As we say our final goodbye to one of Zimbabwe’s most talented writers, we compiled a list of 7 books (novels, essay & poem compilations) by Chenjerai Hove that we feel every Zimbabwean should read. Hove used his master literary skills to tell the story of Zimbabwe’s common life (love, death) and politics before and after Zimbabwe’s independence. In his own words in the book Plaver Finish:
I always tell people that if they want to know about the history of a country, do not go to the history books, go to the fiction. Fiction is not fiction. It is the substance and heartbeat of a people’s life, here, now, and in the past.
Bones is Hove’s most known book in Zimbabwe and has become a Zimbabwean classic. It’s been part of the official study material in schools and colleges. The book won won both the Zimbabwe Book Publishers’ Association first prize for literature, and the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa in 1989. The jury citation described the novel as ‘a powerful, moving and ambitious novel, written with exceptional linguistic control, plumbing the depths of human suffering but having the wisdom to hope’. The story is the sensitive evocation of Marita, a farm- worker, whose only son joined the freedom fighters in Zimbabwe’s war of liberation. The poetic language is rich in Shona idiom. Adapted from Amazon.
2. Shebeen Tales – Messages from Harare
In the book, Hove uses humour to look straight in the eye of a society suffering from drought, economic hardship and AIDS, but does not succumb to despair. He celebrates a people who continue to live life to the full, to laugh and sing, to tell tall tales-whatever is thrown at them. adapted from Amazon
3. Rainbows of dust
Rainbows in the dust is a collection of poems published in 1998. Below is an extract of the review of the book:
In Rainbows in the Dust, Hove departs significantly from the convention of using image, metaphor and simile to convey his message. Poetry in this collection is ‘poetry’ because of its rugged and forthright mode of address. In this collection, Hove has put his literary gloves away and his angry punches are meant to draw blood. The distinction between poet as messenger and poet as political activist is collapsed into one. No longer is there an appeal to the conscience of the new élites; anger has instead become the stuff of poetry: the meaning and the message. New times demand new forms. In ‘on being asked for a ruling party membership card’, ZANU(PF) is depicted as the “ruining party”, one with misplaced priorities. – extract from a review by Maurice Vambe.
Hove’s “Ancestors” traces African national history and identity from the turn of the 19th century to the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence.
5. Blind Moon
A collection of evocative and defiant poetry, Blind Moon, here’s a summary of a review by Maurice Vambe:
It is the relentless critique of what Hove perceives as the personality cult that has been developed around Zimbabwe’s leaders. ‘To a dictator’ bemoans the fact that the fruits of a communal process of struggle have been individualised. The consequences of monopolising the struggle and its results are that the “flowers” of people’s “freedom” have been hijacked. The playfulness associated with a bright moon has been undermined, and becomes a metaphor of betrayal: the “land cried”, and “this moon too was dark in your time”. Hove’s concern is that, in contexts of injustice, named tyrants turn to the power of the word in order to blind people. “Praise singers, flatterers [and] charlatans” are part of the ideological state apparatus that ensures that people believe in a single relentless narrative of truth and history authored by the powers themselves.
6. Plaver Finish
Plaver Finish is a selection of twenty essays which appeared in Zimbabwe’s Standard newspaper. In the Essays, Hove repeatedly invokes and applies the guidance, judgement and experience of his elders and his lessons learned growing up in a rural area, to what is right and wrong about his homeland today. His message is one of hope: a hope that African leaders and politicians will apply common sense to the reality of Africa and Zimbabwe. Adapted from a review by African Times.
Published in 1991, Shadows is a very short book, just 111 pages long and therefore and easy one to commit to finishing 🙂 Like other Hove books, he tells a story about Zimbabwe’s politics but but really writes about love and death.