(Chiwundura Moyo, T.K.Tsodzo, Chinodya, Mabasa and Chirere during the Harare launch of Mabasa's Imbwa Yemunhu.)
For me the highest point in Zimbabwean Literature 2013
was the new section of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair called the
‘Literary Evening’ which was held at the Book Café, Harare alongside the Book
fair in September.
We were used to reading about Dangarembga, Chinodya,
Chiundura Moyo and Ticha Muzavazi but suddenly these four had been selected for this outing and were indeed were here with us. We were not
reading their books but they were reading passages from their books to us! We sat there and slowly
sipped our drinks and listened. We could even ask them questions. We could ask for their contact details. This was a rare moment for reader and writer to directly interact.
Did I know that Tsistsi Dangarembga possesses such a
clear performing voice or that; for some time now, she has been trying her hand
at children’s literature?
Shimmer Chinodya has a broadcaster’s voice. He has such
a beautiful teacher’s baritone that he needs to move on and read some of his
stories on the radio, especially from Can We Talk and Other Stories.
I never thought Aaron Chiundura Moyo played the
pen-whistle like Spokes Matshiyane! I didn’t know that he has the gift of the
gab and could reminisce on his work and eventful life, deep into the night. I thought all about him was books and books!
I came away from the evening even more convinced that Ticha
Mazavazi will continue to be my favourite Shona poet. And elsewhere, I indicate
that “Muzavazi is aware of the infectious force of the Shona verb
more keenly than any other Shona poet that I have read to date.”
Maybe the least talked about event of the year (because
it eluded the local media) is when David Mungoshi was invited to be guest
speaker at a state function on November 12 in Minna, Niger State,
Nigeria. The occasion was the third MBA National Literary Colloquium. Writers are
rarely invited to officiate at state occasions. This was quite an honour.
I came across four very significant books by
Zimbabwean authors in 2013 and I notice that each of them occupies a special
place on my mind.
As the year 2012 drew to an end, I read Spiwe N Mahachi- Harper’s Footprints in The Mists of Time from abba press in the United Kingdom.
What first struck me was the sheer size of the novel. I quickly made an
estimate count and found a whopping 181 008 words. This outruns Wellington
Kusena’s novel of 2011; Dzimbabwedande, which is the longest Shona novel at 108
264 words. Mahachi Harper’s becomes the longest novel by a Zimbabwean, I
declared and there was no refutation from any authoritative quarter.
is a 419 broad paged historical novel, tracing about four generations of
workers of Malawian origin, beginning with Bhaureni Nyirenda’s journey from
Nuhono village in the Nkotakhota District of then Nyasaland in 1899 to settle
at Southern Rhodesia’s Patchway Valley Mine in Gatooma District. You move from
Bhaureni to his son Masauso, through to grandson Chakumanda and great grandson,
Mavhuto (in the present day) and their wives, children and neighbours who are
variably from Northern Rhodesia and Mocambique.
I have come to know the author more and more, I have felt that this was the clearest
show of sheer immense narrative tenacity and talent in the past year!
Reserve Bank Deputy Governor of Zimbabwe, Kupukile Mlambo took note of this
book and did an illuminating review which was widely read in the media. The Deputy Governor wrote: “The novel, which
is essentially about labour migrations in Southern Africa can be read through
multiple lenses. There is an extended debate, often couched in broader
economic, political and social terms, on the causes and effects of migration on
the receiving and sending countries.”
NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names came out to become the most celebrated
novel by a Zimbabwean in 2013. I had harbored great expectations because I had known
that the first chapter to this novel, ‘Hitting Budapest’ won No Violet Bulawayo
the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing when
it was presented as a separate short story.
The novel’s central character, Darling is always looking at foreign territory with eyes
of home and glancing back at home through the teary eyes of new experience and
beginning to re-read ‘home’.
The pregnancy of detail that you find in this
novel, like the descriptions of the onset of Operation Murambatsvina, is one of its strengths:
“…the bulldozers appear boiling. But first before
we see them, we hear them. Me and Thamu and Josephat and Ncane and Mudiwa and
Verona are outside playing with More’s new football, and then we hear thunder.
Then Ncane says, What is that? Then Josephat says, It’s the rain. I say, No, it’s the planes.
Then Maneru’s grandfather comes sprinting down Freedom Street without his
walking stick, shouting, They are coming, Jesus Christ, they are coming!
