Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Ideas and Stuff - Tendai Huchu

On Ideas And Stuff 

The following article was written by Tendai Huchu.
from: www.culturefund.org.zw

Where do your ideas come from? There isn’t a writer who hasn’t been hit by this question at one literary event or the other. This month I published The Worshipful Company of Milliners, a speculative fiction story in Interzone, Britain’s oldest SF magazine. The story is about writers’ ideas, which are represented as hats made by magical milliners in an old brick factory in Southerton. The milliners are there in lieu of the muses who’ve long since abandoned that particular form.
I’m no closer to figuring out where ideas come from (somewhere in the neocortex?), but the exploration of one idea often leads to other ideas. Sort of a variation on the law of accelerating returns: the more I write, the more ideas I have, and so on, easily plottable on an exponential graph. After my first novel The Hairdresser of Harare was published, I was surprised by many requests for a sequel from well-meaning readers. The book has an open ending, but that ending represents the author going of stage and leaving the space for the reader – who is, after all, co-creator of the work – to add their twist, their imagination to the story. A German school once sent me a dozen or so alternate endings that their students had come up with for the story. The idea that there is one definitive version of a narrative is, historically, a new concept, so, given our strong oral tradition, the invitation to go beyond the text is one the Zimbabwean reader should embrace.
Fast forward to 2015 and my new novel The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician has been published by amaBooks with the backing of The Culture Fund. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, become interested in different things; the story is different, perhaps a little more complex. Most writers cannot be static, like sharks they must keep on swimming forever or die where they stand. The movement is found in experimentation, constant exploration of different forms and possibilities. This change means losing some readers, not everyone who was with you for the last text will be there for the next, and gaining a new audience.
At the moment I’m doing a bit of work in short stories in different genres. I’ve found that switching genres with their different rules and conventions often means discovering new techniques and different ways of viewing literature as an art form. But if you strip away the bullshit explanation for why I’m doing this, then you find the kid who was into the Hardy Boys, Space Operas, Greek Mythology and all sorts of weird stuff in school. I’m merely writing what I want to read.
The ideas are already there in the ether that is sometimes called the library, at other times the bookstore, even life itself. Above and beyond that, I can say nothing more that might be vaguely considered meaningful.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

'Textures' reviewed by David Mungoshi on www.panorama.co.zw

Textures: Poems by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo, Published by amaBooks

