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Kafka's Curse: A Novella & Three Other Stories

Achmat Dangor

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ISBN 10: 0795700547 / ISBN 13: 9780795700545
Published by Kwela Books, 1997
Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Kafka's Curse: A Novella & Three Other ...

Publisher: Kwela Books

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Good

Edition: 1st.

About this title


With the publication in South Africa of Kafka's Curse, the prize-winning poet Achmat Dangor joined the ranks of first-rate literary writers--Gordimer, Brink, Breytenbach, and Coetzee among them--to come out of South Africa.        

Brilliantly conceived and powerfully evoked, Kafka's Curse is a modern reinterpretation of the Arabic legend of the gardener who loves a princess and, for his transgression, is transformed into a tree. Reset in South Africa as apartheid was coming undone, this is the story of the Khan family, who are both "colored" and Muslim.  When Oscar Khan, a budding architect, dares to pursue a woman outside his race and to change his religious identity, he commits a sin and must be punished. His unforgiving brother, a post-apartheid politician, tries to come to terms with Oscar's apostasy but will himself betray both his principles and his family when he falls in love with Amina, a beautiful and spirited psychotherapist.

Kafka's Curse is both part of the tradition of politically charged South African fiction and a bold departure that makes us see that nation as we never have before. Imbued with a timely resonance even as it is narrated with the lyric and imagistic intensity of magic realism, it announces the arrival of Achmat Dangor in the forefront of contemporary literary novelists.


South African poet Achmat Dangor's first novel is a rich blend of fairy tale and reality. At the heart of Kafka's Curse lies an Arab myth about a gardener who dared to love a princess and was turned into a tree for his presumption. A similar fate seems to have befallen Oscar Kahn, a Jewish South African architect. Abandoned by his wife after contracting a mysterious malady, he dies alone and his body is undiscovered for many months. By the time the neighbors call the police, "there wasn't much left of the body to bury. It was as if it had crumbled to dust." In the bedroom where Oscar breathed his last, a tree has sprouted up through the floor. But the riddle of this man's death is superceded by the secrets of his life: born Omar Kahn, he was, in fact, an Indian Muslim, not a white Jew. In the days of apartheid, these things mattered and Omar/Oscar, who had the temerity to disguise his ethnicity and to marry a white woman, had apparently paid the price for his subterfuge.

Omar's secret may be shocking to his friends and family, but his is by no means the only one. His wife, his nephew, his brother, even his therapist, all have things they'd prefer to keep hidden--but like pulling a loose thread on a very old and fragile seam, the revelation of Omar's past begins an unraveling of secrets and lies going back generations, with tragic results. Dangor tells his story with economy and grace, offering up love, madness, and betrayal in language as lovely as the themes are grim. --Alix Wilber

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