Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Huchu to launch novel in Edinburgh - The Zimbabwean

Ellah Allfrey interviewing Tendai Huchu at the Edinburgh Festival
photo courtesy of Petina Gappah
Tendai Huchu is set to launch his second novel,The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician, on Friday October 30 as part of the Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair. The novel was published in Zimbabwe by 'amaBooks and in the UK by Parthian Books.
Next month Huchu's book becomes available in Nigeria through the publication by Kachifo. Huchu will be travelling to the Ake Arts and Book Festival which runs from 17 to 21 November under the theme, 'Engaging the Fringe'. Dialogue will focus on culture and creativity, with reference to genres and forms that do not often receive deserved attention.
The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician will also be available in the United States next year through the University of Ohio Press and it is to be translated into German and Italian.
The novel is a carefully crafted, multi-layered novel. Although set in Edinburgh, 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.
Huchu is a prolific writer and and his short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Manchester Review, Ellery's Queen's Mystery Magazine, Gutter, AfroSF, Wasafari, The Africa Report, Kwani? and many other publications. As well as writing Tendai Huchu has translated works from Shona into English.
He is a PhD student of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester.
The Edinburgh Independent & Radical Book Fair is an annual literary festival, which takes place in October providing 5 days of cultural and literary events which are free for all to attend.
Set up in 1996, past fairs have been opened by writers such as Wole Soyinka, Vandana Shiva, Benjamin Zephaniah, Shere Hite and Mark Thomas.
In addition to author events and book launches there are school workshops, film screenings, an exhibition and creative writing workshops. The aim is to give plenty of time for discussion at events and to encourage dialogue between writers and their audience, and amongst readers – this often spills over in to the bar and cafĂ© area afterwards.

The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician is set in Edinburgh and revolves around the lives of three Zimbabwean men trying to make a new life there as immigrants. Lauri Kubuitsile, in her review of the book in Botswana's Mmegi, writes: ‘The three storylines might work well alone, but are made more by being woven expertly into and through each other. The writing is beautiful, in places stunning. The descriptions of Edinburgh are from the pen of someone who loves that city and it can’t help but show through his words. There are many books about Africans in the diaspora, many books that appear similar after a while, but not this one. This one stands apart.’

From: http://www.thezimbabwean.co/2015/10/huchu-to-launch-novel-in-edinburgh/

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book reaffirms Zim's poetry status

Textures, poems by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo, reviewed in the Daily News, October 18, 2015

Textures, published by Bulawayo-based amaBooks, is an innovative new poetry collection from two intriguing Zimbabwean poets: John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo.  
   Both poets are gurus of the technical form, formal master craftsmen of the art of poetry, here displaying a familiar selection from the different types of poem: sonnets, sestinas, dizains, villanelles, etc. often only vaguely remembered from high school study of poetry and removed from the more familiar free form. This reviewer is a novice poetry reviewer, a reader of poetry rather than a poet, so this appraisal will focus more on content than form.
   While other countries express fears that poetry is dying, Zimbabwe, by contrast, has been described as ‘a country of poets’. Many forms of poetry exist alongside one another from the traditional to the performing to the activist poet. In Textures amaBooks has brought together two wordsmiths who decorate a literary landscape of personal love and longing, though this can by no means be described as a love anthology.
   Each poet speaks in his own distinctive voice: John Eppel’s first poem is the nostalgic ‘Suburban Night in August’, which begins ‘The distant all-night drums, a dripping tap…’ and ends expectedly with that pain of love lost so painfully shared ‘……unclasp your hair, give it a tousle, set it free, smiling at him the way you smiled at me.’
   Togara Muzanenhamo dramatically introduces himself with the shocking ‘Gondershe’ ‘Having never fired a gun before, he held the rifle as though the weapon were a dying child about to say something only they could share...’ ending with the revelation of the 12 year old soldier cradling his gun and awaiting a certain death.
   While Eppel can, at first reading, seem light hearted, less serious, he can also stun his reader as he does with the simple brilliance of ‘Only Jacarandas’.  His beautiful sequence ‘The Hillside Dams’ walks us into his head and heart as he reveals his innermost thoughts description intertwined with emotion.
   Eppel’s love of the Matopos, the birds, the plants are only a part of the everyday existence that he uses to paint the landscape of his own experience for the reader. His ‘Four Villanelles’ brings with it a rawness of the pain of his own experience of longing and loss. Sometimes regretful and jaded, other times light hearted and droll, Eppel provides us with a rollercoaster of emotions familiar to us all. He speaks with the sad voice of a sage, his still beating heart exposed for us all to see.
   While Eppel’s words can be brimming with satire, wry humour, self-deprecation, gentle self-teasing, by contrast, the landscape the younger Togara Muzanenhemo paints appears more mystical, more spiritual, more idealistic, more ardent: an enticing window we can only hope to look into but perhaps not enter, lacking as we undoubtedly do, the vision of this brilliant poet.
   Muzanenhemo’s poems and prose are memorable explorations of many worlds, home and abroad, his own intimate experiences and those learned from the books and photographs of the world of history. 
   At times he opens a time capsule as in ‘The Texan’ where he beautifully describes the rescue of an aviator ‘From Weeks Field the sun hangs uncertain, the air sharpened by the curse of razored winds -….’ Again in the ‘Bluegrass Country’ he unearths the story of the jockey Isaac Murphy who won the Kentucky Derby three times. Forgotten for many years we hear the painful story of his exhumation as he is reburied away from his wife who he lay buried alongside for decades ‘….my head in your arms forgotten…..the music of unwanted distance grating loud with what can only be the memory of an intimate age’. But Muzanenhemo’s voice resonates most where he writes of his own feelings, when his own sensuality becomes enmeshed with the characters he brings to life, as in ‘Peruvian Sunsets’, ‘He pressed his weight harder against her skin. His sweet smoky breath boiling deep in the atoll of her collarbone….Kissed him. Lips, hard against his. Mouth, flat against his mouth’.  
   Muzanenhemo gently moves from romantic longing as in 'Desire', ’But… he also thought of how her face would melt at the sight of him…..’ to the epic disturbing ‘Game of Twelve Moons’ where ‘…His tears fell silently. Sparkled. Moonlight glistened off grass. This is how our deepest miseries are made to shine, he thought.’  He slowly weaves his magic through the pages of this eclectic collection moving from observation to personal reflection, poetry to prose but always with the artistry of the esoteric expertise that few ever possess and even fewer share through poems.
   Textures is a celebration of life and love in all forms: its beauty and its cruelty. The exquisite fabric woven by Togara Muzanenhamo and John Eppel in this collection will remain to be enjoyed over and over by all those fortunate enough to buy this book.

