Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Zimbabwean academic publishes a whole book on Marquez Literature

+To get a copy, phone or whatsap: +263 773763171 Email:

The late Nobel Prize winning Gabriel García Márquez, who died on 17 April 2014, is considered by many, including myself, as the greatest author ever to be translated from Spanish to English. I also appreciate that some consider him the greatest author in the Spanish language. I also agree that Marquez’s most successful work as a writer is the long and expansive novel,  One Hundred Years of Solitude. I hear that it became a huge success in the years after its publication in 1967, selling more than 10 million copies in more than 30 languages! It made García Márquez a leader of the Latin American literary "boom" and an international phenomenon.


All that may be easy to say, but in front of us is Barbra Manyarara’s book on Marquez. I became aware of Barbra Manyarara of the University of Zimbabwe’s immense interest in  Gabriel García Márquez by accident when she looked smitten by the great author’s death to the extent of agreeing to do an obituary for him for my blog, KwaChirere, on 25 April 2014: When it came, I saw that it was entitled:  My old man, Marquez is gone! I uploaded it as it was, word for word. In that piece, Manyarara mourns her literary hero:


       “The news of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing on Thursday 17 April 2014 quickly filtered down to me although I was far away from media access. Two of my undergrads sent me messages of condolences, followed by another two from family overseas. They had been purchasing most of my study material on this writer, seeing as Amazon will not deliver to Zimbabwe. Each of the messages started with, “Mama, mudhara wenyu afa.” (Mom, your old man is dead.) Another of my callers was my own hubby telling me, “Your old man is gone,” to which I retorted, “I thought you were my old man!”


       To all these concerns I made the gentle reminder that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has only been promoted to a better place without pain because authors do not die, they live on through our reading of their works. All these messages recognise the special relationship I have with Gabriel Garcia Marquez for I have spent the last three years studying his representations of sexualities in several of his works. 

       Literarily, I first met Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I was recovering quite unsatisfactorily, (according to my doctor), from a life-saving op and running out of satisfying reading material. In the end it was a choice between a lame copy of Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) or Voltaire (without the benefit of even schoolgirl French). My copy of One Hundred Years clothed with the usual Penguin austerity starts with page 377, so I meet Jose Arcadio at a moment when he has taken up with children in a relationship whose significance at this point, I have no idea of at all. Still I am intrigued and flip through to discover that after page 422, there is page 41. From page 41, I could now read through to the end, that is, back to page 422 again. Despite missing that poignant first sentence, “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice,” I was fascinated!”

That is Barbra Manyara’s life with Marquez!  I was first introduced to Marquez by the then writer-in-residency of the University of Zimbabwe, late writer Chenjerai Hove in 1991. Hove spoke to us lavishly and vividly about Macondo, a town in Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as if he actually came from it. It was so elaborate that we felt sorry for ourselves for not having read this novel. Suddenly I also wanted to go to Macondo like our mentor. I immediately set out to read the novel! It was a monumental mistake because since then, I have never recovered!

I have since read a lot of Marquez literature. I must confess that I prefer the Marquez short story. I particularly love his ‘Maria dos Prazeres.’ Maria,  protagonist of this story , is a Brazilian mulatto woman living in Barcelona. She is a self- retired whore in her seventies who is planning for her imminent death, which was revealed to her in a dream. Maria is removed from her own country (Brazil) when her mother sold her to a Turkish official, who after enjoying her without pity, abandons her, leaving her “with no money, no language and no name”. (p109) Now, old and seemingly useless to herself, Maria goes about the business of deciding on her funeral with matter-of-fact efficiency.

She has already purchased her burial plot and taught her dog, Noi, who sheds real tears, to locate the plot in the cemetery and cry over her grave. She has also made arrangements for a neighbour girl to take care of Noi after she dies and to let him loose on Sundays so that the dog can visit her tomb. Then, one rainy night, she and Noi hitch a ride home to get out of the weather. Maria trembles in the darkness, certain that the mysterious man who gives them a lift and asks to come up to her apartment is the Grim Reaper himself. Then, to her delight and surprise, she realizes that the stranger is actually a customer.

