The Magic of Saida

The Magic of Saida

Book - 2012
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The Magic of Saida tells the haunting story of Kamal, a successful Canadian doctor who, in middle age and after decades in North America, decides to return to his homeland of East Africa to find his childhood sweetheart, Saida. Kamal's journey is motivated by a combination of guilt, hope, and the desire to unravel the mysteries of his childhood--mysteries compounded by the fact that Kamal is the son of an absent Indian father from a well-to-do family and a Swahili African mother of slave ancestry. Through a series of flashbacks, we watch Kamal's early years in the ancient coastal town of Kilwa, where he grows up in a world of poverty but also of poetry, sustained by his friendship with the magical Saida. 

This world abruptly ends when Kamal is sent away by his mother to live with his father's family in the city. There, the academically gifted boy grows up as a "dark Indian," eventually going to university and departing for Canada. Left behind to her traditional fate is Saida, now a beautiful young woman. Decades later, Kamal's guilt pulls him back to Kilwa . . . where we discovers what happened to Saida during a harrowing night of sinister rites. This complex, revelatory, sweeping and shocking book, is a towering testament to the magical literary powers of M.G. Vassanji.
Publisher: Toronto : Doubleday Canada, c2012.
ISBN: 9780385667142
Characteristics: 305 p. ;,25 cm.


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Oct 27, 2018

I enjoyed this Indian novel, mostly set in Tanzania, and think you will too.

Jul 17, 2013

Good literary novel – perfect for book clubs. Interesting story of mixed-race characters in Zanzibar. Learned a great deal about life and culture in Tanzania.

gulamani Apr 11, 2013

A love story set in the context of colonialism and independence of East Africa. Also, race relations in the region well dramatized. Needs a second read to take it all in!

Oct 29, 2012

This novel sets its own pace for the reader as it weaves poetry and magic throughout the story. In addition to the story being told by Vassanji, the book is an excellent history of East Africa in the twentieth century, detailing the layering of races and religions over the base of the African population and the impact of this layering. In the end, the hero's return to Africa is most revealing in terms of his character and the consequences of his decisions. As usual, an excellent book from a wonderful author. This is a book to be reread.

debwalker Oct 12, 2012

"The Magic of Saida is the sort of novel that, upon finishing, one wants to immediately read again, to examine, to study just how Vasssanji works his narrative magic, and to allow oneself to savour it just that little bit longer." Robert J. Wiersema
Globe & Mail

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