Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Reading Marechera

Reading Marechera

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reading Marechera
    Book Description:

    Considered one of Africa's most innovative and subversive writers, the Zimbabwean novelist, poet, playwright and essayist Dambudzo Marechera is read today as a significant voice in contemporary world literature. Marechera wrote ceaselessly against the status quo, against unqualified ideas, against expectation. He was an intellectual outsider who found comfort only in the company of other free-thinking writers - Shelley, Bakhtin, Apuleius, Fanon, Dostoyevsky, Tutuola. It is this universe of literary thought that one can see written into the fiction of Marechera that this collection of essays sets out to interrogate. In this important and timely contribution to African literary studies, Grant Hamilton has gathered together essays of world-renowned, established, and young academics from Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia in order to discuss the important literary and philosophical influences that course through Marechera's prose, poetry and drama. From classical allusion to the political philosophy of anarchism, this collection of new research on Marechera's work makes clear the extraordinary breadth and quality of thought that Marechera brought to his writing. Grant Hamilton is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of 'On Representation: Deleuze and Coetzee on the Colonized Subject' (Rodopi, 2011), as well as a number of articles on contemporary African, postcolonial, and world literatures. He is currently working on his second book, 'Deleuze and African Literature'.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-103-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Introduction Marechera & the Outside
    (pp. 1-10)

    In perhaps his most widely read essay, ‘The African Writer’s Experience of European Literature,’ Dambudzo Marechera introduces himself as a person who is ‘inclined to disagree with everybody and everything.’¹ It is at once a light-hearted and deeply provocative self-characterization. Undoubtedly, Marechera did not mind being regarded as the enfant terrible of African literature. Indeed, much of what he said and did painted him in this particular way. His exploits off the page married with the visceral ideas and images that he committed to it, created the myth of the man which would always precede him. So, as he returned...

  5. 1 A Brotherhood of Misfits: The Literary Anarchism of Dambudzo Marechera & Percy Bysshe Shelley
    (pp. 11-24)

    I first encountered Dambudzo Marechera at an out of way boarding school in the farming district of Selous in Mashonaland west province in Zimbabwe. I was 14 years old. Our small school library had a full collection of all Marechera books. The House of Hunger was the first book I read. I vividly remember moments I would sit under library tables or hide behind colossal bookshelves and read a Marechera book. Reading Marechera was like an initiation into a secret society. There was something wonderfully subversive about his writing; he said things that were too dangerous to say, things that...

  6. 2 Blowing People’s Minds: Anarchist Thought in Dambudzo Marechera’s Mindblast
    (pp. 25-37)

    Reading Marechera’s work encourages one to look again at the political philosophy of anarchism. Like Marxism, against which it was conceived, anarchism represents one of those liberatory discourses that were in one way or another linked with the Enlightenment. Its leading proponents were Kropotkin and Bakunin in Russia, Proudhon in France, and Godwin in England. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon makes clear in his writings, anarchists are opposed to all forms of power, authority and hierarchy.¹ Indeed, one of the defining features of nineteenth-century European anarchism was the way in which the State was regarded as the major source of repression. Unsurprisingly,...

  7. 3 Grotesque Intimacies: Embodiment & the Spirit of Violence in ‘House of Hunger’
    (pp. 38-56)

    In her widely-cited review of The House of Hunger,¹ Juliet Okonkwo criticizes the debut writer Dambudzo Marechera for self-purposefully subjecting his readers to a grotesque imagery:

    Marechera deliberately presents actions that are sordid and shocking. The vulgarity and histrionic nature of many of them, the excessive interest in sex activity, his tireless attempt to rake up filth, his insistent expression of debased philosophy built around ‘stains on a sheet’ and which is given expression in the words ‘What [else] is there?’, put this volume among avant-garde art that is characteristic of modern European culture. All this is alien to Africa...