I also read and re-read ‘Bon Voyage, Mr. President.’ The story begins with:

He sat on a wooden bench under the yellow leaves in the deserted park, contemplating the dusty swans with both his hands resting on the silver handle of his cane, and thinking about death. (p3)

The above lines create an image of a very spent, lonely and tired person and from the onset; one guesses correctly that this must be an old person in distress and regret. But there remains, for a discerning reader; visible traces of a life of vigour, careful self- cultivation, glory and plenty rioting from underneath this wreck:

He had the arrogant mustache of a musketeer, abundant blue-black hair with romantic waves, a harpist’s hands with the widower’s wedding band on his left finger and joyful eyes. (p4)

Then the cruellest sentence in this arrangement tries to supersede all that: ‘The years of glory and power had been left behind forever, and now only the years of his death remained.’ (p3) Beneath that, is even a crueller rendition of the plight of the old man. He suffers from an insistently ‘devious’ pain whose position in his body the doctors had not been able to locate in both Martinique and Geneva. As they search for it very actively all over his body, they go to and fro, almost like officers after a criminal!


But, I understand what Manyarara sets out to do in this book in your hands. It is about  interrogating Gabriel García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981); The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975); One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967); The Sad and Incredible Tale of Innocent Erendira and her Heartless Grandmother (1972); and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004).


There is an understanding that although there is a lot of critical energy already expended on Marquez, most of it has dwelt on the author’s use of magical realism as a writerly mode. Critics have also dwelt on the literary influences that have impacted on him and how he in turn, has influenced other writers. Critics have also discussed García Márquez’s employment of prostitution as a metaphor for the exploitation of the colonised people by their European colonisers. Manyarara contends throughout this book that there remains a yawning gap in scholarship in terms of understanding other constructions of sex and sexuality as manifestation of other forms of exploitation in García Márquez’s literary works. This scholarly gap has become particularly glaring because of the wave of public animosity towards García Márquez’s representations of sexualities in his latest novel, Memories (2004).

I hope that this book will manage as Manyara asserts to show that “García Márquez’s employment of the sexuality motif enables him to delve into many worldwide current concerns such as the irrelevance of some socio-cultural sexual practices; commercial sexual exploitation of children; the different manifestations of prostitution; and female powerlessness under autocratic rule.”

If she manages to do that, Manyarara would have broken new ground by showing that “García Márquez’s representations of different sexualities are not merely soft porn masquerading as art. His is a voice added to the worldwide concerns over commercial sexual exploitation of children in the main and also the recovery of a self-reliant female self-hood that was previously inextricably bound to male sexual norms.”

For me, Barbra Manyara’s book is the most important new book on Latin American literature that I have read this year, 2016. This is an attempt to break a new window through which we can begin to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

-Memory Chirere, 2016-    




Boss Chidora reads Farayi Mungoshi's Behind the Wall Everywhere

Boss Tanaka Chidora reads Farayi Mungoshi's Behind The Wall Everywhere. The review is here:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Charles Mungoshi's son arrives!

In Harare, The Herald reports that Charles Mungoshi’s son, Farayi has published his debut short story collection. In the link to the story below, Beavan Tapureta reviews Farayi Mungoshi’s book:
In the WinZim pic above, Farayi discusses his book with two Library of Congress officials. For a copy, phone 00263 772634918

Sunday, January 10, 2016

kwaChirere reads Huchu's second novel



The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician by Tendai Huchu
Published by ámaBooks, 2014,

I don't know why I initially found it difficult to find time to do a nonstop read through Tendai Huchu's second novel, The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician. Months! Going. Stopping. Going. Stopping- then I was happy to be finally going on forever for the rest of last week!

I was even able to read through Tinashe Muchuri's new Shona novel, Chibarabada- in between The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician. Maihwe-e! I was carefully feeding into their two different feel for life, place and people. Warning: I have always been ambidextrous with books! I do funny things when you surround me with books... 

I was even emotionally flattered to learn that there is a character in The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician itself, who reads, like me, two or more novels at the same time! But unlike me, he starts to lose his bearings and decides to burn books! Kikikiki! That is the maestro for you. The reason: after reading many books nonstop, he finds that “each of these books was just a jumble of words with which he had no connection…” And after burning them, "he curled up on the carpet and cried himself to sleep.”  

