Guest Blog: Random Stuff I’ve Learned by Reading Too Many Novels – Professional Mourners

Interesting Literature

By Debra Beilke

Toloki is the main character in South African writer Zakes Mda’s first novel, Ways of Dying. Toloki comes from a small village, but lives in Johannesburg. He goes to a lot of funerals. This is not because he knows so many people who have died, but because he is a Professional Mourner. He is hired by friends or family members of the deceased to mourn ostentatiously at their loved one’s funeral.

Mda writes, ‘Normally when he is invited to mourn by the owners of a corpse, he sits very conspicuously on the mound that will ultimately fill the grave. . . . and shares his sorrow with the world. The appreciative family of the deceased pays him any amount it can. One day he would like to have a fixed rate of fees for different levels of mourning, as in other professions. Doctors have different fees for…

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