"[The Reactive is] a searing, gorgeously written account of life, love, illness, and death in South Africa. With exquisite prose, formal innovation, and a masterful command of storytelling, Ntshanga illustrates how some young people navigated the dusk that followed the dawn of freedom in South Africa and humanizes the casualties of the Mbeki government's fatal policies on HIV & AIDS."
—Naomi Jackson, Poets & Writers
"Woozy, touching... a novel that delivers an unexpected love letter to Cape Town, painting it as a place of frustrated glory. The Reactive often teems with a beauty that seems to carry on in front of its glue-huffing wasters despite themselves."
—Marian Ryan, Slate
"With The Reactive, [Ntshanga] has created an immersive and powerful portrait of drug use, community, and health issues by exploring what it was like to be young, black, South African, and HIV positive in the early aughts."
"[The Reactive] is an affecting, slow-burning novel that gives a fantastic sense of a particular place and time, and of the haunted inner life of its protagonist."
—Tobias Carroll, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
"This novel about an HIV+ man who mourns the death of his brother in Cape Town is shaping up to be one of the best debuts of 2016."
"Sharp and affecting... [Ntshanga] directs the story with an amazing precision of language that few writers can achieve in a lifetime of work. With a style all his own, Ntshanga animates despair and agitation in a collage of moments, memories and landscapes that speak volumes of a exigent moment in South African history."
"Gritty and revealing, Ntshanga's debut novel offers a brazen portrait of present-day South Africa. This is an eye-opening, ambitious novel."
"Ntshanga offers a devastating story yet tells it with noteworthy glow and flow that keeps pages turning until the glimmer-of-hope ending."
From the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award comes the story of Lindanathi, a young HIV+ man grappling with the death of his brother, for which he feels unduly responsible. He and his friends—Cecelia and Ruan—work low-paying jobs and sell anti-retroviral drugs (during the period in South Africa before ARVs became broadly distributed). In between, they huff glue, drift through parties, and traverse the streets of Cape Town where they observe the grave material disparities of their country.
A mysterious masked man appears seeking to buy their surplus of ARVs, an offer that would present the friends with the opportunity to escape their environs, while at the same time forcing Lindanathi to confront his path, and finally, his past.
With brilliant, shimmering prose, Ntshanga has delivered a redemptive, ambitious, and unforgettable first novel.
Masande Ntshanga is the winner of the inaugural PEN International New Voices Award in 2013, and a finalist for the Caine Prize in 2015. He was born in East London in 1986 and graduated with a degree in Film and Media and an Honours degree in English Studies from UCT, where he became a creative writing fellow, completing his Masters in Creative Writing under the Mellon Mays Foundation. He received a Fulbright Award, an NRF Freestanding Masters scholarship, a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship and a Bundanon Trust Award. His work has appeared in The White Review, Chimurenga, VICE and n + 1. He has also written for Rolling Stonemagazine.