Saturday, November 9, 2013

'Together' reviewed by Mbongeni Malaba in the English Academy Review

Combining the poems and short stories of the late Julius Chingono and John Eppel, the book, Together, focuses principally on the trials and tribulations of Zimbabweans during the last decade or so. Chingono read his poetry at the Poetry International Festival in the Netherlands and at Poetry Africa in Durban.

The title, Together, resonates with significance: the racially charged atmosphere that has characterized the politics of the country since the land invasions is one of the recurrent themes, as is the descent into lawlessness. Yet, respectively, the writers provide interesting and valuable insights into the plight of the poor, dispossessed and marginalized. The horrific brutality of the politically motivated violence that has plagued the nation is exposed; the vulnerability of those made destitute by Operation Murambatsvina is foregrounded, as is the self-serving nature of the elite. The struggle for a dignified existence on the part of blacks and whites living in Mashonaland and Matabeleland is highlighted in the poems and stories that challenge the docility of many Zimbabweans; the authors champion the decency and courage of those who reach out to serve those worse off than themselves, regardless of race; and they celebrate those who are willing to stand up and be counted, whilst defending the principles they live by. 

The two writers, curiously, were born within a year of each other. Chingono spent most of his working life as a rock blaster in the mines, the same profession as that of Eppel’s father. Both authors have a great sense of humour, which reflects Zimbabweans’ strategy of coping with hardship; both have a keen eye for the lighter side of life, as well. Chingono’s style is more direct, Eppel’s is often consciously literary, but between them, they take seriously the African artists’ roles as the voice of the voiceless, as the chroniclers of their age.

Mbongeni Malaba
English Department
University of KwaZulu-Natal
South Africa

from: English Academy Review 29 (7) 2012
© The English Academy of Southern Africa