Why I Read by Philani A. Nyoni

Philani A. Nyoni. Photo by KB Mpofu

Okay, we can do this, shouldn't be too hard... it's only writing, we've been doing this since we discovered 'AH-AIR-EE-OH-OOH' wasn't some device devised to torture infants. Maybe we discovered that much later because we were in too deep: so in love with words we had to learn the science of language and autopsied languages alive while other childrens were calling corpses cadavers in medical campus.

And why do we keep referring to ourself in plural? Are we possessed?! Legion!

Oh dear, that wasn't very clear at all! You lack grace, no, panache... no... that's not it... what's the other fancy word I'm looking for? It's so cute I could pat it all day. What's it now? It's not lustre, it's something... yes... to do with texture... but... oh darn it! I had it yesterday, I should have written it down. Well yesterday I didn't know I would have to use its absence to ascertain why my writing is appalling today! Now which book did I read it in? My-my. I can't believe this... ah yes, the Rushdie. Which Rushdie? Dear god, look at the size of them! I'll never find a single word in there!

Maybe I should just settle into the task of writing instead of trying to describe a piece of writing that doesn't really exist. I mean, here I am, haranguing (fancy word, we should put it in the story by-any-means-necessary!)... raking my it raking or racking? This English of theirs. Let me find out but in the meantime, see what I did there? I went from harangue to rake. Because I am Ndebele you see, and we didn't have rakes in our white-man-free-utopia of dysentery and spear-chucking megalomaniacs, so when we finally got one on Amazon we called a rake a hara, etymology: harrow. Oh figured it out, it's racking, comes from some ancient torture device. Well we didn't have that either, why torture people when you can just stab them?

Who am I talking to? It sure made sense when we were using the plural...ah, it appears again; we are sane.

Maybe instead of trying to be all classy and shit, I should focus on that... idiosyncrasies. An African story in African English, not quite pidgin, not creole, more like a dialect and accent on paper... what the fuck am I saying?! I know what I mean anyhow; I'll break that English, be really black about it. It's important to be very black about things sometimes, and mispronounce croissants and Paris; it shows you are not an Uncle Tom. It's important not to be an 'Uncle Tom' (add to reading list, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'), peculiarity should be the province of characters, not authors. 

Best idea I've had all day! How we will break that English, wrap it in a cute ribbon and send it back to its queen in a coffin (like take that your Queeniness!)! We will use words like kaka in place of 'crap'. Bukowski would probably say that, crap, he's one of my 'Andy Capp' writers; you know, the 'okes whose words read like every line was composed with the author leaning his head to the side trying to keep the ciggy smoke from smarting his one open eye? Squinting at the goddamn thing, coaxing his quill with devil-dick-shrivelling curses to course at the speed of thought. I should read him again soon, just to remind me not to be superficial.

Hey, do you think it's superficial to use words like superficial? I mean...

Yeah, I'll reread that Bukowski alright, but not today, today I want to write something black, bad gramma like skin-tone was a handicap! Oh how about this: use words like kaka, no time for that quote-mark nonsense on dialogue, because I'm gansta and African. Nigroence, that's my new word, my new genre. The arrogance of negroes. Sounds great.

Now about that kaka writing... wait... why does that sound familiar? Where have... oh kaka! that was We Need New Names! Blasted; we need new ideas... and names for characters. Unless you are Brian Chikwava pulling off a literary Fight Club, characters should have names. It's in the bible... somewhere; it has to be one of those commandments that people don't like facing because you read and realise 'you know what, Christianity's not for me, God's probably gonna smite me for choosing catfish over Him but there'. It has to be in there considering some characters got names they didn't even need... the only screen-time they be getting is between the same word: beget. Now that's how you use up that word-count! It's like the guy H. Christ's dad commissioned to holy-ghost-write for Him was billing by the word!

Not naming characters is like being that guy from that book, what's-his-face? Adam. He didn't name his childrens for over a year! Now that was a damn good book, tingles my spine just saying the title... watch me shiver: East of Eden. See?! I didn't cry at the end of it, I don't know why I have to announce that each time I mention the book but I didn't cry. Ruined my prose though, suddenly my characters felt hollow, no depth at all like... I really need to use 'Agamemnon said' each time said Agamemnon says, otherwise readers wouldn't know who was talking. Gourd-dam those characters were sooooo alive! It's like he was writing his dialogue in Dolby Surround! I should never read that book again, makes my writing seem awful, and nobody wants to write awful stuff. Medium-rare I can stomach: never go too deep on some texts, unlike Tendai Huchu; went 'full retard' on his debut now everyone thinks he's a homosexual. Ha! Idiot.

Ignorance is bliss my friend, remember that one time we wanted to do a whole novel set in one day? That was an awesome gimmick until we realised Dan Brown has been doing that since aforementioned holy-ghostwriter's now-famous line: 'In the beginning'. One-trick-pony... two actually, his second trick is transcribing encyclopaedias. Oh dear, my horns are showing, grumpy-grumpy-grumpy. Serves you right for reading popular fiction... sparkling vampires and all that.

Well, clearly this writing thing isn't working out today. I read somewhere you need a ton of patience because you only write cocaine when you're like... super ancient and God sometimes mistakes you for his dad and you need viagra just to sit through a book signing. What's on TV? Programming. Ha! Sounds like we're stuck in a George Orwell novel. Animal Farm, or 1984? Eenie-meany-my-knee-more... Hey what else did that guy write? Maybe I should just get some Borges up in here, get all esoteric and shit. 

Philani Amadeus Nyoni is a writer, spoken word performer and actor. He is the author of three poetry anthologies: 'Once A Lover Always A Fool', which received a National Arts Merit Award in 2013, 'Hewn From Rock', (with John Eppel) and 'Mars His Sword'. 

Dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way, and the amaBooks logo is a dung beetle

Posted by Christine Dell'Amore

from National Geographic

Talk about star power—a new study shows that dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way, the first known species to do so in the animal kingdom.

The tiny insects can orient themselves to the bright stripe of light generated by our galaxy, and move in a line relative to it, according to recent experiments in South Africa.
“This is a complicated navigational feat—it’s quite impressive for an animal that size,” said study co-author Eric Warrant, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden.

A dung beetle rolling its ball. Photograph courtesy of Eric Warrant

 Moving in a straight line is crucial to dung beetles, which live in a rough-and-tumble world where competition for excrement is fierce.
Once the beetles sniff out a steaming pile, males painstakingly craft the dung into balls and roll them as far away from the chaotic mound as possible, often toting a female that they have also picked up. The pair bury the dung, which later becomes food for their babies.
But it’s not always that easy. Lurking about the dung pile are lots of dung beetles just waiting to snatch a freshly made ball.
That’s why ball-bearing beetles have to make a fast beeline away from the pile.
“If they roll back into the dung pile, it’s curtains,” Warrant said. If thieves near the pile steal their ball, the beetle has to start all over again, which is a big investment of energy.

Seeing Stars 
Scientists already knew that dung beetles can move in straight lines away from dung piles by detecting a symmetrical pattern of polarized light that appears around the sun. We can’t see this pattern, but insects can thanks to special photoreceptors in their eyes.

The Milky Way glimmers over Indonesia. Photograph courtesy of Justin Ng, Your Shot.

