Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

A Case for Sheer Compulsive and Imaginative Depth

Academic journal article Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

A Case for Sheer Compulsive and Imaginative Depth

Article excerpt

Professor Ndebele, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Could you please comment on Mofolo's style at the hand of this paragraph about the Deep Pool?

Chaka o itlhatsoitse, eare ha a le lekhatheng la ho qeta, tlopo ea hae
ea thoenya-thoenya, ea fere-ferella, letlalo la hloho le tlas'a eona la
futhumala, la tsapola kapele-pele, ha ba ha phakisa ha khutsa, ha re
tu. E ne e sa le hosasa-sasa, pele-pele ho letsatsi; 'me o ne a tolla
bobeng, moo ho tsabehang haholo. Ka holimo ho moo a leng teng e le
phororo e kholo, 'me tlas'a phororo eo, hona moo a leng teng, e le
koeetsa ea tonana, thapolla e tsabehang, e tala-tala, e tebang haholo.
Koeetseng eo metsi a le matsoana-tsoana a re tso! (Chaka 23)

Chaka washed himself. It happened that, as he was about to finish, the
tuft of hair on his head shivered and shook, and the skin under it felt
warm and it rippled very quickly; and just as suddenly as it began,
everything was quiet again, dead still. It was very early in the
morning, long, long before the sun was due, and he was bathing in an
ugly place, where it was most fearsome. High up from the place where he
stood was a tremendous waterfall, and at the bottom of that waterfall,
right by him, was an enormous pool, a frightening stretch of water,
dark green in colour and very deep. In this pool the water was pitch
dark, intensely black. (Chaka trans. Kunene 21)

The effect of the repetition matsoana-tsoana a re tso! Ah! This is beautiful. It sounds delightfully beautifully written--its effect is emphatical--tala means green, talatala means it is green, deep green, real green, truest green. Matsoana-tsoana, from the stem ntso, means dark, very dark water, with implications of endless depths. Ka pele-pele, fast-fast, quick. This pool, the moment he describes this, Mofolo intensifies the setting, livens up its dimensions. And this is even before the King of the Deep appears. So the setting for something majestic to appear is created and mainly by the style. (1) Though repetition is a feature of Sesotho, Mofolo applies it in an unusual way--so as to find the word's real and deepest meaning, as if the meaning is hidden within itself. Also the vocabulary--the water, the surroundings of the water, the vastness, the unknownness. And already the movement on the water suggests something enormous appearing, coming from the uncharted depths. And then somewhere among all of this vastness of nature is the boy Chaka, innocently washing himself, his mother hiding, his sudden awareness that something is beginning to happen and then his small hand moving to hold on to a little tuft of his hair.

What about the word "ugly" as a description of the pool?

I would say bobeng is used here more in the sense of... not ugliness, but danger. Danger of depth, a dangerous setting. Bobeng as ugly is perhaps too literal for my taste, because bobe is indeed ugliness, but it is not the ugliness of something as a value judgement. My sense of it is danger. I think bobeng haholo means an unfathomable danger rather than a judgement about the appearance of the place.

Can you comment on the style of the following extract?

Chaka, mohla a tlohang hae ha a baleha, o tlohile e le Chaka, e le
motho ea joale ka batho bohle, ea nang le mefokolo ea botho; kajeno o
khutla a fetohile hampe; ho khutla nama feela, bokantle, ha e le boeena
bo setse moo a tsoang teng; o khutla ka moea osele le ka botho bosele.

Chaka, the day he left home in flight, he left as Chaka, a human being
like all other human beings who had human failings. Today he comes back
greatly changed; it is only his flesh that is coming back, only his
outer self; as for his true self, that has remained at the place from
which he is returning; he comes back with a completely different spirit
and a different personality. (47)

This is spectacularly phrased with an impressive psychological insight. And again the repetition! He meets Isanusi and the core of his being dies. …

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