Published in 1925 in Sotho and in 1931 in English, Chaka was one of the first significant novels written by an African native to receive widespread attention and readership in Europe and in the United States. With this book, Thomas Mofolo provided the English-speaking world with a depiction of African life, culture, tradition, and mind-set before the coming of Europeans.
Unlike many African novels, Chaka is set in the eighteenth century, before the Europeans came. European forms of government and religion were not part of African life in the time in which the novel is set. Mofolo, himself educated by Christian missionaries, writes of a time previous to his own African existence, but he does so with a voice of authenticity and sincerity.
The story reveals much about human nature within a localized African setting. The soul-devouring nature of evil, the motive for revenge, the matters of love and war, the fall of a hero—all of these universal human stories are detailed in an African context.
As a result of circumstances of birth, Chaka is set apart from his family and his inheritance through no fault of his own. When he gives himself over to the evil of the sorcerer Isanusi, however, he morally takes things into his hands and assures his descent into evil. He slowly abandons all reason, love, and goodness in his life. He does so always for selfish reasons. In the beginning, it is reasonable and human that he would want to gain the throne that is rightfully his own and that he is denied. His...
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