The Whale Caller

Posted: February 22, 2019 in Uncategorized
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Whale Caller CoverI was recently reading an anthology of liminality in literature from South Africa (Beyond the Threshold: Explorations of Liminality in Literature) and one of the authors lifted up the novella by Zakes Mda entitled The Whale Caller. Mda now splits his time between Johannesburg, South Africa, and Athens, Ohio where he is a professor of creative writing at Ohio University.

The Whale Caller positions its characters and plot at the edge of every conceivable boundary. The main character, who only goes by The Whale Caller, is in love with a great Southern whale, Sharisha, and he dances and plays his kelp horn for her at the tip of the peninsula. In addition, The Whale Caller has a woman friend who is the town drunk, Saluni, and they maintain an on-again, off-again relationship of misfits on the edge of passion and madness. One of their problems is the great jealousy of Saluni toward the whale of her mate’s affection.

The story takes place at the boundary of the land and the sea, a space between human and sea creatures. It also takes place at a cultural threshold as The Whale Caller and Saluni are both positioned in the margins of their society. And the wisdom of the Whale Caller often surpasses the consumerism of so-called successful society, challenging our assumptions about what is and is not the good life.

Elegant in its simplicity, The Whale Caller creates clarity through the very edges it inhabits. And for those who are curious about whales, music and their orgasms, this book is for you. Except perhaps for the ending. Which I shan’t spoil.

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