This is Redi Tlhabi’s debut work that was published in 2012. She followed this up with the very well received and critically acclaimed Khwezi in 2017.
The randomised principle that governs my book selections meant that I read the latter last year and only read the former now. Endings and Beginnings is a very beautiful memoir. This traces Redi’s life from when she is eleven years old and meets the charming, handsome and loving criminal called Mabegzo.
Redi is the queen of anecdotes. She picks a short and interesting story in her life or the life of her subject and uses it to explore varying layers of societal conditions in the South African environment. I felt this was done very well in Khwezi, but it turns out that this is even exceeded in her debut book, Endings and Beginnings.
She uses her friendship with Mabegzo as a fulcrum to examine the realities of daily living in Soweto 80s and 90s, gangsterism in a black township within the apartheid state, traditional and deeply patriarchal responses to rape victims and death and funerals in black South Africa. Also examined are the topics of humanising criminals, forgiveness and even the place of ancestral worship in traditional African settings.
Redi is an excellent writer. She writes the way she talks; intelligently in all directions, yet succinctly. In less than three hundred pages, she brings real-life characters alive and humanises them without compromising the events that have shaped her life and are the subject of this memoir. I can understand the initial controversy when the book was first released as some alleged participants in the story denied aspects of it, as the story was too well told and succinctly written.
Basil was my favourite character; he is a star and a half! He had me in stitches all the time. Very good read and highly recommended.