But less well-known was how beetles use visual cues at night, such as the moon and its much weaker polarized light pattern. So Warrant and colleagues went to a game farm in South Africa to observe the nocturnal African dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus
Attracting the beetles proved straightforward: The scientists collected buckets of dung, put them out, and waited for the beetles to fly in.
But their initial observations were puzzling. S. satyrus could still roll a ball in a straight line even on moonless nights, “which caused us a great deal of grief—we didn’t know how to explain this at all,” Warrant said.
Then, “it occurred to us that maybe they were using the stars—and it turned out they were.”

Dapper Beetles
To test the star theory, the team set up a small, enclosed table on the game reserve, placed beetles in them, and observed how the insects reacted to different sky conditions. The team confirmed that even on clear, moonless nights, the beetles could still navigate their balls in a straight line.
To show that the beetles were focusing on the Milky Way, the team moved the table into the Johannesburg Planetarium, and found that the beetles could orient equally well under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way was present.  
Lastly, to confirm the Milky Way results, the team put little cardboard hats on the study beetles’ heads, blocking their view of the sky. Those beetles just rolled around and around aimlessly, according to the study, published recently in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists put hats on the dung beetles to block their ability to see stars. This beetle, which is wearing a clear hat, acted as a control in one experiment. Photograph courtesy Eric Warrant.

 Dung beetle researcher Sean D. Whipple, of the Entomology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said by email that the “awesome results …. provide strong evidence for orientation by starlight in dung beetles.”
He added that this discovery reveals another potential negative impact of light pollution, a global phenomenon that blocks out stars.
“If artificial light—from cities, houses, roadways, etc.—drowns out the visibility of the night sky, it could have the potential to impact effective orientation and navigation of dung beetles in the same way as an overcast sky,” Whipple said.

Keep On Rollin’
Study co-author Warrant added that other dung beetles likely navigate via the Milky Way, although the galaxy is most prominent in the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.
What’s more, it’s “probably a widespread skill that insects have—migrating moths might also be able to do it.”
As for the beetles themselves, they were “very easy to work with,” he added.
“You can do anything you want to them, and they just keep on rolling.”


“All the loose ends of Scotland”: Possessed by the City and the Past in Tendai Huchu’s The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician

 by Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo

[Paper presented at the European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (EACLALS) Conference Performing the Urban, University of Oviedo, Spain April 2017]

Tendai Huchu’s novel, The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician, like the model on which it is loosely based, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Demons, tells three inter-connected stories. The main characters are three Zimbabwean men living in Edinburgh. The Maestro, a young, white Zimbabwean combines a job at Tesco’s supermarket with the activities of running, reading and thinking in a quasi-solitary existence. The Magistrate is a middle-aged man living with his wife and daughter. The Mathematician, Farai, is a research student from an affluent family who lives and socialises with other young people. Each man walks, runs through, journeys through or dreams the city while remembering his past life in Zimbabwe so that the city is transformed into a text that possesses the characters and the reader.
Tendai Huchu (Caine Prize)
This simple transformation, though, may be deceptive. In an interview, Huchu has said that he “envisioned The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician as a book of illusions, which, while it presents itself as one thing, constantly undermines that position” (Huchu in Cousins and Dodgson-Katiyo 2016, 203). He adds that he intended to take readers on a “wild goose chase”, dragging them in the wrong direction to show how the “political and ideological world is ‘inescapable’” (209).
In this paper, I argue that the city and the past are both performed in the novel through fragmentation. Fragments – descriptions, stories, memories, emotions - either connect, creating more than is at first visible, or they fail to connect, and leave gaps, absences, even relics.

Writing on memory, story and space in The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau suggests that like birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, “memory produces in a place that does not belong to it”. Memory, he argues, “derives its interventionary force from its very capacity to be altered – unmoored, mobile, lacking any fixed position” (1988, 86). We create stories when we walk through spaces in which “unmoored” memories settle. De Certeau further claims that:
 “Stories about places are makeshift things. They are composed with the world’s debris…. things extra and other (details and excesses coming from elsewhere) insert themselves into the accepted framework, the imposed order ….The surface of this order is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order.” (107)

I’ll give two examples of how this works in the novel. In the opening pages, the Magistrate goes on his ritual morning walk round the city, confident that “ his mental side  [is] free to wander far and wide, to traverse through the past, present and future, free from limits, except the scope of his own imagination.” He can adversely compare the cold, distant sun in Edinburgh with the “all-powerful and magnificent” sun in Bindura, the small town in Zimbabwe where he lived and worked (Huchu 2014, 9). However, memory does not always work in the way he might want it to. In Holyrood Park, looking over the roofs across the city, “he felt like a colossus striding over the narrow world” but melancholy soon sets in:
 “Right then the saudade hit him pretty bad, and, he could see Bindura, the low prospect, the giant mine chimneys in the distance, but the memory was like a flicker from an old videotape that had been dubbed over. He could only hold the image in his mind for a brief second before it vanished into the mist hovering over the Forth.” (13)
 Similarly, when the Maestro listens to the roar of traffic outside his flat, “images from the past … [try] to stream into the present.”  He thinks the traffic “sounded like a river and, if he closed his eyes, he could see it, a wide river, powerful like the Zambezi”. But “he could only hold this picture in his mind a short while, then it vanished” (134).

Kizito Muchemwa, writing on the Zimbabwean writer Brian Chikwava’s London-set novel, Harare North, claims that the “exilic experience is one of retrieving fragments from memory to re-assemble home” (2010, 141). In Huchu’s novel, this emphasis on fragmentation, ellipses and transience co-exists with larger stories and histories which weave in and out of the narrative. Moreover, the punching through and tearing open of the imposed order reveal the faultlines and contradictions within these larger stories.

One of the stories is the discourse propagated by President Mugabe and his party ZANU-PF that Zimbabwe is still fighting an anti-colonial war and that only those who accept the primacy of the liberation struggle have the right to inherit and rule Zimbabwe. In this discourse, those who have left the country to come to Britain are represented as colonial lackeys and emasculated victims of racism. President Mugabe in a speech given on Independence Day 2006 mocked Zimbabweans who work in the care industry: according to Mugabe, “They are letting the country down by going to England where they are looked down on and given dirty menial jobs, they scratch the backs of old people in homes in England” (“Zimbabweans in the diaspora” 2006).  This feeds into other stories around the ways in which Zimbabweans see themselves in Britain. The sociologist Dominic Pasura, drawing on interviews he carried out among Zimbabweans in England (although not Scotland), argues that Zimbabweans “give a variety of meanings to their conditions and experiences in the diaspora” (2010, 1458).  For some, being in the UK is a form of reverse colonization (we’re here because you were there).  For others, their time in the UK can be described in the biblical terms of Babylon and Egypt, a period of exile and suffering. It can also be compared to wenela, the historical migrant system in which Zimbabwean men went to South Africa to work under bad conditions for poor pay. And, in some cases, the UK can also be home, the place where they have now legally settled.  