Historically-speaking, the armed conflict that ushered in the new nation of Zimbabwe in 1980 is still a very recent series of events.  Thirty-four odd years may be quite a chunk in the life of an individual, but are only a very negligible proportion of a nation’s life. 
Not surprisingly, therefore, there are many across the political and military divides whose memories of that costly era of Zimbabwe’s life as a nation are still very fresh and quite unforgotten. They recall events and incidents from that conflict with clarity, immediacy and intensity. 
It goes without saying that interpretation of the war of liberation will depend on where one stood historically and culturally in the beginning as well as politically. Cross-over cases are not unheard of in the same sense that nostalgic conservatism either way is also a definitive characteristic of some among us.
Perhaps a small exercise in forensic linguistics (a combination of, among other things, linguistic stylistics and literary stylistics) would not be out of place here. Forensic Linguistics is an investigative tool that can help readers and scholars to unpeel the layers of a subterranean consciousness that contains within it deep-seated personality traits and sensibilities that have the effect of defining an individual’s identity and background. 
Thus, it becomes a given that Togara Muzanenhamo is a Zimbabwean poet who, true to his own experiences, portrays Zimbabwean sensibilities. That, however, does not diminish the authenticity and relevance of his experiences, nor does it relegate his poetic voice. On the contrary his often lyrical voice elevates his poetry to almost dizzy heights. His ‘Mercantile Rain’ (pp.61 -62) is a case in point. 
During our stay at the writers’ residency at the Chateau de Lavigny in Switzerland in 2005, Takashi Arima, the renowned Japanese poet and author of the anthology ‘Journey to the Real’ observed that modern Japanese poetry is largely a derivative of the Bob Dylan poetic influence. This assertion speaks to the link between poetry and music. 
A close reading of ‘Mercantile Rain’ suggests that Muzanenhamo might have been influenced by Leonard Cohen, the iconic literary bard and musical innovator. The scene depicted in ‘Mercantile Rain’ is reminiscent of Cohen’s hauntingly-beautiful ‘The Guests’ as a song whose apocalyptic feel is undeniable. 
In Muzanenhamo’s poem, the colonel comes across as a forlorn and somewhat distracted isolate pining away on a farm. The poem is avant garde in terms of the width and variety of experience that it boasts of. Muzanenhamo, it can be said, is a well-travelled and well researched connoisseur of experience.  
Zvita is the month of December, a time of rain, soft green grass and migratory birds. Everywhere the crops are up and the frogs are hopping about with reckless abandon – a vivid testimony to abundant life. Muzanenhamo subverts this template and gives us a December that gives “birth to death’s black oozing grease”. His study of a skeleton is, in this case, a metaphor for life diminished. Muzanenhamo writes about “ancient oils of life, rich with spent secretions, returned to soil”. The sense of bathos here is overwhelming. 
By contrast John Eppel is less circumspect about the land issue in Zimbabwe as shown is his poem, “Appropriating the Land” (p.65). Eppel writes: “We did dams”, and “We erected bossy warnings/with words like ‘forbidden’ and ‘only’.” The poem is a nostalgic invocation of privileges lost and the decidedly bourgeois facile activities and pre-occupations that characterised white farmers on vast tracts of land with plenty of empty spaces to paint or write about “sunsets,/ jacarandas, blue skies,/ the dispositions of our pets,/and the fish eagle’s cries”.
The collaboration between the duo of Eppel and Muzanenhamo is reminiscent of the collaboration between William Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge in that Eppel like Wordsworth seems to have an affinity for things rural and rustic while Muzanenhamo like Coleridge is the educated voice of poetry. One could use “The preface to the Lyrical Ballads” and the “Biographia Literaria” to underpin the attributes and preferences of our two poets. When in “Young Woman Walking” Eppel writes, “Thus I, ageing heteroclite,/pencil in hand, sit down and write” one cannot help linking him with the voyeuristic Tiresius, the “old man with wrinkled female breasts”. Both personas are silent witnesses to an event that is unfolding. Eppel’s lines are typical of the many poetic epigrams that punctuate the anthology in many places. 
Eppel’s “Dorothy Recollects” (p.47 -49) evokes memories of Wordsworth and Coleridge and indirectly cites their occasionally tempestuous relationship. Muzanenhamo often tries, with success, his hand at concrete poetry. “The Hamilton Piece” is a typical example of this stylistic bent in Muzanenhamo’s poetry. In true romantic poetry style Eppel writes about birds (pp. 25 -29) and manages to produce vintage lines like, “and don’t forget to kill me once I’ve dined” (Hornbills in My Garden).
“Textures” is a well-crafted and creatively satisfying anthology that often oozes with perfection. A must read for poetry enthusiasts!

- Reviewed by David Mungoshi © Panorama Magazine 2015.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tendai Huchu on the BBC

Tendai Huchu talks to Bola Mosuro about his novel 'The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician' on Africa Today on the BBC, and reads an excerpt from the book.

Click here to listen to Tendai on the BBC

Sunday, March 15, 2015

'The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician' reviewed in The Sunday Mail

