Short Story: Ta O’Reva
Author: Muthi Nhlema
Reviewer: Mayamiko Seyani
About two decades ago, most sci-fi movies and novels seemed like just another world of fantasy, a world that would never exist.
But today, cars can start with just a button or voice command, information is stored in smaller memory chips, prototypes of flying cars have been developed. This generation is living a reality that was science fiction in the early 90s.
What made these works of art look prophetic was the fact that they were able to imagine a future world based on research findings and ongoing research.
But Muthi Nhlema’s ingenuity rests in his ability to work on a psychological hypothesis. Ta O’Reva suggests that South Africa is not fully healed of the wounds apartheid afflicted it and as such at some point they vent their anger on foreigners and white people. Prophetic! huh?
The recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa just proved that the author was working on the right assumption. South Africa’s wounds of apartheid are still not healed.
In the first chapters, Muthi, establishes a conflict where Lindani a black South African, having watched his father Solomon being murdered by Van Tonder a white racist, with time, his anger grew fiercely. This was just one case the author chose to raise to make his case.
In the future, we see Lindani killing white South Africans, an activity that came with a great deal of gratification. He saw every white as Van Tonder. The strength of the story lies in its display of Lindani’s deep thoughts and fantasies as he killed Van Tonder. He grew up with no hero to save his father, so he became the hero and a villain at the same time, with one goal—vengeance.
However, writing about South Africa, time machines and complex scientific hypotheses, one need to have researched widely. It is so daring for someone whose longest stay in South Africa was two weeks to write about South Africa, but lest we not forget that books can take us places where we have never been. Could it be safer writing on something he was more familiar? Well, with his research, Nhlema created his own South Africa. You probably don’t need to have a passport to get to this South Africa.
The author has an admirable vocabulary but at some point, he chose to use some words repetitively. For example, in the opening chapter, the word monstrosity was used several times; I was looking forward a description perhaps in the next paragraph. My guess is it was deliberate.
However, somehow, because Ta O’reva is a bit lengthy—56 pages on A4 paper!
The author needed to have been careful not to confuse readers with crowding of characters. This is a story where Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel Oliver Tambo and Winnie Mandela meet again in the technologically-induced future.