The Magistrate’s story traverses the diverse meanings that Pasura’s respondents gave to their experiences in Britain. He suffers in exile. He wants to return to Zimbabwe where he had an important, respectable role and help to rebuild the country. He keeps “this hope alive in his heart, a warm ember cocooned by despair” (Huchu 2014, 28) but also fears that he is ‘long forgotten, a useless relic from the past” (94). Embarrassed because his wife is working and he isn’t, a condition which Pasura suggests is common among older Zimbabwean men in the diaspora, the Magistrate takes an agency job in a care home which for him is demeaning, menial work below his status. His friend, Alfonso, arranges it for him, telling him that work for immigrants in the UK is “a system … [of] voluntary slavery”, like wenela. Alfonso suggests there is no point in the Magistrate applying for legal work because, given media representations of Zimbabwe, people will ask: “‘How can you practice law here when you couldn’t even preserve the rule of law in your own country?’” (32). The care-home work is physically demanding but that isn’t what most upsets the Magistrate. He remembers the backbreaking work he did in his grandfather’s fields when he was young. However, this, he is certain, is “a different kind of pain”:
 “In the fields with the soft earth beneath your feet and the open sky above, you hardly felt the strain. It was massaged by the soothing voices of family, banter, the gossip about the neighbours, and the satisfaction that your labour was meaningful. There was nothing like watching your seedlings grow, tending them until they matured. It was different from this, this cultivating the field of death, the living dead groaning in their cots.” (53)
 Culturally and environmentally, the Magistrate finds it difficult to adapt to a way of life which is different from the communal life he remembers in Zimbabwe and which is one of which he disapproves. He can’t find satisfaction in caring for old people who, as he sees it, have been abandoned by the relatives who should look after them. Walking to work and seeing that “everything ahead of him was a mixture of stone, mortar and glass, with hedges and the green foliage of trees poking out in what spaces they could find’, he misses the sense of expansiveness he experienced at home: “The absence of space he felt was because everything here was owned, subdivided, surveyed, for sale, catalogued for use” (74). The contrast between the Scottish city and Zimbabwean open space is, to some extent, nostalgic, even illusory, but it represents the Magistrate’s idea of home and his belief that he is now a captive in an alien land.

The sense of unbelonging is heightened by another larger story, the way the West sees Zimbabwe. The Mathematician, Farai, can handle this. He knows the key words most of the Western media use: “DESPOT, BASKET CASE, DICTATORSHIP, ONCE PROMISING, WHITE FARMERS” (85) and so on. He listens to Fox News: He “trusts Fox in the same way he trusts the ZBC [Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation]. His awareness of the subtle distortions, the bending of facts to fit certain angles, means he feels safer watching it than he does with the so-called objective news channels” (151). Farai doesn’t fit into Pasura’s diaspora definitions. He intends to finish his PhD and return to Zimbabwe to start a business. He plays the Zimbabwe stock exchange and he believes Zimbabwe’s economic problems are “very minor from a grand historical perspective. Every nation goes through these cycles” (189). However, the Magistrate feels differently. He is pained by the way Western media represent his country:
 “The country never featured when there was real news. It seemed to him that Zimbabwe was a filler used when something about dystopian Africa was needed for comic relief. … His country ticked all the boxes for a sensational African story: add one dictator, a dash of starving kids, a dollop of disease, sprinkle a little corruption, stir in a pot of random, incomprehensible violence, and voilà, the stereotypical African dish.” (27-28)
  Yet, although he says he wants his body to be returned to Zimbabwe after his death, the Magistrate does start to settle in Edinburgh even if only hesitantly and without any sense of commitment or consistent movement forward. He decides that he wants “to make a map of the city using music to pin it to his memory” (98) but in the map he sees “a city that he dared not call home” (261).  When he visits the Law Chambers “the old masonry held no memories for him and, in his despair, he failed to see that, even without music, he could and was in fact creating new ones one brick at a time” (207). He finds meaning in becoming involved with the local branch of the Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), although he fails to see that Alfonso is a government agent who has infiltrated the branch. Perhaps most optimistically, when his teenage daughter, Chenai, gives birth to a daughter, Ruvarashe, the rukuvhute (umbilical cord) is buried in the family’s Edinburgh garden “binding Ruvarashe and, by extension, themselves to this place” (241). Thus, in the person of the Magistrate alone, there are different, seemingly contradictory meanings to what it means to live outside your country and make somewhere else your home.

Also embedded in the novel, though, are discourses around Scotland. The novel was first published in 2014, the year of the Scottish independence referendum, which was narrowly won by those who wanted to remain in the United Kingdom.  Subsequently, in the 2016 referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Union or leave, the UK as a whole voted to leave while Scotland voted to remain by a large majority. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the Scottish National Party (SNP) now argues again for Scotland to be independent, to have political autonomy, to have the right to define its own identity as a nation – demands commensurate with those made by the nationalists before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 and re-iterated since in Mugabe’s rallying cry, “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” (see Willems 2013).  In this discourse, Scotland represents itself as a colonized country and appears to have forgotten that it was once a colonizer. This puzzle is intriguingly framed in the questions Silke Stroh asks in her recent book Gaelic Scotland and the Colonial Imagination: “Is Scottish political and cultural nationalism similar to anticolonial resistance overseas? Or are such comparisons no more than Scottish patriotic victimology, attempting to mask complicity in the British empire and justify initiatives to secede from the United Kingdom?” (2017, 12) There is no doubt that, historically, the Scots were colonizers. The historian Andrew Thompson expresses this complicity starkly: “Of all the peoples of the United Kingdom, it is the Scots’ contribution to the British Empire that stands out as disproportionate. They were the first peoples of the British Isles to take on an imperial mentality, and possibly the longest to sustain one” (quoted in MacKenzie and Devine 2011, 19).

In the novel, Farai and two friends are sitting near the National Monument of Scotland which is also known by various nicknames including Edinburgh’s Shame. The monument was built between 1826 and 1828 and is dedicated to the sailors and soldiers who died during the Napoleonic wars. However, it was left unfinished because of lack of private subscription; hence Edinburgh’s Shame. The friends sit:
 “in the shade of Edinburgh’s shame. … On Calton Hill, the city’s delusion of being the Athens of the North lingers in hard stone. Farai thinks the monument a thing of beauty. There is something in the unfinished acropolis, a ruin before it became a ruin, eaten by moss on the lower fringes which he finds compelling. Stacey is indifferent. He thinks her perspective is tainted by history, while he, the outsider, can see things with a little more clarity. The city’s near universal rejection of the monument perhaps lies in the embarrassing fact that it was modeled on the Parthenon, with grand ambitions. Almost the same embarrassment the Scots feel about the ’78 Argentina World Cup debacle. Both share the same aetiology, a small nation with overinflated ambitions.” (Huchu 2014, 79)
Stacey’s perspective may be tainted by history but the representation of Farai’s mocking of Scotland is certainly informed by the contradictions in Scottish history. Edinburgh, or the Athens of the North, was the centre of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century. However, as Cairns Craig (2011) has argued, the Enlightenment was partly the outcome of Scottish migration, with Scots in America and Canada creating and disseminating many of the ideas associated with the Scottish Enlightenment. Moreover, the philosopher David Hume, one of the key figures in the Enlightenment, wrote an infamous footnote to his essay “Of National Characters” which begins “I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites” (1987, 208). Thus, there are contradictions in the idea that Scotland has a progressive, enlightened history separate from British colonialism and imperialism and the quoted passage brings this out.

