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Monday, February 6, 2006

The Three States of Being a Zimbabwean

Posted by on February 6 at 14:15 PM

This weekend, I read an excellent collection of essays by Chenjerai Hove (my favorite novelist at the moment) called Shebeen Tales (shebeen is an illegal bar). The essays are about Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe (which means house of stone, but these days it should be called Mafukose, which means: everything here is dead). One of the best essays in the collection, Marengenya: Tipsy, Dead Drunk. or Having a Head, concerns alcoholism in Zimbabwean society (“A Zimbabwean is either drunk, just about to become drunk, or is recovering from drunkenness. Our three states of being, Zimbabwean men, black and white…When a Zimbabwean says, ‘Let’s go for a drink,’ he means it”). The best passage in this essay lists the fantastic names of beer halls in Harare. “The name of beer halls [in our city],” Hove (hove means fish) writes, “tells it all—Rambanayi (go ahead and divorce); Mapitikoti (a place of many petticoats); Manhede (lying on the back, suggesting the sexual act); Makovhorosi (booze during lunch break with overall on); Mushayambereko (one who abandoned child rearing in pursuit of the joys of alcohol and sex). Beer-drinking and women: the leisure pursuits of Zimbabwean men.”

If you chance to find one of Hove’s novels in a bookstore, buy it right away.