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In his internationally acclaimed debut, The Powers That Be, Mike Nicol mythologized the history of his homeland. "Magic realism, " wrote the London Times, "has come to South Africa." And in This Day and Age - a novel of extraordinary intensity lyricism and levity - he tells the story of Enoch Mistas, a black youth with a Bible chained to his wrist and strange voices in his head, who leads a messianic rebellion against an imperious, bewildered government. The story begins with an oracle. Before his inauguration, the new president seeks the advice of Maria, a fortune-teller who sees long years of national harmony and the rule of law - but then plague and famine will sweep the land, and in time a prophet will spread revolt among the populace. Asked where this man can be found, she replies, "He is not yet born." Many years later, Maria cleans the mission church in a small farming village on the veld; she still has her visionary, healing powers. But when drought and plague fall upon them, the people await their savior, as foretold in village myth, and thus Enoch Mistas is born. He begins hearing the voices at age eleven; faint lights glow above his head. His power grows strong, twisted; and he leads an attack on the church. Accusing Maria of witchcraft, he has her burned at the stake. And so begins his career as Redeemer. For years, Mistas and his growing band of followers wander the desert, gathering the poor and disenfranchised for a march to the promised land. And only when his following swells to apocalyptic size - the mere rumor of their existence inciting unrest throughout the nation - does the government move against them. What happens next cannot be precisely known. Some say Mistashas magically escaped the slaughter. Some even claim to have seen Maria, years later, telling fortunes at a local fair. Time has closed over events now clouded by official lies, journalistic speculation and folklore. With biting humor and visionary clarity, This Day and Age explore
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1951, Mike Nicol is the author of several novels, among them Horseman, This Day and Age, and The Powers That Be, and many works of nonfiction, including A Good-Looking Corpse and The Waiting Country. He lives in Muizenberg, South Africa.