Stroh is right when she states that Scotland has an “ambiguous historical position as both intra-British colonized and overseas colonizer” (2017, 249). Nevertheless, as part of the argument for independence, the SNP represents Scotland as outward-looking, pro-European, non-racist, welcoming to immigrants. A novel structured around the experiences of three Zimbabwean immigrants will, to some extent, be read in the light of this self-fashioning. In the novel, on New Year’s Eve, a skinhead grabs Farai and asks him where he’s from. When Farai nervously says Zimbabwe, the response he gets is: “’Nah, you alright, pal. It’s those English bastards ah cannae stand” (Huchu 2014, 237).  Edinburgh is internationally known as a city of festivals, literature, culture and architecture and the novel plays with this view of Edinburgh.  Farai sits in a quaint café “which became famous when some woman wrote a children’s book about wizards” (22) and where an old man can be mistaken for that famous Rhodesian-born Edinburgh resident Alexander McCall Smith.

Edinburgh is also, though, a city of crime, poverty, drug-taking and AIDS and the novel represents this facet of Edinburgh too. Farai notes that toilet attendants in clubs are always African immigrants: they “have cornered this aspect of the British night-time economy” (238). The Maestro lives in a flat described as “shanky” or sleazy, on the kind of estate where, according to a police officer, the neighbours won’t know if you die or go missing. He chooses to run through parts of the city where there are run-down estates: 
“Though the Maestro was grateful for the comforts and protection of the city, he wasn’t ready to give in to its seductions and charms, and to love it. So he sought to observe closely the dark underbelly, the grotesque sector that never made it to postcards in tourist shops.” (110)
Towards the end of his life, he gives away his possessions and spends months living on the streets and in the parks of Edinburgh. He sees buses passing on North Bridge and knows that a “dark force there attracted suicides who jumped and splattered on the roof of Waverley Station” (217). He visits many cemeteries. He finds that Dalry cemetery is overgrown and neglected, with rubbish strewn everywhere and some of the gravestones “so worn that the names were no longer legible. Time had erased them from history” (215). Running along this graveyard is Coffin Lane, incidentally the location for a murder in Ian Rankin’s detective novel Let It Bleed.  In the famous Greyfriars cemetery, the Maestro sees “the ancient vaults and tombs, some of which were protected by iron railings to deter the resurrection men who’d made their living selling fresh corpses to the medical school” (216). Here again, it’s a paradox that Enlightenment practice, finding out more about the human body through dissection, is reliant on the grim crime of body snatching. Ironically, after the Maestro’s death, no one is sure what to do with his body. Is it Scotland’s responsibility to dispose of it or Zimbabwe’s? Should he be repatriated to Zimbabwe or cremated in Scotland?

Within the “planned city” of Edinburgh, there is “a ‘metaphorical’ or ‘mobile’ city” (De Certeau 1988, 110).  The Scottish David Livingstone, whom Craig refers to as “the iconic figure of Victorian imperialism” (2011, 96) wrote about and mapped parts of Southern Africa in his book Missionary Travels and Researchesin South Africa.  He also attempted to change and name what he saw, planting a garden in an island, now named Livingstone Island, on Victoria Falls. Tendai Huchu, a Zimbabwean living in Scotland, writes of Zimbabwean lives within a very detailed topography of Edinburgh, in order to tell stories which allow us to see what the nationalist poet, Hugh McDiarmid, refers to as “all the loose ends of Scotland” (quoted in Huchu 2014, epigraph).  This could be seen as a colonization in reverse, which goes beyond what we used to call ‘writing back’ to show how Scotland and Edinburgh can be possessed by people who weren’t born there. Towards the end of the novel, a Zimbabwean government official says to Alfonso, “I take it you left no loose ends?” (270). One could argue that the three Zimbabwean stories have reached an ending, although not, I think, closure given that they are open to interpretation. We have been taken on “a wild goose chase”; what we thought was a postmodern comedy of everyday life has turned out to be a story about murder, intrigue and mystery.

The novel finishes in London, so perhaps there is also an ending to the Scotland story. However, I don’t think this is the case. The Scotland story in my view now has an afterlife and it is this afterlife that empowers the reader.  I return to de Certeau again. He argues that the reader:
 “insinuates into another person’s text the ruses of pleasure and appropriation: he poaches on it, is transported into it, pluralizes himself in it …. this production is also an “invention” of the memory. Words become the product or outlet of silent histories…. The thin film of writing becomes a movement of strata, a play of spaces. A different world slips into the author’s place.” (1988,xxi)

As I listen to debates on Scottish independence, memories of phrases and passages from The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician come into my mind; as I reread the novel, I remember fragments of discourse about contemporary politics. When I read the words used to describe Farai’s outsider view of Edinburgh’s Shame, I insert into it a world perceived by my outsider view of Zimbabwe including the stone city of Great Zimbabwe known as the Zimbabwe Ruins, hyperinflation, over-ambition, and either anger at, or shame of, being seen as a failed nation. Muchemwa argues that “exile challenges writers to reconfigure geographies of identity … and contest ideologies of place” (2010: 135). This is what The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician does in relation to Zimbabwe but also in relation to Scotland. The Maestro preferred to read several books “in parallel, hoping that this way of reading would make it easier for him to see the cross connections he sought between each universe” (Huchu 2014, 171-2). I think the reader can see some of the cross connections in this one book.

Works Cited:

Chikwava, Brian. Harare North. London: Jonathan Cape. 2009.

Cousins, Helen and Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo. 2016. “‘Zimbabweanness Today’: An Interview with Tendai Huchu.” African Literature Today 34 (2016): 200-210.

Craig, Cairns. “Empire of Intellect: The Scottish Enlightenment and Scotland’s Intellectual Migrants.” In Scotland and the British Empire. Eds. John M. MacKenzie and T.M. Devine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011. 84-117.

De Certeau, Michel. [1984]. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1988.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. [1871-2]. Demons: A Novel in Three Parts. London: Penguin. 2008.

Huchu, Tendai. The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. Bulawayo: ’amaBooks. 2014.

Hume, David. “Of National Characters.” [Revised version. 1777]. Essays, Moral, Political and Literary. Rev.ed.  Ed. Eugene F. Miller. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund. 1987.

Livingstone, David. Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. London: John Murray. 1857.

MacKenzie, John M. and T.M.Devine. “Introduction.” In Scotland and the British Empire. Eds. John M. MacKenzie and T.M. Devine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1-29. 2011.

Muchemwa, Kizito Z. “Old and New Fictions: Rearranging the Geographies of Urban Space and Identities in Post-2006 Zimbabwean Fiction.” English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies27.2 (2010): 134-145.

Pasura, Dominic. “Competing Meanings of the Diaspora: The Case of Zimbabweans in Britain.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36.9 (2010): 1445-1461.

Rankin, Ian. Let It Bleed. London: Orion. 1995. 

Stroh, Silke. Gaelic Scotland in the Colonial Imagination: Anglophone Writing from 1600 to 1900. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. 2017.

Willems, Wendy. “Zimbabwe Will Never Be a Colony Again: Changing Celebratory Styles and Meanings of Independence.” Anthropology Southern Africa 36.1-2 (2013): 22-33.

“Zimbabweans in the diaspora unhappy with Mugabe’s mockery.” 2006. http: [Accessed 15 September 2007].

(reproduced with the permission of the author)

Pauline Dodgson-Katiyo was formerly Head of English at Newman University and Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at Anglia Ruskin University. She has research interests in African literature, particularly Zimbabwean and Somali, and contemporary women's writing. She is co-editor of Rites of Passage in Postcolonial Women's Writing (with Gina Wisker) and Emerging Perspectives on Yvonne Vera (with Helen Cousins). 