There is a way in which The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician asks you to go slowly, crosschecking details, underlining whole passages for closer reading in another time and another place... This novel allows you to use the page marker and do other things, read other things even, until you are able to 'return to the source' and take another dose to last you another whirl wind tour. The references to Geography, Music, History, Architecture etc are laden with nuggets that demand further contemplation and investigation. 

What I am telling you is that this novel is compact. I had a similar experience with Bryony Rheam’s This September Sun and Allende’s The House of The Spirits. The book tells you: You can’t deal with me in one gulp because I was written slowly, over time and… you can never really go away forever from me…

Now that I have finished reading it, I feel that I have been paid. I chat with friends at home and abroad about this novel and they marvel at the comments I make. I admire the parallel process arrangement of this novel. Three separate stories running together like three fine novellas from one shelf, only ‘confluencing’ together at the very end. Running dutifully together like three weaving cords. Maybe in that regard, this is the first novel of its type by a writer from my country, Zimbabwe.

Now that Alfonso is not exactly what I thought he was in the beginning, I have learnt a lot about the power of holding out a key detail. I must now go through this whole story again, mentally, laughing at myself for having been led down the garden path. Alfonso is not exactly that drunken fool who enters the novel through the Magistrate’s door one morning. Through him, you learn that this novel does not underestimate what the establishment in Zimbabwe can achieve, miles and miles away. That is why I am still laughing every time that I read the very last page of the novel. Alfonso! O, Alfonso!

At the heart of this story are three Zimbabwean men, residing in Edinburgh, Scotland, far away from Harare and Bindura. They are named the Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician. The way these men think and go is typically Zimbabwean. Although they are far away from it, turbulent Zimbabwe of the around the year 2000 is their recognizable fulcrum. Their thoughts on Zimbabwean politics are not bitter but careful.

But the Maestro is my man. Through him, Tendai Huchu makes the most poignant contribution to Literature and Philosophy: “I went on a journey of discovery, trying to find the meaning of life, he said. I discovered that it is many things to many people at many times, and that , for me, and for me only, because you can only discover the meaning of your own life and no one else’s, that the meaning of life lies in giving a bit of yourself to someone else…. And he lay there and told her everything: wide open spaces, blue skies, laughter and the sound of sweet rain falling on zinc metal sheets, the brown puddles the rain makes, splashing in the puddles under the moonlight, cups of tea in the sunshine, cricket pavilions, of time that is measured not by the tick-tock of a clock but by its nearness to eternity, how the crickets sing their song in the night and birdsong picks up the refrain at dawn, all these things and more…”

Here is a man who goes far away from home searching for his lost soul. Then he starts to read book after book after book, until he discovers that if a book contains an idea, then it contains something of the writer’s soul…

I must add that I enjoy disliking the Magistrate. It is because despite his huge social loss that comes through leaving Zimbabwe and the privileges he used to enjoy, he still has the holier than thou air around him, like most government officers everywhere whom I have learnt to loathe. His wandering around Edinburgh, taking in the environment and dreaming of little and far away Bindura, tells you that here is a bully from Zimbabwe, looking for a new pedestal to sit on in order to start to bully other people all over again. I am startled that the opposition sees method in him! I can reveal that I like it when that fatherly pride of his is constantly punctured for him by his no longer submissive wife and unsympathetic daughter. However, I catch myself wallowing in and enjoying his deep appreciation of Zimbabwean music. He turns all the remembered songs into a map of his good and bad memories of Zimbabwe. I am also like that. Kikikiki!

I don’t know what to do with the young Mathematician and what finally happens to him. I honestly think that he wanted opportunity to find meaning out of life, love, sex and friendship.

Tendai Huchu’s second novel is a serious work of art, meant to accompany you through three different mental journeys of travelers from one country to a foreign city. This is a novel about cities through the eyes of newcomers. I think you may want me to say that this is a novel about migrants and how they peer into their souls from behind totally new cultures and infrastructure. But I will add: you come closest home when you travel further and further from home!
-Memory Chirere, January 2016, Harare.