Everybody is standing on the street, neck craned, waiting to see. Then Mother
shouts, Darling-comeintothehousenow! But then the bulldozers are already near
big and yellow and terrible and mental teeth and spinning dust. The men driving
the bulldozers are laughing. I hear the adults saying, Why why why, what have
The novel plunged the Zimbabwean
literary scene into celebration as it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
It was also to appear on the Guardian First Book award shortlist and eventually won the
South African Jenny 2013 Book of the year Award. The novel does not spare the
establishment in Zimbabwe. It does not
spare even the pretentious western world. This is a novel that demands very
careful reading and, do not be quick to feel attacked or praised. To read NoViolet Bulawayo's new book is
to take constant departures and arrivals, inside out and upside down until you
lose count because she is constantly very aware of the numerous points of view
to the subject of going away from Zimbabwe and the actual politics. She is also
aware that the phenomenon that she is working on is actually in motion and that
Zimbabwe will one day rest on any of her many intriguing sides.
Then there was the biggest surprise of
the year - Charles Mungoshi’s Branching Streams Flow in the Dark, published by his family. The prize winning author of Coming of The Dry Season, Waiting For The Rain and Kunyarara
Hakusi Kutaura? who had been ‘silent’ ever since his major single publication, Walking
Still in 1997, had chosen a special way of returning. As his wife, the
acclaimed actress Jesesi Mungoshi states in the dedicatory note, ‘it took
Charles over 20 years to write this book and he was still perusing through it
when he fell into a coma on the 30th of April, 2010’.
darkest and loneliest moment, when her baby dies of AIDS and her husband runs
out of the house and her mother is virtually unkind, Serina Maseko sees through
herself and others, as if she were beyond pain and reproach. She is floating
because during this period, before the advent of Anti Retro Viral Therapy use
in the management of the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), being
diagnosed as having the infection is an automatic death sentence.
of Zimbabwe lecturer Josephine Muganiwa had this to say about Mungoshi’s new
hurts but... it also thrills! Meeting and parting is also part of the game.
This book answers the classical questions: Is it possible for a man to
love two women at the same time? What is love? Is it possible to fall in love
with the idea of being in love? What is the place of polygamy? What is marriage?
Is marriage the church certificate or the intertwining of lives? Is it
possible to have a soul mate; the kind of relationship between MaDube and
Serina’s father? This story is fluid and it carries you along like a
river. I can still hear Saidi playing his sax in the sky, at the Great
Conference. A must read for all!”
not adequately acquainted with Mungoshi literature beyond Coming of The Dry
Season or Ndiko Kupindana Kwemazuva were left wondering if this was really
Mungoshi’s pen even when Jesesi Mungoshi told them that she has the whole original
script in Charles Mungoshi’s long hand. The long, elaborate and reflexive
sentences that (over)ride on the comma and conjunction are typical and are
there for all to see:
“… If you were looking at Mother looking at Father, then Father appeared
to be dirty, uncouth, uncivilised (Mother’s favourite word), backward – and you
found yourself lost in seeing him like that… you would convince yourself that
this was your original observation of him... on the other hand, if you were
looking at Father looking at Mother, you saw shame and falseness right through
everything, starting first and foremost, with the highly out - of – key voice
shrilling for attention so that it jarred on the nerves like a child running a
razor blade through velvet skin… Mother would not hear Father. She would simply
see her poor husband, Samuel Maseko, as an also-ran, second-hand sort of lost
could have the temerity to write a book and claim that it was written by
before the year 2013 really ended, veteran Shona novelist, Ignatius Mabasa
struck with his offering entitled, Imbwa Yemunhu. Here you come across Musavhaya or Musa in brief. Usually Musa becomes jelly kneed when he
comes across beer and beautiful women. This time he even wants to grab
someone’s wife. She is called Juli. Juli’s husband is an ordinary lay about and
petty trader called Richard who is not fazed by his noncommittal ways. Musa is
pressed by his own mother and elder brother to marry Hazvi when he has no any
feelings for the girl. He plays up in order to silence his community which
expects him to get married. Juli wishes she had a man like Musa instead of Richard.
But she is stuck with Richard! Hazvi wishes she had not had the misfortune of
knowing her father. Richard wishes he had not fallen into this marriage with
Juli because it is an apparent trap.
For me, Imbwa Yemunhu is the most
experimental offering of the year. It is dream and reality. It flows like a
jagged river. You find here, to your amusement some real life characters of Zimbabwe like the
late Simon Chimbetu, musician Albert Nyathi, writers Shimmer Chinodya and
Tsitsi Dangarembga, talking and being talked about. They are all beautifully
engineered that you stop breathing until you come to the very end.
I notice that as I write, the year has
not really ended. But if it ends like this, some good books of 2013 will spill
into 2014. I know that there is something cooking at Booklove in Gweru.
Emmanuel Sigauke, and your editor, Makadho, can you hear me?
By Memory Chirere, 26 December 2013.