A preview by Memory Chirere
It is not every day that one previews a work of
fiction. The fast-rising UK based Zimbabwean writer, Andrew Chatora, has a
second novel in the wings. It is set to be released soon on November 30, 2021 by his
US based Publishers: Kharis Publishing.
The forthcoming Where
the Heart Is could be, partly ‘a novel of ideas.’ A 'novel of ideas' is a novel whose story
expounds and explores a particular philosophical perspective on the world. The idea is as important to the book as plot,
character, and setting.
Chatora’s story clearly expounds on and explores a particular debate
which may not have been fully explored by many novels from Zimbabwe. For
instance; when the native leaves the periphery (Harare) for the centre
(England) due to economic reasons, does it make sense for him to want to return
to the periphery once more?
If he does return, is this homecoming or second coming, really
possible? Are people really able to fully return to their source without
sparking contradictions? The man who returns, why does he return at all? Or, to
what does he return? You may go back to the source physically but is it viable
economically, spiritually and socially?
Chatora’s native returns from the centre (London) to the
periphery (Harare) intending to stay for good but returns to the centre in a huff! When a man goes
and returns and goes away again, what do we call him? Is such a native confused
or he is merely confusing the observer?
Where is his heart?
But there are some in our midst who may say, wait a minute,
even if going back to one’s country from the diaspora is difficult, could it be
viewed as an entirely wrong thing to do, if one wants to? Which one is one’s
Well, Fari Mupawaenda tries to return to good old Harare from
England and through him, the novel sparks a storm.
When it finally hits the market, Where the Heart Is, is going to be one of the very few novels by a
Zimbabwean that fully imagines the joys and hazards of a physical return home
from the diaspora. Olley Maruma tries it with his text Coming Home (2008), but I think his main character does not leave
behind any stake in the UK. His is the return of a post pubertal man. He also
does not leave for the UK once more. Stanley Nyamfukudza tries it with Aftermaths (1983), but he is only
working on the matter in one short story from a whole collection.
The diaspora-based literature by Zimbabwean writers rarely
thinks about this crucial reverse trip and its subsequent rich psychology. It
is often assumed that it is easy to return because one was born here, anyway.
Yet, as dramatized here by Chatora, the reverse trip is also
a story about the human body, a memory test and the struggle between geography
and anticipation. During this reverse trip, the traveller is actually carrying
heavier and multivarious cargo than during the first outward trip.
In Fari’s case, part of his crucial cargo has actually
remained behind in the UK. His wife, a zealous cosmopolitan, the daughter, a
conflicted bed hopping undergraduate and the son; a budding homosexual, will
not follow Fari in his trip to what they see as the back of beyond. They have
decided to invest fully where they are.
Fari is convinced that whatever he achieves in the diaspora
should only make adequate sense only if one returns to the source. He
constantly judges people and things around him from the point of view of a
country that he has long left behind. And yet he has changed.
I enjoy the underlying suggestion that Fari is both right and
wrong in trying to return. That is the strongest lesson that I took away from
this novel. If you return you are damned. If you don’t return, you are damned
I also want to call Where
the Heart Is, a ‘thinker’s novel’ because you can never read it and not
re-examining issues like culture, distance, centre, periphery, family, love,
sex, marriage etc .
Just like what we witnessed with Chatora’s first
novel, Diaspora Dreams, the latest
novel will surely throw the readers into irreconcilable camps because the men
and women in this story are not always sharing the same ideological pedestal. The
women are vehement and their criticism of their men is close to the bone.
And the men, too, are not always agreeing with one
another. The silent competition is an act of attrition.
The author also uses sexual intercourse as an extra language
of unity and disunity, and this will set tongues wagging.
As in Pepetela’s Mayombe
(1979), Charles Mungoshi’s Kunyarara
Hakusi Kutaura? (1983), Ignatius
Mabasa’s Mapenzi (1999) etc the
characters in Chatora’s latest offering come out very clearly individualised. They speak from a very private angle. Each
of them has a distinct signature .
Where the Heart Is, is Andrew Chatora’s second novel after Diaspora Dreams which was published by
Kharis Publishing in the US.
It’s now available to pre-order on Amazon’s url link below:
In Harare, copies will be sold by Book Fantasticks
Booksellers reachable on:
Brian: +263 77 921 0403
Kudzi + 263 715 072 288