Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo's 'Textures' available as an ebook

'Textures' is now available as an ebook, as well as a paperback, through the African Books Collective, Amazon and many other websites.

'Textures' contains new poems by Eppel and Muzanenhamo, including Eppel's Hillside Dams in Bulawayo sonnet sequence, Christmas in Bulawayo and a section of poems about Zimbabwean birds. As well as having an international flavour,  Muzanenhamo also has poems set in his homeland of Zimbabwe including Savannah Chapel, Engine Philosophers and All the Good Help. The collection has an introduction by Dr Drew Shaw.

The book is to be launched in Bulawayo on 19 March at CBC, with follow-up readings on 20 March at Indaba Book Cafe. The Harare launch will take place at a later date.

Within Zimbabwe, copies of the book are available in Bulawayo at Induna Arts, the Orange Elephant, Phenduka Supplies, Indaba Book Cafe, Book&Bean and the National Gallery, in Harare at Avondale Bookshop, Blackstone Books, the Book Cafe and the National Gallery.

Friday, February 13, 2015

John Eppel interviewed on 'Steppes in Sync'



As part of our African Literature as Creative Enterprise series, Brian Jones and Jane Morris of amaBooks talk to John Eppel.
Here is how the Bulawayo, Zimbabwe-based author explains his relationship with the amaBooks duo:

[They] would have been my first choice for all my books, but they seldom have the wherewithal to finance a publication; that is largely because they have the commitment (and courage) to promote new Zimbabwean writing, including poetry, which almost nobody buys. ... More people write poetry than read it

’amaBooks started in 2000 on an inner impulse to raise money for the Bulawayo branch of the charity Childline. It was John Eppel who donated a collection of his poems to be published to raise money.  A professor of mathematics — Brian Jones — and Jane Morris, a clinical social worker — with a university background in literature — set themselves a goal of mastering the printing press.

Today’s subject of discussion? Their recent collaboration Textures, a poetry collection.

You chose to come together with Togara Muzanenhamo to produce Textures. What are the advantages to you of combining your work with that of another poet in one anthology?

'The singular advantage, I hope, is to Zimbabwean literature.  Why should it remain segregated, more than 30 years after Independence?'

What is it about Togara poetry that encouraged you to publish together? Could you give a short example of his work in this anthology that you particularly appreciate, and why?

'Togara is a gifted poet, a born poet.  Poetry comes as naturally to him as the leaves to a tree.  Keats makes this point in a letter to John Taylor, 27 Feb. 1818. That’s why I wanted to be published with him. I appreciate all his poems, so here is a random selection:

And he lets his mind roam the landscape

others had always owned on their breath –

the beauty of mist and light, the grandeur of silence.

On the sofa the two of them cuddled,

warm and snug –wine in their heads.

Effortlessly, time and again, he blends history with the moment.'

In the introduction to Textures, by Dr Drew Shaw, there is mention of the poetry here emphasising form as well as content. Why is form important?

'Content is common to all genres; form distinguishes them.  Form and content become inseparable in the best poems: ‘I am soft sift in an hour glass’ [Gerard Manly Hopkins].'

The reputation of many poets in Zimbabwe has been enhanced by their participation and success in 'performance' events. Both of you are primarily not regarded as performance poets. Can you suggest ways in which your work could be brought to the attention of poetry lovers across Zimbabwe, and elsewhere?

‘Only the usual ways: wider distribution of the book, reviews by reputable academics and writers, interviews, readings, exposure on social media networks, book signings….  Easier said than done.’

Can you please choose a poem of your own from Textures, and briefly explain your motivation in writing the poem.

'‘Looking for you’.  This is one of lyric poetry’s oldest themes – losing a loved one.'

Where do you find the subject matter for your poems?

'In the suburbs of Bulawayo.'

Zimbabwean novel crosses borders: Southern Eye

TENDAI Huchu’s second novel The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician that was produced by ’amaBooks is set to be published outside the country later this year.

