Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chenjerai Hove comments on Chris Mlalazi's Dancing with Life

Chenjerai Hove comments in a letter to Christopher Mlalazi about his Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township (with permission from Chenjerai and Chris):

I got your short story collection and have already finished reading it. I enjoyed tremendously the ‘chase of the week’. I was laughing alone in my place like a mad man. I think the story captures the real atmosphere of a township, and the vagaries of living there. I must say my favourite story, though, is the last one, ‘A Heart in my Hole’. I enjoyed the filmic technique or the kind of montage you make of the various shots in the life of the young man. And some of the images are fantastic, just magic:

‘Next to uncle’s stool, also enjoying the cool shade, and in domestic harmony, a chick sits on the cat’s back. The cat is dozing between the legs of Bamba, uncle’s biggest and fiercest dog, that keeps nibbling lazily at an irritation on his left haunch. The hen and the rest of the noisy brood are nowhere in sight.’

That is great cinematographic stuff, a beautiful image almost beyond words.

Also I enjoyed the way the old man and the young man are in such harmonious discord in their views of the world, at least they agree on the use of condoms, and on having sex with the German woman, with and without condoms.

But the tragedy of the young man who can only manage a distinction in isindebele and nothing else borders between humour and deep sorrow. At least he takes it in its stride: life goes on with or without all the subjects taught in English.

As I read your stories, I could not help but think of an American writer, Ambrose Bierce, of a century ago, in the way he saw life’s coincidences. Bierce has become very popular again in the last decade or so. Look for his short story collection and I am sure you will see what I mean. He wrote also ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’, in which he gives words his own meanings which are not usually socially accepted in conventional dictionaries.

Well, thanks for writing the book, and I look forward to many more from such a sharp pen.


  1. It is always fulfilling when people positively appreciates your work. And I am happy for Chris.

  2. C. Hove is very supportive, and apparently he likes Chris's work, which should be encouraging. Congrats to Chris and amaBooks.

  3. Thank you Chenjerai, you have inspired me!

  4. No doubt Chris defines the african neo-aesthetic writing of our time. His ability to transform words into powerful imagery is impressive. He takes the reader up then down, pushes them far then back while stretching their imagination to exciting levels. kudzai