In search for an identity
by Andrew Moyo
OVER the years, there has been a massive exodus of Zimbabweans relocating to the diaspora in search of “greener pastures”, however word has it that it’s not always green on the other side.
Some go there to further their education, while some go there to work.
Despite the fact that many people who have crossed the border are always preaching about the rosy lifestyle they lead in foreign countries, it has emerged that the majority are working under slave like conditions in order to earn a living.
Upcoming author Tendai Huchu, in his latest offering, “The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician”, displayed his outstanding creativity by bringing to life and interweaving three different Zimbabwean characters who struggle with thoughts of belonging, identity loss and love as they attempt to find a place for themselves in the United Kingdom.
The book delves in the life of a former Zimbabwean magistrate who has migrated to the UK with his family and is finding it difficult to make ends meet since he is unemployed and failing to get a suitable job.
The Magistrate is constantly having flashbacks of his glorious days behind the bench back home in Bindura, the sunny weather and a host of other things he misses, which he compares to the miserable life he now leads in the UK.
The Mathematician is a carefree young student doing his doctorate in Economics and plans on going back home after finishing his studies to start a business of his own.
He despises sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries as they hinder his ambitions of becoming a future employer.
This character is cleverly crafted, with his intelligence, humour and loose tongue spicing up the reading experience.
The Maestro is a depressed, insomniac young man who has completely shut out the past and the rest of the world choosing to drown himself in the world of literature.
The three characters’ stories are written in different styles with the author making use of formal language for the Magistrate’s part, urban Americanised language when telling the Mathematician’s story, which is in the present tense and the Maestro’s story is a stream of consciousness, written with a poetic feel.
Reading this book, l was taken on an imaginary journey to the city of Edinburgh, were the author gave me a glimpse of the various situations and challenges that are faced by Zimbabweans living abroad.
Huchu’s literary prowess is beyond doubt, juggling and fusing humour, language, flashbacks, musical and political references to create this masterpiece.
Like a visual artiste, the author paints a picture of an unhappy elderly man who is failing to keep it together as European ideals have ripped apart all the cultural values he holds dear.
Huchu’s use of flashbacks will surely put the reader in a time capsule, travelling back to the motherland during a period when the Magistrate could still afford a maid who did all the house chores and then back to reality where the old man is bent over, brush in hand, cleaning a toilet bowl.
The artistry used to place the reader in the world of the Maestro is exceptional and the diction is mouth-watering, with the author giving it a poetic flare.
“Not this, this was an incomprehensible Nothing, the nothingness of non-existence, beyond consciousness, a Nothingness that was not something, and so far beyond intellect that entire religions had to be formed to cover it up, to speculate its very being, a function of the causality-seeking neurons of the brain,” goes one of the paragraphs in which the Maestro tries to decipher death.
From employment opportunities to the standards of living, the book captures the plight of many Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, with most struggling to keep it together.
The vocabulary is rich and phrases like “voluntary slavery”, are used to describe the willingness of migrants to do long hours of disgusting work for low wages.
In another paragraph, the Magistrate is frustrated with the fact that even after getting a job nursing old people, he still struggles to stay afloat.
“He looked forward to each weekly pay.
“It was gone so quickly, swallowed up by rent, gas, electricity, the bus pass and Chenai’s bottomless pit of demands.” The book takes twists and turns, with the author tossing the reader from one character to the next and in some cases creating situations which sets them on a collision course.

This piece of work is certainly storytelling at its best, with a gripping plot that made it difficult for me to put the book down. With solid characterisation and a storyline that is relevant to the Zimbabwean situation, this book is a must read.

'Textures', reviewed by Philani Amadeus Nyoni in Urban Culxure

Mar 13, 2015

Textures is a collection of poetry by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo published by Amabooks in 2014. The book launches is at CBC on the 18th of March and at Indaba Book Café on the 19th. Award winning poet Philani Amadeus Nyoni reviews it here.

John Eppel comes into Textures with over a dozen publications under his belt. An unflinching commentator, master wordsmith, tested and validated by time and experience, Textures is once again the breath of a master of traditional English verse.

Togara Muzanenhamo is relatively unknown in Zimbabwe, although he commands a large following abroad. He, along with Tinashe Muchuri, assisted with Julius Chingono’s poetry in Together. His first collection, Spirit Brides,was shortlisted for the Jerwood Alderburgh First Collection Prize in 2006. He is ranked among Zimbabwe’s finest poets on the page having represented the nation at the largest gathering of poets ever in 2012 in London. His poetry is in a world of its own and his unique forms contrast those of Eppel, finely balancing the book as a whole.

Textures is Eppel’s third collaboration; his first was with the late, great Julius Chingono and I will draw a few comparisons between these two works. His second collaboration was with myself, therefore I cannot speak objectively of it.

The first acute difference between the two poets is that Eppel is traditional stylist, and Muzanenhamo quite the opposite. Eppel sticks to traditional forms of English verse; in his own words he uses these forms as a way of self-mockery as a white African.