  The feisty independent amaBooks are to be congratulated, together with two of the most outstanding protagonists from this country of poets. 

Reviewed by Pat Brickhill

Textures, by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo
ISBN: 978-0-7974-9498-5      amaBooks, Bulawayo, December 2014

Monday, October 12, 2015

'Long after I read it, there are moments of stillness when I begin to think about the book and how much of myself I see in it.'

Bryony Rheam

The day I finally finished reading Bryony Rheam's This September Sun, sometime in September, it was the one book I wondered about how I got to the end, why it ended, and why wasn’t I a little slower as I read it.

This September Sun is the most profound book I’ve read this year and for an author’s first book, I can only begin to think how this work can claim to be fiction. Long after I read it, there are moments of stillness when I begin to think about the book and how much of myself I see in it. Its ability to linger this long is an experience I’m learning to come to terms with.

I’ve read books: Enid Blyton’s Malory Tower series ensured I went to boarding school in a bid to relive the stories. I read another Enid Blyton book about a girl who was a gypsy, who lived in a caravan and was part of a travelling circus. I’m not even going to begin to state how, at one point, I thought my parents should sell the house we lived in, buy a caravan so we could travel and possibly join a circus too. Then there was Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow, from whose pages I got the name Binaebi and gave the name to my son when he was birthed. Some books leave a lasting impression. Some books will never be forgotten. This September Sun falls into that category.

The story revolves around two characters Ellie and her grandmother Evelyn. Ellie, an only child, is a loner who has more adult influences than shared experiences with children her age. Her grandmother Evelyn in this day and age, would be called a feminist. An independent woman who seeks to live her life according to her dictates. Amongst the profound things for me about this book are Ellie’s words as she tells her story. Here’s a passage from Chapter Two:

“Where do you start to put life together? The pieces don’t always fit. Many are missing, or borrowed. From other people’s lives, other people’s memories. Their own puzzles. Where is the beginning when you have only the end to start with? How many lies are told over the course of one lifetime?

What of all that is not said, merely hinted at, subsiding beneath the surface of action and words? All that is yearned for and never had?”

Even now, these lines leave me with a need of wanting to dig deep into life and uncover things I should know and do not know.

There were times when, as I read, I had the feeling the author had perhaps started a plot she did not conclude and had no intention of concluding and this was disappointing for me. Page 76, when Ellie found her grandmother naked in bed with Miles her lover. The next few pages made no mention of the incident and life continued and left me thinking what tha . . . a young girl sees her grandma naked in bed with her lover and the next thing pretends that nothing happened. Tsk, tsk. There I was a reader poking into nonexistent holes because pages into the middle, it pops up again, is mentioned and is laid to rest. That’s the sort of books TSS is, it’s unpredictable and while it doesn’t elicit a rush of adrenaline, it’s calm, it’s pulsing and holds you in a grip.

I’m a little of Evelyn, a little of Ellie, I’m in the book and I’m swept along in their struggles and as they come to terms with themselves. I love TSS. I will read it again. This time with a highlighter. I will mangle its pages, but not to uglify it but to bring out the beauty of its words so I can always take a look at them and sigh, and think.

I’ve never known a book to linger like this one
To hear echoes of its words long after I wistfully said goodbye.

To read a book as though the writer knew you and turned you outside in.
To read words and behold a mirror of your mind.

To reread it in your mind page for page.
To replay the scenes that wrenched your guts and made your eyes drip.

To think and maul.
To chew and not be able to swallow.

To wonder at how words were stringed.
To want to know what could have been going through this author’s mind.

To be afraid. Afraid. Not the sort that fear elicits, but the sort that goosebumps produce because you feel a book became a mirror and you could see a lot of yourself in it.

This September Sun began in August. Proceeded with a feverish grip in September. In its wake left thoughts and silence.

Not all fiction is truly fiction.

By irinajo. http://flittingbutterfly.com/2015/10/07/