Why I Read by Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Reading is an addiction. I am a slave to words beautifully strung together in eloquent notes. Reading gives me a high akin to the ecstatic experience one might get from a good dance song. As the body winds itself around the rhythm and melody and finds freedom in the deep thud of the base, so my mind gluts itself on the highs and lows, the tension and the tranquility offered up in a deeply satisfying story.

I read because it is from other people’s stories that I learn what works for me and what does not in my own writing. Like cooking, reading fires up and feeds my own creative process. I cook and I read so that I can write. Reading preceded my life as a writer, so I can safely say without reading there would be no writing.

I read because the possibility of somehow being transformed as I immerse myself into the story is so compelling that I cannot pass it up. I read to satisfy a hunger for more and more knowledge. I am intrigued by the complexity of being human and the most satisfying stories for me are those in which the characters, the worlds in which they exist and their interactions are thoroughly explored. I consider myself an active reader: someone who engages with the characters on an emotional as well as intellectual level. I cry with them, feel their anger and frustrations, rejoice in their victories and laugh out loud at the ridiculous.

The reading experience is sometimes a sacred act for me.  This act begins the moment I get a new novel or anthology of short stories. I reverentially inspect the workmanship of the book; the quality of the paper, and the font. It is not uncommon for me to even bring the book to my face and smell it. Then I will delve into the words with the excitement of a child ripping away the wrapping on a gift. Within the first few paragraphs I know what kind of relationship I will have with the book. I know whether it is one that I will sip slowly like a hot cup of tea, prolonging the pleasure or whether I will binge-drink it like a first-year college student, staying up two nights in a row until it is finished.
I read because it allows me some ME time. As a mother of four highly energetic girls, time alone is a rarity. However, if I am reading the girls will usually get their own books and we will read in companionable silence.

Reading is one of life’s exquisite pleasures for me. I have travelled to many worlds, met some interesting people and sat in on their private conversations or even their thoughts. I have sampled various cuisines all through reading. It satisfies the hedonist and voyeur in me    thank goodness  – because who knows what trouble those two character traits might get me into.

Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende is a scholar practitioner in public health, with a focus on minority women’s sexual and reproductive health, and founder/director of the Africa Research Foundation for the Safety of Women. She is originally from Zimbabwe. She holds degrees from University of Glasgow, Scotland, Walden University and attended the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She writes opinion editorials on the status of women with a focus on Africa. She consults on policy and has written policy briefs with recommendations on ending violence against women. She has been on panel discussions around the issue of FGM and looking at novel ways to end the harmful cultural practice. Barbara is a vocal activist and advocate on issues to do with gender-based violence, economic justice for women and gender parity in government institutions. 

She is a writer published in the short story anthology Where to Now? published by amaBooks Publishers, Zimbabwe, on Storytime online literary journal, on Her Zimbabwe,feminist website, in the anthology of short stories, Still by Negative Press, London, in the Journal of African Writing, 2014, in the annual short story anthology, African Roar, 2013, the Caine Prize Anthology 2014, the Gonjon Pin and Other Stories by New Internationalist, amaBooks and others, and Guernica Magazine, USA. Her poetry has been published in the anthology Muse for Women, 2013 and African Drum by Diaspora Publishers, 2013. She was a 2014 Hedgebrook Writer in Residence and Caine Prize for African Writing workshop attendee. She is a mentor with the Writivism programme at the Centre for African Excellence (CACE) Foundation and a member of Rotary International.

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Castles in the Air by Bryony Rheam