  8. 4 Tracing the Stain in Marechera’s ‘House of Hunger’
    (pp. 57-75)

    Dambudzo Marechera’s The House of Hunger¹ is a text that has drawn widely divergent critical responses. As Drew Shaw makes clear in his essay ‘Transgressing Traditional Narrative Form,’ those critics who supported the official literary aesthetic of social realism in the newly independent Zimbabwe found much to be concerned about in Marechera’s writing.² Mbulelo Mzamane, Musaemura Zimunya and Juliet Okonkwo gave something less than a glowing recommendation of Marechera’s experimental writing and in his book, Those Years of Drought: The Birth of Black Zimbabwean Literature in English, Zimunya derides the fractured nature of Marechera’s writing, reducing it to nothing more...

  9. 5 Menippean Marechera
    (pp. 76-98)

    Everybody agrees that Dambudzo Marechera is a unique, and uniquely difficult, figure in African literature. There is possibly no writer whose fiction is more enmeshed with his life, no writer whose life seems more like a picaresque novel. Commentary on his work has been sometimes almost obsessed with the ways in which his life intervenes in his writing, no doubt helped by the dominance of the narrating ‘I.’ In passages on language, nation, literary identity, sexuality and many others, the writer seems to be speaking from his own life. In many places the narrator’s commentary is directly autobiographical.¹ Yet, as...

  10. 6 Black but not Fanon: Reading The Black Insider
    (pp. 99-119)

    My skin sticks out a mile in all the crowds around here. Every time I go out I feel it tensing up, hardening, torturing itself. It only relaxes when I am in shadow, when I am alone, when I wake up early in the morning, when I am doing mechanical actions, and, strangely enough, when I am angry. But it is coy and self-conscious when I draw in my chair and begin to write. – Dambudzo Marechera, ‘Black Skin What Mask.’¹

    O my body, make of me always a man who questions! – Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks


  11. 7 The Avant-Garde Power of Black Sunlight: Radical Recontextualizations of Marechera from Darius James to China Miéville
    (pp. 120-144)

    This chapter is about the radicalism of avant-garde writing under globalization. It links the writing of British Marxist fantasy novelist China Miéville and African-American performance artist Darius James with Dambudzo Marechera’s novel Black Sunlight, which both authors have named as a specific influence. It does so in order to explore the capacity of literature to reflect upon the politics of globalization and initiate dissent. My argument follows on from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Empire,¹ which argues that the culture of postmodernity and the economic system of the world market mutually support one another, constituting the dominant ideology of...

  12. 8 Classical Allusion in Marechera’s Prose Works
    (pp. 145-156)

    This chapter addresses a key issue in the hermeneutics of the Marechera prose corpus, namely the author’s use of allusions to the Greco-Roman experience: literature, mythology, culture, and so on. While some critics have dedicated a lot of space to attacking Marechera’s use of classical allusion in his literature, others have defended Marechera on that same score. Obert Mlambo says that classical literature cannot be separated from the writings of Marechera. ‘To separate the two,’ he writes, ‘is like throwing away the baby together with bath water.’¹ Marechera himself dedicates ample time in defense of his use of Greco-Roman scenery...

  13. 9 Revisiting ‘The Servants’ Ball’
    (pp. 157-171)

    The concerns of this chapter are threefold. First, it highlights the fact that Dambudzo Marechera’s play ‘The Servants’ Ball’¹ is the only known artistic work in Marechera’s oeuvre written in his mother tongue, Shona. Second, it shows how Marechera’s play is situated in the context of the newly independent Zimbabwe of the early 1980s. And, finally, this chapter explores how the ‘discovery’ of Marechera’s only Shona work resurrects the ‘ghost’ of the debate over the ‘appropriate’ language of African literature.

    For many Zimbabweans, it is not necessary to have read The House of Hunger or Mindblast to know Dambudzo Marechera....

  14. 10 Marechera, the Tree-Poem-Artifact
    (pp. 172-186)

    I am reading Dambudzo Marechera with suspicion, not of him, but of the agenda, conditions and occasions that introduced his writing to me (and to the literary world). I am suspicious of a literary establishment that seeks to contain him within academic criticism. The scholar’s proud ownership of the writer may be compared to the colonialist’s claim to the land, ignoring the native ‘barbarians’ and ‘savages’ who were already there before him and who require civilization and translation. This is Marechera colonized, canonized and collected in print. At the same time, I recognize the limits and irony of my suspicion,...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-196)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)