THERE are two histories at play in the recent reprinting of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka, and both are equally fascinating.To read only the "history" (this is fictionalised biography) of the famously ambitious Zulu King Shaka is to have only half of the experience this book offers. The other history here is that of the manuscript itself and it is in reading this part — so lucidly explicated by the award-winning translator Daniel Kunene in the introduction — that the work truly blossoms.To review the manuscript with a modern eye requires one to set aside modern expectations of the novel. The story’s texture and delivery is strongly influenced by the narrator’s avuncular voice. It feels as though one is listening to, rather than reading, a story.This has an odd effect. On the one hand, it provides a warm and close embrace — it really feels as though one is being told a story by an uncle or a grandfather. The narrative conveys itself tellingly, rather than "showingly", and there are what feel...

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