The afternoon is still bright as the electricity clicks off. The sky is a deep blue and the garden is alive with the softness of butterflies as we make the rounds of flower pots with our watering can. My little girl holds it clumsily over each mass of flowers while I hold the bottom and push it upwards so the water sprays out through the spout. The pink of the daisies contrasts starkly with the soft brown of the garden. At the bottom of the rectangular strip of ragged lawn looms an enormous green-grey cactus, its many flat, round hands frozen in a manic mime of a wave. I collect the debris of tea things and load them on the cane tray: a teapot and a chipped milk jug with a cracked handle; a mug and a child’s cup and saucer with a soggy digestive island in a shallow sea of cold tea.
Inside, it is dark. The sun has begun to turn from the house and already there is a coolness in the kitchen, that faint reminder it is winter, however warm the afternoon has been. I grab lightweight jerseys and the house keys, and we trot off down the drive to the gate. We have escaped back into the light as we walk down the road. Motes of dust rise and fall in what shafts of sunlight manage to penetrate the jacarandas that line the road and stretch across it, branches touching like a couple in an old-fashioned country dance.
We pass people on their way home: a man in a weathered suit and a grey hat perched jauntily on his head clatters by on his bicycle with a nod and a smile; a woman walks briskly past, her maid’s uniform hanging shapelessly from her, a little too long and a little too big. A gardener with an old, fat Staffordshire Bull Terrier ambles slowly along. They make an interesting couple; the man himself is old, too, but he is upright in a dignified manner. The dog is short and squat. Despite the gentle walk, he pants hard and his pink tongue lolls out of his mouth. His owners live in Australia, but he and the gardener live at number seventeen, up the road. Two runners in Lycra shorts and vests overtake us, earplugs in, sweat glistening on their faces. They hardly look our way, so intent are they on their run.
We pass a motley of houses, some old, in disrepair, with chickens pecking in the dust and mangy dogs who bark and snarl behind buckled ribbons of barbed wire fences, but run, tail between bony, twisted legs, at even the smallest movement towards them on our part. Old post boxes, paint peeling, lean apathetically in at misshapen gates tied together with electrical wire and torn plastic bags. Occasionally, there are remnants of a name: Utopia, The Range, Pathways. Dusty driveways lead to ramshackle houses whose doors are always bolted shut and at whose windows curtains are irregularly looped.
Rusty metal archways, which once bent under the heaviness of honeysuckle and jasmine, now lean drunkenly across paths that lead to fragments of entertainment areas; cracked paving stones end abruptly at yellowed grass and sandy outcrops where nothing grows. The sad, dark windows of the houses look out on empty swimming pools and skeletons of flower- beds, the once-ambitious desires of long-gone owners for middle class respectability. The tennis courts have been dug up, some optimistically ploughed into vegetable patches where clumps of chomolia are the only signs of green. Ragged squares of asphalt hint at the dreams of the past. A straggle of bauhinias along a fence leans, not so much with the weight of the trees, but with the wait of the years.
One of the houses issues a sign of life. A dog yaps, a child looks shyly round the carcass of a rotting car, a mother shakes nappies from a collapsing washing line and folds them into a bucket. The veranda of the house is piled high with old furniture and machinery and wound round with a piece of rope – a vague warning to any potential trespassers to keep away.
‘That’s a witch’s house,’ whispers Rosie, her finger on her mouth. ‘She keeps children and eats them. Ssh! Let’s go past quietly.’ We tiptoe along the dry grass verge, exaggerating our movements and sharing a suppressed giggle. The child watches us, a shy smile on her face, then runs to her mother’s side. A black car with tinted windows roars down the road and I pull Rosie to my side.
‘It’s all right,’ she says in a matter of fact tone of voice. ‘If it hits me, I’ll just fly away. Fairies can do that, you see. We never die.’ The car turns in at the gate of the house and the scrawny dog rushes out, hackles up, barking. The woman calls to someone in the house and the child shrinks back into the shadows as a man comes out the house and kicks the dog. He opens the gate, but the car doesn’t go in.
‘That’s the witch’s servant,’ Rosie informs me with a knowing glance. ‘He’s an evil goblin who has to work for her for a hundred years because he once tried to steal her cat.’
 An arm stretches out the window of the car and hands the man a small brown packet then hangs limply over the door. The man talks, he nods, gives a brief wave and the car reverses, the exhaust booming like a foghorn in the night. Rosie nods as though this confirms some long-held suspicion of hers.
At the corner of the road is our favourite house. Cinderella’s house. It is small, but neatly compact. The garden is empty of rusting cars and bedraggled dogs. The low hedge of Christ thorn is always kept trimmed and a small hand-painted sign asks you to please close the gate after you. Not a blade of grass survives the daily sweeping routine, but, on the veranda, an oasis blooms. Palms and cacti proliferate from tin cans and plastic yoghurt cartons. Various succulents spill out of old ice cream containers and creep down the side of the veranda wall.
In the middle of it all is a chair and table and this is where we imagine Cinderella sits and surveys her humble surroundings. It is here that she meets with her friends the squirrel and the mouse and tells them of her life before she was confined to being a servant. It is here that she sings as she mends her ragged clothes in the evening and it is here, on this very chair, that she will sit while the prince fits the glass slipper on her foot and discovers who she really is.
During the day, Cinderella may be found in front of the house managing a small stall, an upside down box on which she has placed sweets, single cigarettes, tomatoes and phone cards. She is tall and thin and today she wears a tight fitting black top and has wrapped a brightly coloured piece of material around her for a skirt. We stop to survey her wares, Rosie picking up and turning over each sweet.
‘The magic ones are red,’ she whispers to me. ‘Those are the ones that make you fly.’
Cinderella smiles. She often joins in Rosie’s game. I choose an orange sweet.
‘No, no,’ says Rosie, her hand on mine. ‘Those ones make you freeze.’ She stands still, as though playing a game of musical statues. ‘Then you can’t move until the wizard of the snowy mountains says the spell.’
‘The wizard of the snowy mountains?’ I say, replacing the sweet on the box.
‘Ye-es,’ Rosie assures me with a firm nod of her head, as though she cannot believe I have not heard this information before. She looks for confirmation from Cinderella who nods her head at me.
‘Well, best to stick to flying,’ I say, picking up a red sweet and handing Cinderella a couple of coins.
‘Thank you,’ Rosie whispers to me as we move away. ‘Now she can buy the material for her dress for the ball.’
At the corner of the next road, Rosie slows considerably and her voracious talk dies away to nothing. She looks up at me uncertainly, a finger pressing down her bottom lip, and then across at a dark shape seated next to a fire. The shape does not register our presence. He sits on an old paint tin, huddled over the small flames, poking and prodding them to life. His long hair is matted into thick, twisted coils. All around him is the debris of suburban life: empty tins that once contained baked beans and tuna fish and Woolworths Extra Thick Cream of Asparagus Soup. An empty bottle of conditioner for dull, lifeless hair and a tub of Vaseline. There are boxes and tins and packets and wrappers, each inspected carefully for any remnants that may exist. He talks, but not to us.
‘Who’s he talking to?’ my daughter asks, squeezing my hand.
‘No one,’ I reply, still in a whisper, as though he will suddenly notice we are there watching him.
‘How can you speak to no one?’ she wonders suspiciously.
‘Maybe they’re invisible,’ I say, knowing this will rest better with her.
‘Yes, maybe,’ she says, a hint of excitement in her voice. ‘Is he a giant? He looks very big.’
‘Yes, I think he is,’ I say. ‘He’s a big, angry giant and he’s turned his servant invisible because he was cheeky to him.’
‘Or maybe,’ she replies, after thinking a couple of moments, ‘maybe his servant wants to be invisible to teach the giant a lesson.’
I nod in agreement. ‘That’s right. He stole the giant’s invisible spell and the giant is cross because he can’t see where his servant is and whenever he thinks he’s found him, he moves.’
She giggles and at that moment, the man turns to rummage through an old hessian bag. Tins clank and something rustles and we jump and carry on our journey. We are approaching new country; even the light is changing. It is a deep green, the green of tranquillity, of assurance, of money. To get there, we need to cross the Magic River.
‘Quickly! Over the Magic River! One, two, pink and blue, magic, magic, keep us safe and true.’ Rosie jumps over a ditch and waits for me to do the same. I take an exaggerated leap. ‘Aah, you didn’t say the magic!’ she says, despairing at my lack of knowledge of these things. ‘All fairies have to say the magic otherwise the goblin will make their boats sink.’
‘Their boats?’ I ask incredulously as I look down at the ditch laced with empty Chibuku cartons and condom packets. I can quite easily imagine a goblin hiding amongst the rubbish waiting to purloin any unsuspecting wayfarer, but I am a little more sceptical about fairy boats for it is winter and the ditch is dry.
‘Yes, the fairies sail their boats from here every evening to go back to Fairyland.’
 I go back and invoke her little charm and then jump across the ditch again.
‘Don’t let the goblin get you,’ she squeals. ‘I can see his hands and the top of his head!’ She grabs my hand. ‘Whew! You’re okay. I’m so glad.’
We pass the row of houses that have been saved the shame of decline and converted into the regional headquarters of aid organisations. Their gardens have been turned into squares of carpark with blue and white striped awnings to protect the shiny vehicles parked beneath. They have signs on the walls with slogans like ‘One World, One Future’ and a little sentry box in which a security guard sits with a school exercise book in which to record all the comings and goings of all the shiny vehicles. Next to them is a dentist’s surgery with a short strip of clipped lawn in front of the wall and the bland perfunctory garden of a business behind it.
Some houses we cannot see; they exist behind walls and electric gates. We hear the tic-tic of their garden sprays and imagine neat lawns of green; flowerbeds overflowing; doors closed against the cold; hot food; the lull of television; warmth. Sometimes we pass huge plots with tennis courts and swimming pools and jungle gyms and swings; where earlier in the afternoon, nannies in smart uniforms sat with toddlers in puddles of sunshine on lush green grass and where now fierce dogs growl and bark behind high fences and closed gates; where notices give warning of alarmed premises and armed response units ready to be deployed. Enormous houses tower above us, like fairy-tale castles with their many rooms and roofs and chimneys, reaching up and up and up, competing with the surrounding jacarandas and eucalyptus trees, while fountains of multi-coloured bougainvillea spill over six foot walls lined with razor wire and through electric fences that zing softly in the dying light.
Outside one, a lawn stretches from the gate to the road’s edge – a piece of soft manicured emerald, an unusual sight in drought-ridden Bulawayo. Suddenly, my daughter runs at it with her usual childish gusto.
‘I’m a fairy!’ she cries, opening her arms wide and flapping them up and down. ‘I’m off to the Magic Wood.’
She runs and tumbles, glorying in the smooth green velvet. ‘I’m off . . . off. . .’ she intones, turning round and round. I stand and watch, basking in motherly pride, but aware, too, of the walk home, the gathering darkness. It is then that she grabs my hand and pulls me along with her, and suddenly I am flying, too. We flutter, we jump, we soar and swoop. Across the grass and back, close to the wall and the shut-fast gate and back down to the road.
‘I’m a fairy and you’re a pixie,’ she shouts, commanding the situation. ‘Fairies can fly higher than pixies.’
‘Ah, but pixies are cleverer than fairies,’ I say, as I run up and down the grass verge.
‘No, they aren’t!’ she insists. ‘And, anyway, fairies live in flowers and pixies live in toadstools and I think flowers are better.’
‘Let’s fly home,’ I say. ‘Let’s see if pixies or fairies fly faster.’
And so we are on our way home. The sun slips orange over the horizon as generators whirr into life and electric lights flicker on. Garden sprays are off and gardeners have long ago wound in hosepipes and gone home. Maids have returned to their own children who, heavy with sleep, catch glimpses of their mothers as strange visiting angels before their eyelids close. The old dog and his companion will have reached home a while ago.
Past the Magic Stream with the boats lined up to go to Fairyland and the goblin chuckling with menace as he scuttles off to hide amongst the used sanitary towels and broken glass; past the giant who pokes at his fire and then rocks back and forth, talking all the time to his invisible servant. Past Cinderella who has packed up her stall and returned to her duties inside the house. Past the witch’s house where the chickens are now in their coop and the stolen children are in their beds and the dog growls menacingly but without enthusiasm.
By the time we get home, the world is grey with twilight. Our house stands dark and impassive. If we are lucky, the power will be back within the hour; if we aren’t, we can hope for it in the morning. I open the door and reach for the candle and matches strategically placed on a shelf round the corner of the door jamb.
The night stretches before us, cold and dark. Rosie is tired now and hungry. She forgets the litany of fairy tales as easily as a piece of litter dropped into the Magic River. I warm milk on the gas ring and cut some sandwiches for supper. By candlelight, we read another story of witches and fairies. We fall into bed, Rosie heavy with sleep, holding my hand tightly against her chest until she drifts off and her grip loosens. I lie awake, imagining that the glimmer of generator-fuelled lights from my neighbour’s house are but fairy lights floating in the darkness of the Magic Forest; that our tiny home is a tower that stretches up, up, up into the air, commanding mystery and majesty and wonder in all who pass it by.
I am Rapunzel in my room, letting down my hair every evening, watching it cascade in a blue-black waterfall through the feathery gauze of night, wondering if some handsome prince will make himself known tonight and set out through the forest, sword in hand, slashing through the thorns till he reaches the cold stone wall of my tower and stares up at the dark window far above him.
Or I am a princess in a many-turreted castle with a rose-filled garden that stretches all the way to the cliff’s edge and a high wall that no one can climb over and fierce dogs that guard the gate. I have children who spend long, hot afternoons tumbling on pea-green lawns or sailing boats in the pond whilst kept out of harm’s way by a host of nannies and maids and gardeners while I dine at banquet tables that overflow with food and wine.
The generator next door switches off for the night and a cold black silence descends. I return to the room alone, folding myself back into my broken dreams. I imagine Cinderella threading her needle and settling down to chat to her animal friends. I envy the Giant his invisible servant and the ancient dog his ancient keeper. But I am happy, for although my tower is tall and dark and lonely, I have not forgotten how to sprout wings and fly. I have never stopped believing in the magic that will one day pick you up off your feet and let you glide and flutter and swish and swirl and take you off to places you never imagined existed and yet always, always, bring you home safely to the tower at the end of the road.

