Author: Litha Hermanus
Title: The Eyes of the Naked
Publishers: Penguin Books, 2019
Developed during his Masters in Creative Writing at Wits University, Litha Hermanus has produced a thrilling novel about a man who is not only running away from law but also from himself.
This three hundred pager has two storylines running parallel but eventually converge at the end of the book. The first storyline is driven by Kele Solomon, an ambitious young radio producer who is determined to craft a name for herself in the South Africa’s media industry by breaking a story on the imminent xenophobic attacked brewing in Mandelaspruit, Johannesburg, however she is deceived by those close to her
Key themes brought out by Kele’s plot include the struggles of single mother/divorcee parenting while climbing up the media industry corporate ladder; the role that media organizations play in shaping society’s view of life especially when intertwined with political agendas; and how career ambitions are suppressed by sexism and racism.
The other and main storyline is driven by Nakedi Solomon, ex-husband to Kele and father to their six year old son Donavan. He is on the run after being entangle in a hijacking and murder of Japanese couple and a Ghanaian doctor in Johannesburg. His fugitive mission takes him to the Eastern Cape, his birthplace, where he reconnects with his family but soon however he is sent to search for his missing brother-cousin Buntu. Nakedi is taken on an unexpected journey where he meets intriguing characters such as Leontien a free-spirited feminist and her father, the sagacious Tat’Velelo. This roller-coaster journey challenge Nakedi’s patriarchal views of what is really the definition of manhood and fatherhood. Further, other themes explored are the cultural politics of circumcision schools; sexual abuse; sexuality and Western beliefs vs. African beliefs
Nakedi’s manhood was challenged in few occasions. For instance as a Xhosa male he was circumcised in a hospital and not at an initiation school, therefore in the eyes of his peers he was not a “real man”. He was running away from a murder he didn’t commit, was he coward?
Overall, this book offers an interrogation of what really makes a man. Is manhood defined by who or where one is circumcised? Does taking the moral high ground or expressing your vulnerability make one less of a man? Does having a child really make you a man? The profound Tat’Velelo even stated “Lost men can only breed what they are-lost children” could this be reason we have such a damaged society?