Literary Zone

There’s a Dissident in the Election Soup!

25 July 2007 at 13:11 | 504 views

There’s a Dissident in the Election Soup!

By Dambudzo Marechera

I have no ear for slogans
You may as well shut up your arse
I run when it’s I LOVE YOU time
Don’t say it I’ll stick around
I run when it’s A LUTA time
I run when it’s FORWARD time
Don’t say it we’ll fuck the whole night
The moon won’t come down
At first awkwardly, excruciatingly embarrassing
But with Venus ascending, a shout and leap of joy

When the sheets are at last silent
Don’t ask “What are you thinking?”
Don’t ask “Was it good?”
Don’t feel bad because I’m smoking
They ask and feel bad who are insecure
Who say after the act “Tell me a story”
And you may as well know
Don’t talk of “MARRIAGE” if this reconciliation
is to last.

*Dambudzo Marechera(photo) was born in 1952 in Vengere Township, Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe). The family called him "Tambudzai," meaning "the one who brings trouble". His father died when he was thirteen years old, leaving the family destitute. Because of his intelligence and academic talent, he received scholarships to continue his education.

Fiercely independent and brilliant, he had difficulties with the educational system throughout his academic career. He enrolled at the University of Rhodesia in 1972, but was expelled in 1973 as a result of his involvement with a student protest movement. Unlike many other suspended participants, Marechera was unrepentant about his role in the demonstrations. Despite his rather poor grades and iconoclastic behavior, his professors at the university admired his brilliance, and recommended him highly for a scholarship to Oxford. He enrolled in the New College in 1974, but was forced to withdraw because of his anti-social behavior.

While at Oxford, he wrote his first book of short stories, The House of Hunger. Somewhat reminiscent of Joyce’s Dubliners, the stories deal with psychological and social alienation. Marechera’s work is not material typically associated with "African" literature. His stories are psychologically, rather than politically, motivated as his depictions of living in exile and outsiderhood show. The House of Hunger received the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. While giving his acceptance speech, Marechera expressed his dislike of attaching prefixes such as "Irish" and "African" to the term "author".

His second book, Black Sunlight, is more typically "Joycean." It is unstructured, with characters who do not function in the standard plot-driven way, and surrealist, even less "African" than its predecessor. The publisher feared that it would not sell because it was not identifiably written by an African author. It probably would not have been published were it not for the critical success of his first book.

In 1982, Marechera returned to Zimbabwe after eight years in exile. His stay in Britain had been filled with poverty and several charges for petty crimes. In Zimbabwe, he continued his chaotic and self-destructive lifestyle, publishing only one more book, Mindblast, in 1984. He died in 1987.