The aim of this study is to compare and contrast isiZulu and Sepedi detective narratives, a genre which has not been fully embraced by literary scholars and authors in the African languages. The intention is to compare and contrast isiZulu and Sepedi detective narratives for the development of criteria and evaluating methods, which can be used in all the African languages.
Detective narratives form part of a genre that has a rigid plot and follows a pattern similar to a puzzle. In the detective narrative, a crime is committed, which usually involves a murder taking place. The person who has committed this murder is unknown to the readers or the detective, who might be a professional detective or an amateur. The main duty of the detective is to investigate the case so that he/she can find the culprit.
In this study, various literary theories are applied to analyse detective narratives, namely narratology, structuralism, the comparative method, intertextuality and intratextuality theories. The isiZulu detective narratives that are analysed, are M.M. Masondo’s Isigcawu Senkantolo (1990) and C.T. Msimang’s Walivuma Icala (1996). The Sepedi detective narratives that are analysed, are H.D.N. Bopape’s Lenong la Gauta (1984) and M.A. Kekana’s Nnete Fela (1989). The content, topic, plot, characterisation, setting/milieu, theme, style and atmosphere are explained in relation to the general structure of a detective narrative, indicating the differences between their structures and that of the mainstream narrative. The characteristic features of a general detective narrative are discussed and are used to determine how successfully the authors of isiZulu and Sepedi detective narratives have managed to apply them.
Mystery as the main feature of detective narratives is discussed in detail. It is also explained in relation to how it is used by authors to mislead readers or to hide certain information from them in order to create mystery. Tension and suspense are also exemplified in these detective narratives as the main creators of mystery. The five elements of mystery, as the main characteristic features of detective narratives, are also discussed and each element is exemplified in the isiZulu and Sepedi detective narratives.
The two isiZulu detective narratives and the two Sepedi detective narratives are compared and contrasted to see their similarities and differences. The next step in the study is to deduce the commonalities and dissimilarities, which can be observed between the detective narratives. The end product is the results of the comparison and contrast between the detective narratives in the different language groups. The results of this method indicated the characteristic features of detective narratives in the isiZulu and Sepedi detective narratives, which can be applicable to other African languages.
The findings arrived at through the use of intertextual and intratextual approaches suggest that scholars and authors of African languages could adopt the same methods in studying and writing detective narratives. In this way, the number of detective narratives in African languages has the potential of increasing.