I felt for Tsotsi much more that in the movie. Yes, he was about to rape a poor woman (and if he had done that, I don’t think I would be able to forgive him) but it was the mother’s choice to either get raped or distract him by giving up her baby. Tsotsi could have just let the child die but he changed so dramatically from the beginning to end that he began to have feelings. Other than killing his victims, that is.

The plot was fantastic. Each scene helped create Tsotsi’s background and described his full transformation clearly. Fugard has to be a genius. At first, he was not going to publish this work of art at all but finally he did. I’m so glad he did.

Tsotsi brings you on a journey that pulls you in immediately with Fugard’s lovely writing. Each word and phrase is precise and beautiful. The ending was rushed, however. I felt it happened too quickly but if we were being realistic that is how quick the scene would appear. There would be a second, one minute could change everything. The wonderful story is about discovering something about yourself that you have hidden deep inside. For Tsotsi, it was a baby that triggered his memories, his feelings. What will trigger yours


Characters: 5
Cover: 5
Plot: 5
Writing Style: 5
Ending: 4
Overall: 5

Rated R for graphic violence, adult content, and scary themes.

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  1. I want to see the film and didn't even realise there was a book! I think I'll read the book first now, because others the film images will take over when I try to read it.

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  3. when did the author finished writting the book?