Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3334514
Lazarus Motshabi sent his short story to our competition from his home in Tembisa in the northern area of Johannesburg. His biography includes the engaging remark “I took to amateur boxing and was K.O.'d by a lass named Martha… together we raised two children.” He works for a large British company in South Africa but “my real hobbies are reading and of course writing.” Mr. Motshabi's tale intrigued the judges particularly for its tone, a curiously picaresque and cheeky independence that gives his characters a blunt and engaging reality. There has of course been a great deal of material written on the difficulties of life for the African in the great urban centers of South Africa. These have ranged from documentary reports to savage polemics. Although one shares the indignation that necessarily suffuses such writing, many of us are aware that they do ignore the human note that must be consistently present for all the social disrepair of the system. It is this aspect that Mr. Motshabi's story delightfully presents to us. The tone has a jaunty confidence and the plot reverses the moral expectation of the commonplace Horatio Alger view of the way to success. In this context it is cheerfully accomplished crime that will point out the road to riches. The story appears to end on a moral note of repentance and yet to read it in that direct way would be too simple. The hero is too knowledgeable to imagine that simple honesty is the way out of his social dilemma – the “roundabout way to success” he promises himself will utilize the experience he has observed to date with such an intriguing mixture of naive acceptance and cynical caution. All in all the character is established with such human dimension and reality that we want to know more of his future, his disasters and successes. Perhaps this will make the subject of further tales, for Mr. Motshabi has a rare and invigorating skill in conveying that circumstance where heroism is driven by the absurdity of his intolerable situation into the necessary self-expression of daring folly.