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.

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