 I settle under the covers and take Rosie’s small hand in mine, listening to her soft rhythmic breathing. Satisfied: the darkness is kept at bay.

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician reviewed in 'New Germany'

Several continents in the head

In his new novel, Tendai Huchu draws a lively panorama of the multicultural everyday life in the UK

New Germany 16 Jan 2017 Manfred Loimeier

No, the Zimbabwean writer Tendai Huchu says his new book is not a novel about immigrants in the UK.  Huchu has been living there, in Edinburgh, for several years and is known as the author of the fun-political debut novel "The Hairdresser of Harare" (2010). Political and easy to read is also his new book "The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician", which also bears witness to a considerable literary development of the author.
It is mainly about three, actually four Zimbabwean men, who live a new life in Edinburgh: The Maestro, filling shelves in a supermarket and losing himself in reading books; The Magistrate, a former judge who succeeds as a nurse and recollects; The Mathematician, who devotes himself less to his doctoral thesis than to the nightlife; And not to forget Alfonso, who will give the plot an abrupt turn.
With "The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician", Huchu links everyday life in Harare with that in Edinburgh. It mixes the music of the continents and shows the isolation of immigrants as well as cultural jolts and successful integration. Because the Magistrate has a family, the Mathematician friends and the Maestro a girlfriend, there are protagonists who complement the events. This creates a lively panorama of multicultural everyday life, which is convincing above all by its stylistic design. The Magistrate is portrayed as almost melancholic, the Mathematician almost hectic. And the Maestro loses himself in books - and thus his relationship to reality is one of the numerous literary allusions, of which the novel is permeated.
The author convinces by linguistic lightness, stylistic diversity and a psychologically differentiated characterization of the figures.
The attention paid to Zimbabwe's politics and the settingin the United Kingdom are not drawbacks in our understanding of the everyday life of the people. 


and the review in German:

Mehrere Kontinente im Kopf
Tendai Huchu zeichnet in seinem neuen Roman ein lebendiges Panorama des multikulturellen Alltags in Großbritannien
·   Neues Deutschland
·   16 Jan 2017
·   Von Manfred Loimeier
Nein, sagt der simbabwische Schriftsteller Tendai Huchu, sein neues Buch sei kein Roman über Einwanderer in Großbritannien. Dort, in Edinburgh, lebt Huchu seit etlichen Jahren und ist als Autor des vergnüglich-politischen Debütromans »Der Friseur von Harare« (2010) bekannt. Politisch und leicht zu lesen ist auch sein Buch »Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker«, das darüber hinaus von einer beachtlichen literarischen Entwicklung des Autors zeugt.
Vornehmlich geht es um drei, eigentlich vier Männer aus Simbabwe, die in Edinburgh ein neues Leben leben: Maestro, der in einem Supermarkt Regale füllt und sich sonst in der Lektüre von Büchern verliert; der Magistrat, ein früherer Richter, der sich als Krankenpfleger durchschlägt und Erinnerungen nachhängt; der Mathematiker, der sich weniger seiner Doktorarbeit als vielmehr dem Nachtleben widmet; und nicht zu ver- gessen Alfonso, der der Handlung zuletzt eine abrupte Wende geben wird.
Mit »Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker« verknüpft Huchu den Alltag in Harare mit dem in Edinburgh. Er vermischt die Musik der Kontinente und zeigt die Isolation von Einwanderern ebenso wie Kulturschockerfahrungen und gelingende Integration. Weil der Magistrat eine Familie, der Mathematiker Freunde und der Maestro eine Freundin hat, kommen auch Protagonistinnen vor, die das Geschehen um ihre Sicht er- gänzen. So entsteht ein lebendiges Panorama des multikulturellen Alltags, das vor allem durch seine stilistische Gestaltung überzeugt. Fast melancholisch wird der Magistrat porträtiert, nahezu hektisch der Mathematiker. Und dass sich Maestro in Büchern – und damit den Bezug zur Wirklichkeit – verliert, gehört wohl zu den zahlreichen literarischen Anspielungen, von denen der Roman durchdrungen ist.
Der Autor überzeugt durch sprachliche Leichtfüßigkeit, stilisti- sche Vielfalt und eine psychologisch differenzierte Charakterisierung der Figuren.
Dass es dabei auch noch um die Politik in Simbabwe und das Zusammenleben im Vereinigten Königreich geht, ist kein Nachteil, um den Alltag der Menschen authentisch und sympathisch zu schildern. Tendai Huchu: Maestro, Magistrat und Mathematiker. Aus dem Englischen von Jutta Himmelreich. Peter Hammer Verlag. 384 S., geb., 26 €.


