“The book is chutzpadik, refreshing and – at its core – deeply humanistic” Jewish Report

Zuma’s Bastard by Azad Essa (Two Dogs, R142)

Adapted from the award-winning Thought Leader blog Accidental Academic Journalist, Zuma’s Bastard is proof positive that not only Jews have the ability to take the piss – and take it well. It is also heartening evidence that there’s a whole new generation of writers out there who don’t remember apartheid, aren’t encumbered by historical issues and can look at current affairs with comparatively fresh and critical eyes.

In what amounts to a self-effacing, gloriously funny 173-page rant – a kind of Muslim counterpart to Portnoy’s Complaint – Essa tackles topics that many another journalist would far rather avoid: Julius Malema’s shenanigans, for example. In an imaginary scenario, the ANCYL leader declares: “I’d rather die than commit suicide.” But when it comes to understanding the socio-political dynamics which gave rise to this blustering, aggressive, thinly-disguised thug-indesigner- suits, Essa hits the nail right on the head: “If you don’t like Malema’s remarks about killing farmers or nationalising the mines or Helen Zille, you were never his target audience. His anecdotes and utterances are for the young and frustrated masses, mostly stuck in townships and informal settlements and eager to hear his extreme take on the delayed revolution. This is an obvious point, yet it is so often (conveniently) overlooked.” But Essa is at his satirical best when bemoaning the pressures which being a young Muslim bring to bear on daily life: “The reader assumption (was) often that I, like millions of Muslim brats worldwide, have been brainwashed during early morning whipping sessions at the local madrasah into always defending the Islamic religion, no matter how many times I disagree with its policies or actions. I am Muslim. I am supposed to scream ‘victim’. I am supposed to burn embassies. I am supposed to kill my sister’s boyfriend.”

Essa’s take on the ANC and our president is fearless in its exposition. Naturally, his sentiments towards Israel are hostile, as is his attitude towards Zionism. But when it comes to hating Jews, he is volubly incensed, attacking fables like “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” for its inherent anti Semitism, and expressing his nausea at those who conflate political criticism with outright racism.

Not to coin a cliché, but some of his best friends really are Jews. Dwelling on the close geographical, cultural and anthropological ties between Palestinians and Israelis, he muses: “There is still too much romanticism and religious sentiment on both sides of the argument, making this issue a mountain that is possibly too high to climb – even for cousins.”

The book is not only seamlessly written, it is also chutzpadik, refreshing and – at its core – deeply humanistic. Not for nothing did Nic Dawes, Mail & Guardian editor-in-chief, comment that Essa’s is “the digitally compressed and accelerated voice of a South Africa that no media tribunal could ever silence”.


Posted in: Reviews, Zuma's Bastard Related

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  1. Shubnum
    January 27, 2011

    Great review

  2. January 27, 2011

    Well done Azad! If this review doesn’t say something… I don’t know what does :)

  3. January 31, 2011

    thanks Zu!

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