Azad Essa is a journalist, columnist and aspiring filmmaker and Zuma's Bastard is his debut novel. Originally from Durban, he is currently based in Doha, Qatar where he works for Al Jazeera as a journalist. Zuma's Bastard is based on the politics of South Africa and the World in the post-Mandela era.
With chapters like ‘Was Eugene Terre Blanche a Muslim?’, ‘Blue Julius (and Pink Floyd), ‘Let’s jerk off to Climate Change’ and ‘Nobel Obama Trumps Superman’, no political figure is safe from his satire, even if they dip in their walk. Part of his writing is from the Thought Leader blog run by the Mail and Guardian and his column provides a platform upon which he unrelentingly questions populist rhetoric and asks, at times provocatively, South Africans how bad does it get before we sit up and take notice? As Ferial Haffajee puts it, Essa is of a “generation of South Africans who reached political maturity in the era of Polokwane – the quintessential voice of the Born Frees”
Describing the book, Professor Ari Sitas Head of Sociology at UCT writes:
‘Zuma's Bastard is the new generation's arrogant and self-critical voice about Durban, South Africa and Africa in the world. Azad Essa, a Bollywood-soaked, Indian-battered, black South African-tinged, accidental academic and incidental journalist - who has seen India and Kashmir, India better, in Kashmir, Pakistan, the so-called Middle East and Europe - leaves no holy cows untaunted – nay he even imagines them as beefburgers…His popularity is catching but the moral questions he asks of us cannot be sidestepped. Read this book, buy the T-shirt, be with it and get angry because the author takes his jokes (often us) seriously.’
In an interview with the Daily Maverick he explains his choice of title as thus:
The title is not completely legitimate, but there’s good justification for it. Without giving too much away, the book is made up of two headers: “Zuma’s Bastard” and “Encounters with a desktop terrorist”. They are equally important because they collectively introduce readers to the central theme of the book: a rabid Indian bastard on the loose under Zuma’s watch.
I don’t know what it means to fight for freedom. And in many ways, the title locates me as a child of the Zuma presidency. I was too young during the honeymoon Mandela period to engage in the new democracy and so it doesn’t count. Zuma, touted as the man to lead us away from tendered one-night stands and deliver on promises to the people, capital and who-ever-else he conned, has created a nation of bastards, trying to make sense of it all.
At the same time, I have straight hair, “Indian” skin and go to mosque; I am a desktop terrorist with views of the world that are politically incorrect, sometimes blasphemous and incongruent with the good Indian muslim boy who must open a shop, play the system, marry a virgin and look forward to more in heaven.
If anything, the book is about the coming-of-age of a generation of South Africans who want to finally fight for their freedom.
The book is definitely not anti-Zuma, despite the flattering title. That would be far too easy. The book, like the blog, addresses a variety of themes relevant to South Africans, the usual suspects included, but written from a fresh and humorous perspective. It’s a bludgeoning view of the world from an Indian perspective. And my cousins aren’t going to be thrilled.
Of course the title is meant to create a stir, but we also think it’s the character of the writing (rather than a shocking title for kicks). And about the press material; they probably sent you the polite version.
This book is available in South Africa and will shortly be released in other parts of the world.