Stories Invited for a Zimbabwean Short Story Collection

amaBooks Publishers are planning a collection of Zimbabwean short stories, to be published in 2017.  We are inviting submissions by February 14, 2017. There are no restrictions on the length of the stories, and there is no particular theme.
Stories for consideration should be emailed as Word attachments, with no artwork or photographs included, to Unfortunately, we will be unable to give feedback on those stories that are not accepted for publication.
The writers whose work is accepted will each receive a copy of the book and they will retain copyright of their stories.

The previous collections of short writings published by amaBooks include Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe, Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe and Short Writings from Bulawayo I, II and III. Where to Now? was co-published by Parthian Books in the UK and was translated into isiNdebele as Siqondephi Manje?, and Long Time Coming was selected by New Internationalist as one of the two best books from across the world in 2010.


Why I Read by Sandisile Tshuma

Hi. My name is Sandisile Tshuma and I am an information junkie. More than ten years ago I underwent the Clifton strengths finder assessment as part of a team building exercise at the youth-focused HIV prevention organisation I had just joined.  The test revealed that one of my top five strengths was something called Input. Input was defined as having a craving to know more and people with Input like to collect and archive all kinds of information. While I normally like to convince myself that I am “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” I had to admit that the test was spot on.  

I read because I like to know things. I love knowledge for its own sake and I hoard it in my mind, my electronic devices, journals, notebooks and a book shelf that is so heavily overloaded it teeters precariously on the verge of collapse under the weight of all manner of books, lovingly collected over years.  My insatiable appetite for information and ideas in the form of words is well documented. I can’t help myself. Reading let’s me know things and discovering new things fills my heart with unadulterated joy. Literacy is the greatest gift my parents gave me.

When I was a child my parents kept an old school trunk full of books well older than I. That black trunk was a treasure trove of books, all classics. My mind traveled from The God of Small Things and Coriolanus, to Harvest of Thorns and Petals of Blood, from Gray’s Anatomy to Toohey’s Medicine for Nurses, Charles Mungoshi to William Blake. One day while digging through the old black trunk I found a tatty old exercise book in which my father had written the first few chapters of an autobiographical creative fiction book. I knew it had to be something he wrote in his youth because the pages were almost disintegrating and the ink was faded and blurred making it hard for me to read some of his flawlessly scripted cursive. He had never once mentioned this work or expressed the desire to write. He was a military man, a man of science, a businessman, anything but an author. And yet he wrote beautifully. Lyrically. He was reflective and generous in his descriptions. I was mesmerized. We never discussed it but it completely changed the way I saw him. He revealed his complex layered thoughts and helped me understand my own dark, broody complexity. I recognized myself not only in his words but also even in the very act of writing out his life, documenting his story for an audience of unknown existence.
I read to rekindle the feeling I got when my father unknowingly shared his life with me, as do so many other authors I love. In a world where it’s hard to feel anchored my love for reading showed me a new connection to the source of my being. I read because this is a privilege.

Sandisile Tshuma is a Zimbabwean storyteller, health, development and human rights practitioner who has studied molecular and cellular biology, public health, disaster management and acting from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (United Kingdom).
Sandisile has a professional background in monitoring, evaluation and communication in sexual and reproductive health programmes with the United Nations and other International Organizations in East and Southern Africa. She is an award winning short story writer, the founding editor of AntuAke online magazine, and has curated a personal blogfor five years. Sandisile's short stories, "Arrested Development" and "The Need" were published by amaBooks Publishing in two anthologies of Zimbabwean short stories. "Arrested Development" won an Honourable Mention for the 2010 Thomas Pringle Award in the short story category, has been translated into a number of languages and is included in an anthology titled "When The Sun Goes Down", a set book in the Kenyan English language curriculum at secondary school level. The Need has been translated into isiNdebele. Her first full length book, "Dandelion Dreaming," tells the story of marginalised youth in South Africa using the "photo-voice" methodology. 

Sandisile has a special interest in young people, particularly those made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS, and is involved in supporting the work of  Aluwaniand COPESSA. Currently, she works in leadership development as the South Africa country manager of the Emzingo Group aiming to inspire responsible leadership, prepare individuals to tackle global challenges and connect business to society.

Remembering Julius Chingono, 6 years gone

 Tired Feet

A man arrived
in a park,
kicked off shoelace-less shoes
from his fetid feet.
Tired feet stared
at a notice written –
‘stay off the grass’.
Lush grass sneezed,
the smell of dirty feet
choked its shoots.
The legs bent and creaked –
we cannot go further.
The man dropped
to sleep 
on an empty stomach.

and then there was his humour...


In the photograph
I was so drunk
that I would stagger
out of the picture.

(both from Together, Julius Chingono and John Eppel, 2011)

Getting Together, poems and short stories by John Eppel and Julius Chingono ready for publication was a cooperative effort. Getting the work from John went smoothly as John lives in Bulawayo, our base, and is online. Julius lived in Norton, outside Harare, and did not have access to a computer. It was 2010 and time to call in the help of friends. The poet, Togara Muzanenhamo, didn't live far from Julius and offered to get the poems from Julius, type them up and email them to us. This worked well, we made suggested edits, sent them back to Togara, which he then shared with Julius. And so we progressed... The same routine was adopted for the short stories. The writer Tinashe Muchuri came to the rescue. He took on the task of typing Julius' stories from which we selected those which we chose to include in the collection and proceeded to edit them with Tinashe kindly acting as the go-between. In this way the anthology, Together, came into being.

The book now complete, we negotiated co-publishing deals with the the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the University of New Orleans. All was going well and then we received the tragic news that Julius had died on January 2nd, 2011, before we had brought the collection out. So the launch became a tribute to Julius, where we played a video of him reading his work.

We will remember Julius.


She is a faded beauty, an old madame who makes her face up every morning, lipstick just that little too bold, that only serves to underline the slightly trembling lip. Potholes full of stagnant rain water, faded road markings, street kids begging at the car window, soggy posters tied to trees and stuck on dustbins, advertising everything from 'bedroom cures' to wealth and prosperity. Beautiful old buildings with long-dead owners' names still adorning them: A.D. Radowski 1910, Haddon and Sly est.1894, once purveyors of fine things now selling cheap wigs and cell phone chargers. Blocks of flats named Victory Place and Luxor House, now strung with ribbons of washing: babies' nappies, men's shirts, a child's school uniform. Hung high above the stinking sanitary lanes and the pavements where people sit and wait . . . and wait and sit, quiet, eyes fixed on nothing. Newspaper hoardings which announce the continual demise of our ancient dictator, that bond notes are here to say, that Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1. I remember my other life: Late-night Christmas shopping at Meikles, my mum ordering the Christmas ham from the butcher, listening for the time on the City Hall clock. And I wonder whatever happened to the Cat Lady, with her long grey hair and her long brown coat, who fed the strays outside the public toilets. Long gone now, too.

Bryony Rheam. 13 December 2016
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