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Acclaimed South African author Niq Mhlongo’s latest work, For You, I’d Steal a Goat, comprises of 10 short stories. The plots are lively with lots of action and reaction…and some fun unexpected twists.
In many ways, the stories are bound together by the centrality of the relationships between characters. From an unscrupulous author and her muse to a cunning trio of young friends, the relationships are as rich as they are diverse.
Again and again, the theme of betrayal rears its head. There’s the husband whose wife is cheating, the widow disowned by her husband’s family, the comrades who let each other take the fall, and many more such betrayals.
Yet, characters also find solace and support in their loved ones. There’s the mother who urges her daughter to make a court case, the widow who washes her husband’s disfigured body and the wife who covers up her husband’s crimes.
Perhaps it is this universal devotion and desperation that gives the anthology its title. In the eponymous story, an artist stranded in Berlin (due to the coronavirus pandemic) determines to sacrifice a goat to his ancestors in order to ask for guidance.
His German girlfriend doesn’t understand the ritual but goes out of her way to support him.
“Love makes people ridiculous,” she says. “I’m unashamedly already agreeing […] It is against my own ancestors’ protestant principles.”
Needless to say, if you like local short fiction, you really can’t go wrong with For You, I’d Steal a Goat. It’s one of the few short story collections that have been published; it’s easy to see why.
For You, I’d Steal a Goat, while set in Gauteng, is an incisive cross-section of South African society.
It meanders between township dwellings, middle-class homes and the most opulent mansions. The setting also varies from apartheid-era forced removals to the coronavirus lockdown of recent years.
These details ensure the representativity of the South African experience but never take away from the power of the human stories. Depending on the story, there are trigger warnings for racism, homophobia, xenophobia and the death of a loved one.
Niq Mhlongo is an award-winning local author from Soweto whose writing career spans more than a decade. His novels include Dog Eat Dog (which won the Mar der Letras Intenecionale award in 2006), After Tears, Way Back Home and Paradise in Gaza.
For You, I’d Steal a Goat is his third short story collection. His previous anthology, Soweto Under The Apricot Tree won the Herman Charles Bosman Literary Prize for English Fiction and the Nadine Gordimer Short-Shory Award in 2019.
For You, I’d Steal a Goat is published by Kwela Books. It retails for R272 at Exclusive Books.