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Welcome to Our Hillbrow
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Welcome to Our Hillbrow

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  480 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Hillbrow is a microcosm of the changing South African psyche. This novel links Hillbrow, rural Tiragalong and Oxford, and contains the shattered dreams of youth, sexuality and its unpredictable costs, AIDS, xenophobia, suicide, the omnipotent violence that cuts short the promise of young people, and the Africanist understanding of the life.
Paperback, 124 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by University of Kwazulu Natal Press (first published July 2001)
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This is a very short novel, a novella really, only 124 pages. It is written as a narrative from a second person, to the main protagonist, who is already dead as the book is written.

Hillbrow is a very violent suburb of Johannesburg in South Africa, and the title of the book is very ironic, as there is definitely nothing welcoming there at all. Almost every character in the book dies at some point, by all kinds of different means. Suicide, murder, AIDS, name it.

But is is till an i
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, wow...! This book is just brilliant... Mpe, who died suddenly, leaving just this one novel and some poems, may have been a genius.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Benvenuti a Hillbrow è un romanzo basato sulla descrizione delle difficili condizioni di Hillbrow, un’area ghettizzata di Johannesburg, un tempo zona di soli bianchi, oggi luogo ibrido, meta degli immigrati dal resto dell’Africa, sovrappopolato, degradato, brulicante di vita ma anche segnato dalla morte e dalla violenza.

Usando diversi stili letterari come il realismo magico e il flusso di coscienza, l’autore descrive la vita della città dopo la fine dell’apartheid, affrontando temi come la xenof
Wadlington Johnson
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting book that I enjoyed a lot. It is very brief only containing 124 pages but the amount of substance that is fit into such a short book is extraordinary. It deals with topics such as xenophobia, racism, rumor, discrimination, poverty, AIDS, and crime all within its covers. Another thing that sets the book apart is the second person narration that talks not back to the reader but to the protagonist of the story who has already passed when the book begins. It chronicles ...more
Unarine Ramaru
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Mpe was a literary painter of note. Saddening that he did not live long enough to write more novels. I enjoyed the style of his writing more than the story. The protagonist's omniscient voice puts the reader to a quizzical and introspective perspective.
Joseph Schreiber
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This remarkable novel employs a distinctive narrative voice drawn from the oral traditions of the author's home community (Limpopo Province) to explore complex questions of urban social problems, xenophobia and modern literary concerns in post-Apartheid South Africa. The communal narrator addressing the dead main character from both the physical and the metaphysical reality may seem to belay the sophistication of the plot structure, but in truth it heralds what was, at the time, an exciting new ...more
Jake Goretzki
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
And so, South African season kicks off. I've been meaning to read this since picking it up in Joburg a few years ago and getting suddenly 'back into' things South African on reading Mr Flanery's (okay, he's American) wonderful novel, 'Absolution' (which itself reminded me of the unique conditions and rawness of SA literature - which is why I find it so darn interesting).

Here's a short, lyrical little number set among Hillbrow migrants, but focusing as much on where they've migrated from. It tak
Umar Paswal
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's an interesting book if one wants to examine the lives of Black South Africans living in a big city after the apartheid. Most of the the people in these neighborhoods have moved from countryside and live in a separate world from White South Africans. The unique thing about this book is that it doesn't deal with White vs Black issues, but its main focus is the attitude and prejudices of Black South Africans toward other Black South Africans and immigrants from other African countries. Interes ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Two stars: it was 'ok' at best.

This tale of life in and around Johannesburg failed to engage me.

The topics covered in this novel (including AIDS, race relations, human relations, and the 'new' South Africa) are treated far better in Dog Eat Dog by Nicholas Mhlongo.

One good thing about Welcome to Hillbrow is its brevity.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this directly after reading Ways of Dying, and while I like the messages that it conveys and the story in general, I couldn't get over that it was written in the second person. The second person does help to put the reader in the main character's shoes, but it just isn't a point of view that I want to read for a whole novel. Over all, I much preferred Ways of Dying.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: africa, not-my-cuppa
Suicidal ideation on a large scale? Did the author actually kill himself at 34 or was there a different cause of death?

I just couldn't really get fully into it. I didn't love the writing style. I don't know. I thought it'd be better.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
"She understood now that there were May ways of dying, that the choice between suicide and life was not merely a choice between stupidity and intelligence, that sometimes when people threw their own life away, it was because they were intelligent and courageous enough to see and admit that they did not own this life"

I really enjoyed reading this book , suicide , Xenophobia, AIDS beautifully explored in 124 pages. I found it crazy how one can draw parallels between Refentse ( the protagonist ) a
Kirk Angeles
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! So much substance was fluidly compressed into 124 pages.

The narrator of this novel is speaking to a man who had already died. He/she begins by summarizing the man's past, before his death, and then continues speaking about how his fatal end sent large ripples of guilt, sadness and anger to those around him.