The book is to be published in the West African countries of Nigeria and Cameroon and is set to be translated and published in Germany and Italy, while discussions with publishers in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Kenya are currently underway.
Huchu was in 2014 shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.
Speaking to Southern Eye Lifestyle, director of ’amaBooks Brian Jones said The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician was Huchu’s second book and its storyline was set in the Scottish city of Edinburgh, where the writer is presently based.
“What remains in common is Huchu’s inimitable humour,” said Jones.
“The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician is getting a good response from readers in this country and we have been very pleased with the interest in the book outside Zimbabwe.
“One of the publishers described the novel as ‘really impressive’, another as ‘funny, energetic, with great setting and great characters. It’s confident and unusual, in a good way’.”
Jones said Huchu was developing as a writer and ’amaBooks was particularly keen to make arrangements with publishers in other African countries so that their books could be published in those markets.
He said most of the issues addressed in Huchu’s book were common across the continent and the cost of distributing copies from Zimbabwe to other countries was prohibitive.
“The book is available now worldwide — both in print and e-book format — through the African Books Collective, Amazon and other websites, but being available in bookshops through local publishers in other countries certainly raises awareness of the book and the writer,” Jones said.
“There seems to be an interest across the world in good Zimbabwean writing.
“We at ’amaBooks are very grateful for the support given by the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, which made it possible for the book to be published.”
Jones said the novel had three strands, each telling the story of one of the three characters in the title of the book.
“The magistrate has moved to the UK with his wife and daughter, where he struggles to adjust to the very different society, especially as he cannot find an equivalent job to the one he held in Zimbabwe,” he explained.
“He worries as his teenage daughter begins to lose her ‘Zimbabweanness’, becoming more Scottish by the day.
“His character is cleverly juxtaposed with that of Alfonso Pfukuto, who appears to be the fool of the novel. The maestro works in a supermarket, but after work, he returns to his high-rise flat where he loses himself in the world of literature.
“The mathematician leads a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle with his Scottish girlfriend and Zimbabwean friends, while pursuing a doctorate exploring hyper-inflationary economics. Eventually, in the latter part of the novel, the universes of the three main characters collide.”
Jones said a review for the Royal African Society website by Philani Nyoni describes the book as “a universal and truly illuminating work”.
In addition, he said the cover design was impressive and followed the ’amaBooks tradition of using the work of local artists, on this occasion Know and Don’t Believe by Tafadzwa Gwetai.
“Other artists whose work has been used on ’amaBooks covers include Aubrey Bango, Anne Hutton, Jeanette Johnston, Helen Leiros, Owen Maseko, Gilmore Moyo, Arlington Muzondo, Dumisani Ndlovu, Charles Nkomo, Sindiso Nyoni, Voti Thebe and Sininisabo Tshuma,” he said.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

'The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician' reviewed in Harare News

I first went to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit Tendai Huchu, with whom I had been buddies on social media, in 2012. He came to pick me at Waverley rail station, situated in a steep, narrow valley between the medieval Old Town and the 18th century New Town and we would traverse between the two.
Scotland’s capital city is a place of culture and literature. The heart of the city, a World Heritage Site, is packed with fascinating buildings and a remarkable history. The famous castle sits proud on its rock at the top of the Old Town, a warren of medieval streets and alleyways sweeping down to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament at the foot of the Royal Mile. And there is Holyrood Park, surely one of the most dramatic city parks I have seen, with the mini-mountain of Arthur’s Seat at its heart.
The opening of Huchu’s new book, The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician, vividly reminds me of this visit. In hindsight, it is as if when we walked we were rehearsing some of the scenes in the book. With the turn of every page Edinburgh becomes real.
The story is told in three voices which are emotionally distant, ruminative, and sometimes intellectual. Its principal characters are known by the titles of their current pursuits or former professions. Collectively the trio has some absences to fill, personal histories to recover.
Set during the decade of crisis, the novel zooms into the too often agonising life of Zimbabwean emigrants and also provides some valuable insight into the political and economic issues currently afflicting Zimbabwe.
Bindura and Edinburgh simultaneously move in the magistrate’s mind. Like many emigrants, he becomes an “in-between” person who does not belong here nor there. He remembers the man he was before Edinburgh took away his dignity.
Somehow it is the magistrate’s wanderings and their connections to personal histories — both his own and those of the people he meets that form the driving narrative, allowing him to reflect on his adopted country of Scotland and the Zimbabwe of his youth.
He is the character around which the whole narrative revolves – his dysfunctional family, his dalliance with opposition politics and his emasculation dominate most of the story. Indirectly he connects the other characters in the book by association.
Also embedded in the narrative are references to old Zimbabwean music. Music is used to map memories of identity and being. After all nostalgia has a playlist. In fact, Zimbabwean music is used to connect the narrator’s past with his present.
Immigration and exile are not new literary subjects, but Huchu’s treatment of them has a quiet clarity and surprising force. In fact, the book reads so much like a sequel to Brian Chikwava’s Harare North – the overseas territory of Zimbabwe is not limited to London but also extended to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh has a sinister side. Political turncoats and opportunists befriend the Zimbabweans, pretend to be a political agitators yet spy for the Zimbabwe government. In the Zimbabwean political discourse there is currently a rhetoric war between zvipfukuto, corrosive insects known as weevils, and gamatox, a poisonous pesticide.
After the walk about we stopped at a bookshop, I don’t recall its name, but it was a bargain bookshop that Huchu frequented. He bought me a copy of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is an unsettling, loveless and even sinister place. In its patient, cumulative way, The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician paints a startlingly dim picture of Zimbabwe’s present moment. And the past is no refuge.

Review by Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Reproduced from Harare News, February 2015

The publication of The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician was supported by the Culture Fund Trust of Zimbabwe.