Praying Mantis by André Brink - review by Toby Lichtig

Toby Lichtig

I’m A Believer

Praying Mantis


Secker & Warburg 280pp £16.99

Kupido Kakkerlak (Cupido Cockroach) was a Khoikhoin (or ‘Hottentot’) slave boy, born in the mid eighteenth century on the Southern African Cape. After gaining his freedom and celebrating it with a youth of wild carousing, he was converted to Christianity by missionaries and spent his life preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen. But, stationed in an arid outpost with little more than stones and shrubs for a congregation, he was eventually abandoned by the Missionary Society, to which he had given his life. In Praying Mantis, André Brink gives his story a fictional reworking.

The opening section is a swirling reverie of Hottentot myth and superstition, offset by the harsh realities of life as an indentured labourer. Cupido picks a star and presents it to his mother; he fails to deliver some pomegranates for his mistress and is savagely beaten. He encounters the Hottentot

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