South African novelist Sindiwe Magona’s has a new novel out. The novel is titled When the Village Sleeps and explores the collective responsibility of past and present generations to support future generations. When the Village Sleeps tells the story of Busi, a young student who reveals a teenage pregnancy coordinated to gain a financial reward through a child support grant. After the baby girl, Mandlakazi (or Mandla), is born, Busi’s grandmother, Khulu, takes baby Mandla to the rural Eastern Cape to recuperate from birth disabilities and make her stronger. The story then focuses on the upbringing of Mandla who ultimately rejects the notion that her birth is a tragedy as she advances her gift to connect to and share the voices of “The Old”.
The novel has magical realism elements that feature a character who can access the ancestral realm. Magona centers on South African women’s experiences and the complexities of connectivity between generations. The book asks us to deeply consider the relationships communities have between each other, the government, history, and the future. In an interview with the publisher Pan Macmillan, Magona states that she hopes that readers take away the idea that “none of us can be a spectator in life; we all have innate abilities which are needed on earth to make life for all, a good life.”
Read the publishers description.
When the Village Sleeps is a visionary novel about what the loss of identity and dignity do to a people afflicted by decades of brokenness. Told through the lives and spirits of four generations of amaTolo women, including The Old, who speak wisdom with ever-increasing urgency, it moves between the bustling township setting of Kwanele and the different rhythms of rural village life. It recalls the sweeping sagas of the great A.C. Jordan and the Dhlomo brothers and invokes the poetry of S.E.K. Mqhayi, while boldly exploring urgent and contemporary issues. An ode to the complex strengths of South African women, When the Village Sleeps is also a powerful call to respect the earth that nurtures human life, and to live in self-sufficiency and harmony with the environment and each other.
“Sindiwe Magona is an author, storyteller, motivational speaker, poet, playwright, and actor. She has received numerous literary awards as well as awards in recognition of her work around women’s issues, the plight of children, and the fight against apartheid and racism. Dr. Magona recently received the Ellen Kuzwayo Award as well as her third honorary doctorate, from Nelson Mandela University. She lives and works in Cape Town.”