Short Stories Review – The Reluctant Storyteller by Nakanjani G. Sibiya

The debut English Language collection of narratives by Nakanjani Sibiya is a full-bodied and prompt collection if not a timeless evocation of the Zulu storytelling prowess of yore. Sibiya is the award-winning author, essayist and short-story author. He writes mostly in his native tongue, IsiZulu. He has spun us the yarn for over 30 years, […]



The debut English Language collection of narratives by Nakanjani Sibiya is a full-bodied and prompt collection if not a timeless evocation of the Zulu storytelling prowess of yore. Sibiya is the award-winning author, essayist and short-story author. He writes mostly in his native tongue, IsiZulu. He has spun us the yarn for over 30 years, while doing so winning multiple awards including the valued M-Net Literary Award. He is an academic at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg campus).
He does his storytelling with intelligence and wit of a village writer if not the village professor. He enters into fantastic lengths to provide his characters as genuine individuals, warts and all. He goes where even angels fear to tread. For instance, in his opening gambit, he narrates a story of relationship, love, loss and male rape. It is so wonderfully done that you forgive the blood and gore that penetrates the air. He warns us of untreated xenophobia that has the prospective to destroy our shared mankind. While he informs of a possible xenophobia style, he mixes it intelligently with the African-Indian race relations that are prospering but still waiting on the trigger to bloom. He reveals us what is possible when we interact instead of against one another. He touches on crucial themes of mixed-race couples and gay love, in the context of traditional leadership succession. Can a child who marries outside his race succeed his daddy and become an Inkosi (Chief) deep in Zululand? Well, possibly not if his father has anything to do with it. The complexity obviously is that the next child in the succession line is gay. Can a gay Zulu man become an Inkosi? It is done so easily and in an uplifting manner that a person is tempted to compose a riposte to make his characters live beyond the predicament of conventional leadership succession facing their daddy.
Sibiya’s writing isn’t contrived, and the storytelling isn’t technique-driven, but it streams naturally providing us a stunning, lyrical, and multi-layered writing.
If you thought you had issues wait till you meet Sibiya’s characters and their special but relatable life predicaments? An effective lady falls for a Ben 10, possibly it’s her long lost son? A lady plays hard to get delaying to the state the magic words, “I like you too” up until it’s far too late. Perhaps. A suspicious woman loses a husband to untested rumours of cheating. A daddy facing ruin as an outcome of xenophobia lives to tell the proverbial tale however with a twist. Twitter combines lost lovers under remarkable circumstances, they revive their love affair, marry and live happily ever after. Not till somebody close to them chose to take a rap for a murder he didn’t devote all in the name of friendship. Welcome, to Sibiya’s world, you can wine and dine with the tenderpreneurs some with distressed consciences but all with excesses of unearned riches on display screen, and after that this, the ever-present potbellies.
He has provided us a banquet. On the menu, it’s is a scrumptious and succulent tender steak served medium unusual as Sibiya showcases his large vocabulary and manages to integrate without much trouble IsiZulu language’s sayings and idiophones, all in a day’s writing. Sibiya does not simply paint the landscape with his words however supplies us with a literacy GPS of the province of KwaZulu-Natal from his birthplace of Gcotsheni, near Eshowe to Mandeni, and finally to his work environment of Pietermaritzburg.

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