Themes such as AIDs, betrayal, xenophobia, etc. gave a lasting impact even after the last page. Very glad that I read this.
Steph Sawyer
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. Mpe addresses the violence, xenophobia, crime, and the AIDS epidemic that plagues Hillbrow. It’s a story of grief, despair, isolation, and suicide, but it’s also about love and hope. The song repeatedly mentioned throughout the novel, Stimela’s See the World through the Eyes of a Child, is definitely worth a listen as well.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exceptionally sad narrative of young people living in Hillbrow, South Africa. Fraught with complexities and contrasts, this is an explicit tale for those interested in the realities of post-apartheid South Africa.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is filled with such sadness. I had to take a break as I was reading as it was all becoming too much but it is well worth a read. Contains stories about AIDS, xenophobia, suicide and infidelity and is written using second-person POV.
Solet Scheeres
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you knew Hillbrow before the new decade, this book will be a sad trip down memory lane. Phashwane tells an epic story set in one of Jozi’s most notorious parts. It is not an easy read.
Anna J
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very strong and unsettling novel.
Luann Yetter
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting use of second person. Tragic story.
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mpe's novel, told entirely in second person, begins to address the shift in ZA from country to city, and the effects that shift has on the populace. It does not shirk from telling the messy parts of life, and mentions necklacing as well as AIDS.

The book, at just over 120 pages, is a quick and thoughtful read. The characters are surprisingly engaging, given the very short length of the book; a hallmark of a good writer. I can't say it was an easy read, for all of its length, but it was the only
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This novella was haunting. The novel deals with many issues such as HIV/AIDS, xenophobia, poverty, prejudice in the Johannesburg city of Hillbrow following the end of apartheid...The novel not only takes you on a journey in Hillbrow, it also spans borders, oscillating between the rural town of Tiragalong, Alexandra township and Oxford!

it was a whole mix of all these complex stories told in just 124 pages. I would reccommend this book if you're looking for more insight into issues plaguing the c
Ryan Monaghan
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
A short read, looking into one of the most infamous areas of Johannesburg, and the disconnects existing between tradition and modernity, village and city, as it affects a small group of educated villagers living in a starkly different post-apartheid South Africa.

While I was not constantly interested in the story - you could read it in a day, but I spanned it over a month - it's a great read for a quick look at Hillbrow from the perspective of one who lived there in a turbulent time. I hope to p
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-clubs
This is an excellent narrative of life in the inner city of Johannesburg, in early post-apartheid, South Africa. The story also tackles the issues and tensions between life in a rural community and in the city. The pressures of life, xenophobia, AIDS, drugs, suicide, love and relationships, family and people's perceptions of others' choices. It is a complex but easy read. I still do not know who the narrator is but each line of text has been carefully constructed to give substance to the many le ...more
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Why are all African novels so damned sad. Okay maybe not all, but most of the ones I read.

The second person narrative is interesting, and the twining building storyline is excellent. As mentioned in many reviews, the brevity of the novel saves it from stagnating, which I honestly believe it would have if it had continued.
The subject matter is shocking and horrible and cruel, but also topics seen around the world, so it's brutal honesty is what makes the novel kick you in the ass and make you tak
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The energy of this novel shocks on the first page, where the first walk through the Hillbrow neighborhood in Johannesburg is the pace you keep as you enter the lives of the strivers who people South Africa. Definitely a novel where you sigh with some sadness at the end... but one where you don't then want to go collapse in bed. Instead you want to feverishly start striving yourself. Beautiful.
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-africa
5 stars just because this was written in Sepedi and English both. but this version is just english. A novel of the old story of the country mouse moving to the big city and getting his college degree, getting aids, getting beat up, getting lots of women in the sack, getting shunned, getting robbed, losing his bearings.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A book with a huge potential that tackles homophobia, racism and AIDS. Written from different points of view, this novel is a satire of the South African segregated society in a post-Apartheid world that resembles a lot the pre-Apartheid period. I read the author died at only 34 and I can't help feeling sorry he didn't have time to write and share more with us.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Welcome to Our Hillbrow deals with issues such as xenophobia and AIDS. It was a brief and educational read that contained some interesting aspects, but the second-person perspective was bothersome after a while and the Inception-like device of stories inside stories quickly became confusing.
Jack Ochs
Aug 22, 2010 rated it liked it
went back and forth between 3 and 4 stars on this. as another reviewer said, writing was a bit "uneven" and definitely repetitive at times; still, there were sections of brilliance. sad, hopeful reflections on live and death in Johannesburg from an HIV positive writer living in Jozi.
Katherine Merrell
A great book about the struggles of life in South Africa. I had to read this for an English class, but I am so glad I did because it opened my eyes to the lives of the people in Africa. This post-modern text is a tragic but great read.
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