Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Emmanuel Sigauke introduces Chenjerai Hove’s and other new books by Zimbabweans

This is a good time to be a reader of Zimbabwean literature. Of course, any time is good, but none as good as now. My line-up of Zimbabwean books that I should read is growing, rapidly. I called it my line-up, but really it is my debt: some of these books (most of them rather) came directly from the authors or their publishers, usually hot off the press, sometimes before they are launched. Gratefully, I have received them, I have browsed them, but have always waited for the best time to read them, and as they continue to pile up, I can't even get the words to describe my excitement, my sense of anticipation as the semester comes to the end, and the summer break beckons. I will be reading a lot of Zimbabwean books this summer, concluding the whole experience with a visit to Zimbabwe. I want to try to make the ZIBF Indaba this year.

What you see below is a partial (but growing) list of received or acquired books by Zimbabwe authors:

Chivi Sunsets by Monica Cheru. I was introduced to her works by Memory Chirere. He was happy to have "discovered" this writer, and when Chirere says he is happy about an author, you pay attention. I have so far read the first story in the collection, and I liked it. "The Road to Damascus", it is called, and it chonicles the life of a principled teacher who takes his job too seriously, until the villagers (there in Chivi) show him one or two things about teaching and learning. I am not ready to review the book, but I like it for several reasons.

You publish a book set in Chivi and you know I am going to read it, come what may... I believe Chivi is a region of Zimbabwe that makes for a very interesting setting. It's a place I know, a place that carries some fond memories for me, a real, solid place that exists on this planet, a place, however, not often found on the world literary map, let alone the Zimbabwean one. Now as I enter the book, I am looking for the recreation, let's call it the representation, of the concrete reality of this place, Chivi. Perhaps this representation may spill into Mazvihwa, the place often antithetical to Chivi (these places, separated by Runde River, are both interesting in their unique ways; there is legend associated with these even, several versions of how the places came to be called Chivi and Mazvihwa, and the best version I have heard so far has been from Chenjerai Hove, who knows both places very well).

Chivi Sunsets, nice title. The Chivi sun sets on the horizon of Mazvihwa; this makes you think of a possible collocation: Chivi Sunsets, Mazvihwa Sunrises...

I will let you know how much I am going to like or hate this book, both of which are nice things for a writer.

Homeless Sweet Home by Chenjerai Hove: This a memoir of Miami, where Chenjerai spent part of 2010 and nearly all of 2011. So they asked him to write a memoir and he, hesitant at first because he wasn't planning to write a memoir yet, agreed to write one. I am already reading it, enjoying the skill with which he crafts the prose, and the experiences in there, the bitter-ness and sweetness of exile; that is to say, the homeliness of exile. It's a collage of poetry, short fiction, essays, and plays. Over the years I have had the priviledge of discussing literary and life topics with Chenjerai Hove, a former teacher of mine at UZ, and as I read the memoir I am seeing glimpes of the familiar; it always feels like a reward, turning the reader into an immediate expert on some aspects of the book, aware, of course, that some events, once they enter the realm of literature, gain a life of their own, and should be judged in light of their new identity as with their old.

Muna Hacha Maive Nei by Masimba Musodza:

This is the first Shona novel to be published in the Kindle platform, and when it did well there, the writer moved on to publish the print companion. That's the one I am reading. Imiwe, all I can say so far is mabasa chaiwo. I love the concept of "kindling" a Shona product, and then complementing it with a traditional format (usually the reverse is the norm). Then the book's theme and premise, it can't get an sexier, and necessary, even timely, yet timeless: the dangers of biohazards and the diminishing of life in the face of transnational profiteering. But then the story gets local too, very local, going straight to your typical village river, for a centuries a symbol of the village's livelihood, of existence even. It is there that we see signs of changing times, change so rapid, so mysterious it destabilizes life as it's been known here. But then the reader knows; the reader emphathizes, the reader begins to read like an activist, aware of the injustice of it all.

I am still reading it, so more thoughts will come later.
Shadows by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma: All I can say for now is get ready, Zimbabwe. Get ready, world. This one is coming soon.

++By Emmanuel Sigauke (From:!/2012/04/feast-of-zimbabwean-books-partial-list.html)

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