Book Review: In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata

By Lauri Kubuistile Set in the village of Nokanyana, Kubuistile’s short story begins in the middle, rushes to the beginning before approaching its end.It begins during the funeral of main protagonist McPhineas Lata, a perennial bachelor who had made it his past time to engage in raunchy games with other men’s wives.

By Lauri Kubuistile

Set in the village of Nokanyana, Kubuistile’s short story begins in the middle, rushes to the beginning before approaching its end.

It begins during the funeral of main protagonist McPhineas Lata, a perennial bachelor who had made it his past time to engage in raunchy games with other men’s wives.

The wives’ husbands are busy hardworking men who at the end of the day are all spent and seldom have enough energy or enthusiasm to fulfil their matrimonial duties.

At Phineas’ funeral women wail, faint and are involved in all kinds of dramatics especially at the burial while their men are at their most hardworking, shoving as much soil, stones, using their shovels to make sure that Phineas, their nemesis stays where he has been kept, for good, never to come back to disturb their wives.

The drama does not stop there. MmaTebogo, in whose bed the famous bachelor had breathed his last apparently while at his “more gymnastically performed sessions”, stays behind at his grave and lies on it, to the chagrin of the rest of the women who wonder what right she has to cling on the grave as if he belonged to her alone.

Kubuistile succeeds in weaving a humorous African village story that would leave one in stitches, but in her plot are very glaring weaknesses.

She portrays Nokamanya stereotypically, where one raunchy man is able to shamelessly get every married woman to cheat on their husband, who instead of reacting with anger instead shows an inability to respond.

She portrays these men as fickle and weak while their wives are even more willing to publicly roll on the grave of a perceived philanderer.

However, the story retains an interesting flow of an African oral tale, in which there is ‘village hero’ of sorts with a good following, a sad demise, a colourful funeral which is more of a celebration of life with a lingering spirit to remind those behind of his ‘memories’.

In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata originally published in ‘The Bed Book of Short Stories’ (Modjaji Books, SA, 2010) has been nominated for the 2011 Caine Prize for African writing.

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