Friday, August 5, 2011

Together, reviewed in The Witness

Poignant African stories

Celebrating resilience

From The Witness, August 6 2011

Together: Stories and Poems by Julius Chingono and John Eppel

The stories and poems in this brilliant volume will hit you in the gut with horror even as you relish their intelligent analysis and cogent wit.

They are written by two very different Zimbabwean writers, one a black former rock-blaster from the mines near Harare, and the other a white English literature teacher from Bulawayo, both of whom have won international acclaim and have been previously published, but not together.

As the title implies however, they have much in common in their clear-sighted scrutiny of socio-political issues as they are evidenced in everyday life in Zimbabwe.

Their differences bring both a diverse perspective and a critical solidarity, which adds to the reader's engagement.

The stories are set in a variety of situations, from the cramped confines of communal toilets to political gatherings, and from the down-at-heel homes of old white women to recently discovered diamond fields. The poems particularly catch the poignancy of a people caught up in the traumas of civil war, torture and poverty.

A primary response to the writing is enjoyment at the perspicacity of ordinary people who cannot rely on any form of formal social organisation to support them.

The writing strongly but subtly criticises the human penchant for self-aggrandisement and self-deception, and this presents a moral challenge that strengthens and sustains those who still have the ability to read distortions, misrepresentations and mismanagement clearly. In doing so, the writing celebrates resilience.

The volume has an informative introduction by Drew Shaw from Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, who I presume is also responsible for the arrangement of the poems and stories into a varied and yet linked collection. This is southern African satirical writing at its best and despite the situations, it describes much to be enjoyed.

Hazel Barnes

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