He is not averse to using forms like the sonnets, terza rima and the villanelle, which he executes with surgical precision. Most interesting is his personalisation of these styles. In ‘Sonnet with a Limp’ he distorts the metre (justifying the title), in ‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Death’ he keeps it Shakespearean, in ‘Not For Laura’ Petrarchan, but in sonnets like ‘Aloes at Hillside Dams’ or ’Giving up on the Rains in Curious Rhyme’ (again justifying the title) he rearranges the rhyme into a semi-invisible but regular scheme. The dexterity in the distortions brings to the fore the self-mockery, the irony in the choice of form.

Muzanenhamo is a fascinating poet. In poems like ‘The Ungiving’ and ’Mercantile Rain’ he rhymes, but he also employs many half-rhymes and in most of his work he is not too eager to stick to Western poetic traditions. He is a poet of the twenty-first century and an African poet, ‘a deliberate antistylist’ as the blurb to Together describes Julius Chingono. His arrangement on the page, the typesetting, is also part of the poem, and of the experience of reading his work.

Muzanenhamo reads like Soyinka: dense. Of his first collection, the Times Literary Supplement said ‘he can be cool but seldom light’. His poetry demands contemplation, which does not always resolve the headache inflicted; he is often esoteric where Eppel is more musical and accessible. This is another contrast.

As far as subjects go, Textures is quite radical and defies expectations for two reasons: imprimis, Eppel writes about home and Muzanenhamo writes more about places far removed in time and space. Muzanenhamo, who one would expect to be the more ‘African’, is the less ‘African’ of the two. Secondly, from his more recent works such as Absent: The English Teacher, White Man Crawling and even Together, one would assume Eppel would once again criticise poor governance and the abuse of power. It is these themes that have resulted in him being misconstrued as a racist, something he addresses in the satire Absent: The English Teacher, when, during a police interrogation, the lead character is asked if he hates black people, to which he replies ‘only as far as they are part of the human race’. This time he is mellower, more concerned with his surroundings, particularly flora and fauna, especially the birds.
 Textures Launch

Muzanenhamo has a few pieces that might be interpreted as autobiographical, such as ‘Savannah Chapel’, however most of his work is about places far removed in time and space. He is a voyeur in history in ‘The Texan ’and ’Bluegrass Country’; he draws inspiration from the strangest stories, such as those of Isaac Murphy, Maurice Garin and Charles Péguy.

As a collaboration, this is a fine piece of literature unfurling new petals with every read. Eppel’s focuses on immortal subjects such as nature and human relationships as opposed to current affairs; Muzanenhamo draws inspiration from moments that stand out in the history of the world, lending the collection an air of timelessness.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tendai Huchu interviewed on 'Reading Has Purpose'

Welcome Tendai! I’m glad you stopped by Reading Has Purpose! Your first novel, The Hairdresser of Harare, is on my to-read list. Before I could even read it, you’re back with novel number two! So let’s get to it!

RHP: Is The Maestro, The Magistrate, & The Mathematician a book you’ve wanted to write for some time or did the idea just come to you?
TH: It took about three years from conception to finish. There was a lot of refinement and fine tuning needed. One of the most important parts of the process was working with my editor Jane Morris from amaBooks who completely understood the scope of my ambition for the text and was instrumental in helping me tweak. In certain ways I’m, perhaps, a very old fashioned writer in that my fiction is a vehicle for the dissection and dissemination of ideas which are important to me.

RHP: After releasing one novel, what’s the biggest lesson you learned and applied to the writing or marketing of this book? And how’s that working out for you?
TH: The reality is when you’re an unknown writer without the benefits and resources of a corporate PR machinery, then marketing is going to fall on your shoulders. Book bloggers like yourself, Shannon, are essential, because they are willing to look at work on its own merit wherever it’s coming from. But I still maintain a naïve belief in word of mouth, that if my work is good enough then readers will recommend it to their friends and family.

RHP: Is there anything you were particularly nervous or worried about with the release of The Maestro, The Magistrate, & The Mathematician?
TH: There is always going to be a bit of anxiety before a book goes on sale. Your internal editor goes into overdrive: “Is it good enough?”, “Did I miss something?”, “Will anyone even read it?” I could go on and on, but in the end, you just take a chill pill and let go, because once it’s out there, what else can you do?

