A quick study of the short-story, part 54: Dambudzo Marechera

January 11, 2014

“Like overhearing a shout”, is how Doris Lessing explained studying the Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera’s 1978 book The Home of Starvation. Containing a novella and a number of satellite tales, it marked the appearance of a strange and intense expertise which was cut short by death from Aids-related disease in 1987. As China Miéville has mentioned, Marechera needs “sustained energy in the audience, so that the job is nearly fun – reading it’s an energetic procedure for cooperation with the author – and the metaphors are concurrently so unclichéd and so likely that he reinvigorates the vocabulary”.

Marechera described his writing as a kind of “fictional shock therapy”, and nearly all his works are published in a sometimes challenging stream–of–consciousness design that owes a substantial debt to Western modernism. He’s been named the “African Joyce”, however the explanation is fairly glib. In the end, if you evaluate a person with Joyce you’d better identify which Joyce you imply.

Marechera’s figures are usually outsiders. He was separated from the occupants of his township by training (he gained a scholarship for the first Rhodesian public-school to acknowledge dark students), separated from his birthplace by exile, from his guys at Oxford by bigotry, and lastly, on his go back to Zimbabwe after independence, from people who had struggled while he lived in London. Oxford, Dark Oxford, meanwhile, is just a scabrous attack on the road Marechera (who was a crazy and ill-disciplined, although outstanding pupil) was belittled by both college teachers and his other pupils. The tale starts and ends with bitterly interesting thoughts of desire and beauty, however the despair at its center indicates that these sporadic times of pleasure are remains of an anticipation that’s being ground away by undesirable truth.

He regarded British a kind of fight, a procedure of “removing grammar, tossing format out, subverting pictures from within, beating the drum and cymbals of tempo, creating torture chambers of sarcasm and irony, gas stoves of unlimited dark resonance”.

Marechera was raised in troubled situations. Throughout this era a civil war divided the nation into competing groups trying to produce dark, bright, democratic, Marxist and authoritarian states. In Marechera’s work-this situation is displayed by pupil agents working for the federal government, terrorist cells, strongly suppressed road protests, and an over-all environment of risk and uncertainty.

Recently I met Barbara’s dad in the area.

‘I’ll get you in the end, you rascal!’ he screamed.

But I transformed myself right into a crocodile and bit the gold switch and chuckled my excellent pointed teeth at him.

Himself were instantly turned by him into water, and I possibly could just chew portions of  air atmospher.