The myth of Dambudzo Marechera and radical politics in Zimbabwe

Monday, 23 September, 2019 - 15:00

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Dambudzo Marechera’s writings are central to an understanding of Zimbabwe’s turbulent history. And often he is systematically dismissed. Why this is so suggests something of the dimensions of Marechera’s intellectual achievement and the character of the uncomfortable questions he raises. Marechera’s analysis of Zimbabwe’s postcolonial self-image is thorough and devastating. His iconoclastic, dense style expressed the psychological fragmentation prevalent in Africa during the 70s and 80s and challenged the fundamental beliefs of both the nationalist and post-independence eras. His first book, The House of Hunger (1978), is now considered as a Zimbabwean classic.The writer's childhood was shaped by conditions of squalor and violence as well as fear and oppression and offers a site that constitutes and defines resistance. For Marechera this sense of physical and spiritual starvation became his metaphorical "house of hunger,"and its psychological impact was permanent. From early on, reading and writing provided his only means of escape. So, enduring is Dambudzo Marechera’s reputation as an ‘anarchist’ writer and thinker because of the author’s sense of futility in everything. In his world, nothing can succeed and the only constant and exception is change itself. His vision is penetrating and his critiques show an open-endedness that negates closure and anticipates change. He refuses to idolize and gratify national discourses and ideologies and instead fractures them and shows the temporariness of the values that underline them. Thus, Marechera in his anarchic vision does not seek to teach but rather to provoke, shock and subvert.

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