RHP: Tell us why we’re going to love the new book!
TH: I’m obviously biased in this regard, but I think it’s an interesting book about love, friendship, identity, ideas and some of the big questions we have in life. Outside the thematic elements, the reader may well be enticed by the structure of the book which works as three interlinking novellas.

RHP: You seem to keep a pretty low profile. I couldn’t find you on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.  Is this intentional or are you getting ready to make a grand entrance into social media!?
TH:  I think you’ve been looking in the wrong places:
https://www.facebook.com/tendai.huchu.12  and on Twitter I’m @TendaiHuchu.

RHP: What, if anything, do you miss about living in Zimbabwe?
TH: The strong sense of community, that each individual is tied to the next and this bond is important. I suppose that and the sunshine!
RHP: Further to my previous question. Sometimes I sit back and think about the stories that are missing. Being African American, I wonder when stories will start to emerge about being the child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of a participant in The Great Migration. What was it like being sent South for the summers? What was it like being hundreds or thousands of miles away from the rest of the family? So many questions come to mind. What does that look like from your experience? What stories, and essentially history in the making, do you think are missing?
TH: If I think exclusively of the Zimbabwean experience, then I have to recognize that we have only been a literate society for the last 140 or so years; that’s nothing in historical terms. A lot has been said about the colonial and post-colonial periods, but I reckon the pre-colonial period is much more interesting, especially when you think of the great trading empires, Munhumutapa, Great Zimbabwe, or even the Rozvi much further back. Piecing out what life was like for these folks would be very rewarding.

RHP: We all know the big names in literature, old and new. Well... we do here at Reading Has Purpose! But I love reading books by authors that fly under the radar as well. You’ll even find reviews here for books that are out of print. Are there any books or authors that you think people are missing out on?
TH: For anyone who wants to read something new outside the mainstream, I recommend visiting The African Books Collective. They have an awesome collection of both fiction and non-fiction by 150 independent publishers across the continent.

RHP: Anything else you like for us to know about you or The Maestro, The Magistrate, & The Mathematician here at Reading Has Purpose?
TH: Nah, but I think I’ll reproduce the [book's] blurb for you:

“Three very different men struggle with thoughts of belonging, loss, identity and love as they attempt to find a place for themselves in Britain. The Magistrate tries to create new memories and roots, fusing a wandering exploration of Edinburgh with music. The Maestro, a depressed, quixotic character, sinks out of the real world into the fantastic world of literature. The Mathematician, full of youth, follows a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle, until their three universes collide. 

In this carefully crafted, multi-layered novel, Tendai Huchu, with his inimitable humour, reveals much about the Zimbabwe story as he draws the reader deep into the lives of the three main characters.”

from: http://readinghaspurpose.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/interview-tendai-huchu-author.html

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two launches for 'Textures' in Bulawayo

John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo's poetry anthology Textures is to be launched at two events in Bulawayo: at Christian Brothers College on 19 March, and at Indaba Book Cafe on 20 March. At each, both poets will read from their work in the book.
The book will be launched later this year in Harare.

"In Textures we have two poets who make magic, two ‘heart poets’ who share a mastery of words, but who use them very differently. Look closely and you will see the differences – the contrasting perspectives, focuses and styles that are the creative products of individual experience – but stand back and be moved by a collective that is the work of complementary genius. The format weaves you back and forth between one, and then the other, and the effect disturbs, delights, inspires and consoles...

"Their differences are obvious: one poet, grounded in Bulawayo, generally writes short, evocative, personal and structured poems to probe the subconscious and unearth, in heart-breaking beauty, penetrating truths; while the other, a citizen of the world, crafts longer narratives gathered from everywhere, and delivers them in spell-binding voice and imagery. Stepping back however, we see a pattern emerging, a collaboration that spurns the pettiness of competing poetry schools and prescribed content; we see a portrait of love which takes our breath away. Robert Graves stated that his poetic intention was ‘to mesmerise time with stored magic’. Textures achieves this."
Fred Simpson