Paris, 1958. A skirmish in a world-famous restaurant leaves two men dead and the restaurant staff baffled. Why did the head waiter, a man who’s been living in France for many years, lunge at his patrons with a knife?
As the man awaits trial, a journalist hounds his long-time friend, hoping to expose the true story behind this unprecedented act of violence.
Gradually, the extraordinary story of Pitso Motaung, a young South African who volunteered to serve with the Allies in the First World War, emerges. Through a tragic twist of fate, Pitso found himself on board the ss Mendi, a ship that sank off the Isle of Wight in February 1917. More than six hundred of his countrymen, mostly black soldiers, lost their lives in a catastrophe that official history largely forgot. One particularly cruel moment from that day will remain etched in Pitso’s mind, resurfacing decades later to devastating effect.
Dancing The Death Drill recounts the life of Pitso Motaung. It is a personal and political tale that spans continents and generations, moving from the battlefields of the Boer War to the front lines in France and beyond. With a captivating blend of pathos and humour, Fred Khumalo brings to life a historical event, honouring both those who perished in the disaster and those who survived.
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Review This Product
If I would like to read or by online what must I do?
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 | Review by: Petr5 N
I had always loved to read this book
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A moving, unforgetable literary journey
Wed, 6 Feb 2019 | Review by: Fred K
t is a fast-moving and compelling narrative, and if the arm of coincidence stretches very long in places, that’s fair enough. Khumalo has used his sources cleverly, particularly in the scenes of the sinking where the reported words of the Reverend Isaac Dyobha to the doomed men on the Mendi, and which give Khumalo his title, have echoed down the century since the tragedy, even when little was said or remembered of the fate of the ship and its passengers – something that has fortunately been corrected.
Khumalo also highlights the racial politics of South Africa and Britain at the time, giving his story a substance that goes beyond the tale of one man. He also gives the telling a nuance – not all blacks are all good, nor all whites all bad – which is important, particularly in these racially charged times. I have set myself a project for the four years of the centenary of World War 1 to read or re-read some of the writing, both fiction and non-fiction, that has emerged from that extraordinary conflict.
Now I can add a fine South African novel to the list.
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