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Monday, December 19, 2005

The End of Marechera/The Arrival of Hove

Posted by on December 19 at 10:50 AM

Charles Dumbuzdo Marechera is considered to be the most important Zimbabwean writer of the 20th century. He published one great work, House of Hunger, and an impressive mess, Black Sunlight, and a simple mess, Black Insider. He died in 1987 at the age of 36, apparently of AIDS. He was a genius, familiar with every book and movement of literary importance, homeless for most of his life, a drunk, and an impossible romantic. He was my hero until yesterday, my last full day as a Zimbabwean—in a couple of hours I will become an American citizen. My new hero in Zimbabwean literature is Chenjerai Hove, who is not as lettered as Marechera and (for lack of a better way of putting it) is more African—in the way Fela Kuti conformed English to Nigerian syntax, Hove conforms English to Shona syntax. Hove’s writing is fecund, broad, and muscular. Best of all, his novels have a sense of national (revolutionary) consciousness, or what the Hungarian Marxist Georg Luk√°cs called class consciousness, that ultimately liberates the reading experience from the dreadful limits of the individual artist (his/her psychological hurt, family drama, and all that other sensitive/softie nonsense which fills the pages of so many bad books and the two good books Marechera’s short life completed). Hove’s nationalized and de-romanticized imagination rises up to the sky like the owl of minerva or the angel of history and soars over the piling wreckage of human events. Hove is now in my head and will remain there until the end of all time.