Adam's Reviews > Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog by Niq Mhlongo
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Jun 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: south-africa

This book was a chance find in a charity shop ('thrift shop'), and is worth far more than 5 stars!


This is a wonderful, witty, incisive, amusing story. It is set in and around Johannesburg in post-apartheid South Africa. It was, as the author Niq Mhlongo wrote, “the season of change when everyone was everyone was trying to disown apartheid.

Dingz has attitude and chutzpah, but this won’t help him get a bursary to help pay for his studies at Wits (the University of Witwatersrand) despite coming from an overcrowded home in Phefeni, a part of Soweto on the edge of Johannesburg. This is the world of the township, “where life is cheap and death is absolutely free of charge.” In Soweto, “… street names are out of fashion…” because “…most of the streets are dusty and muddy, and therefore nothing to be proud of.

Dog Eat Dog is a riotous account of the lives of Dingz and his friends, mostly all students from the black townships. Mhlongo paints a vivid picture of the ups and downs of their hectic existence, which, though exciting, is always fraught with danger.

In the recounting of this entertaining tale, the author deals with a number of important topical matters relating to South Africa, sometimes with a quite original outlook.

AIDS is one of the problems facing everyone in South Africa. When drinking at a bar, one of Dingz’s friends asks, “Do you even know what AIDS stands for?” Someone gives the correct answer, but is then told that he is wrong. Everyone wonders why, but they soon learn that it stands for, “‘American Invention for Discouraging Sex’, or in a more scholarly form, ‘Academic Imaginary Death Sentence’.” Later in the book, a preacher on a crowded commuter train decrees, “If you cheat on your wife, a condom will burst and you will contract AIDS. Hallelujah!” In any case, as another character points out, “It is not that AIDS is incurable, but that the Americans are making money out of this disease by making you believe that it is.” Further scorn is heaped on the Americans who, “… are making it difficult for poor South Africans to procure the drugs that they need by making them expensive.” So Themba, a friend of Dingz, asks whether, “… sex has become the social activity of the rich while AIDS is a discriminatory disease of the poor?

Can so many decades (centuries?) of racial prejudice evaporate over night? Not likely is the answer that pervades Mhlongo’s novel. When the white professor is giving a lecture to his multi-racial audience, Dingz muses that, “…these white lecturers didn’t know their black students by name, and that was why they often said ‘yes’ when asking them to respond to a question. As for the white students, the white professors always addressed them politely by their full names.” When Dingz encounters racism, he always fights back effectively and counters it humorously, often gaining benefit from what was supposed to hurt him.

Near the end of the book, Dingz wonders, “How does Zulu sound to God?” Does He understand the African languages, or is it a waste of time praying to Him in those languages. For, Dingz was, “… convinced that God was White, and either English or Afrikaans, simply because it had taken Him so many years to translate exactly what the blacks and poor wanted in their endless prayers. It took God almost a century to bring about the end of apartheid and its package of injustice and to usher in the long-awaited freedom.

I hope that these excerpts help give a little of the flavour of this colourfully written vibrant story, and will make you seek it out in your bookshops, libraries, etc.

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Reading Progress

June 20, 2012 – Shelved
June 25, 2012 – Started Reading
June 26, 2012 –
page 38
17.12%
June 26, 2012 –
page 38
17.12%
June 27, 2012 –
page 86
38.74%
June 28, 2012 –
page 102
45.95%
June 29, 2012 – Shelved as: south-africa
June 29, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus What a delightful sounding book! (Said the ultrawhite American.) My county's library system doesn't have the book, more's the pity. Purchases are out of reach for now. *mournful sigh*

Thanks for the terrific review, Adam!


message 2: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Excellent review. I love the way a chance find in a charity shop can become one of the years best reads.


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