‘… imagining that what you are saying will one day be true.’ – Read an exclusive excerpt from Tsitsi Dangarembga’s new book This Mournable Body
More about the book!
Jacana Media has shared an excerpt from Tsitsi Dangarembga’s new novel This Mournable Body.
In This Mournable Body, Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival.
Read the excerpt:
The man turns from the window to talk to you.
‘Ha, Father, I did not mean to disturb you.’
You kept the leather Lady Dis on when you trekked from Widow Riley’s. You walked quickly, unsure why speed was essential. The asphalt was hot. Your feet are bloated and blistered. You peel the Lady Dis off in the combi that is returning you to the hostel. You search for your plimsolls. You nudge the man next to you several times, once mortifyingly close to his groin.
‘You will have to wait,’ he says. ‘It is better to just sit, whatever it is. Like everyone else.’
‘These shoes,’ you say, as obliquely. ‘They are European. Not like the ones here. They won’t stretch just like that. I should have put on some local stuff when I left my house.’
It is the answer he deserves. The passenger droops his head and shoulder against the window. He is not a man, you think: he is already finished.
‘So the place you are coming from, is it yours?’ the man asks. His voice quivers with a new interest that he strives to hide.
‘Yes,’ you lie.
‘The plots there,’ the man says. ‘When you stand at one end, you can’t see the other boundary. It’s not just anybody who can find places like that.’
You smile agreement.
‘Are you doing market gardening?’ he asks.
‘I am,’ you reply, nodding firmly.
‘It is good,’ the man sighs again. ‘Since the government started giving people land in places we thought were for Europeans only.’
‘It was my aunt’s place,’ you say. ‘She was given it by her employer. He went to Australia.’
The man clasps his hands in his lap and looks at them. ‘So what do you cultivate?’ he asks.
‘I am in dahlias,’ you say proudly. ‘I am the only one who can do it. She could not manage things like that, my aunt; things that need brains and telling people what to do,’ you add. ‘So our family said, Tambudzai, you have studied, you take the plot before that one has a stroke or something, before she goes where no one can follow.’
‘Ah, horticulture,’ your companion says. His voice is wistful with an admiration he is now comfortable showing. ‘One day I will do that too,’ he promises with a small splutter of energy. ‘Fruit for me. People always need to fill their stomachs, so filling theirs will also fill yours.’
‘Yellow ones,’ you put in. ‘And roses. The ones that are called tea roses.’
‘Oh-ho!’ your companion nods. ‘I once worked in a nursery. There were tea roses. I sprayed them.’
‘Blue,’ you say. ‘The roses I have are blue.’
‘Blue,’ the man repeats. His energy drains away once more. He slumps against the window again. ‘Roses like that! I’ve never seen them.’
‘Sweden,’ you say. You are relieved to inject a fact into the nonsense you are dishing out. You lapped up a moment of glory at the advertising agency when you created a campaign for a Swedish company that produced agricultural machinery. ‘I have a lot of customers in Sweden. For yellow and blue. Those are that country’s colours. I send them over there by air,’ you conclude, imagining that what you are saying will one day be true.
‘I could be a gardener,’ the man says. ‘Do you still have any place for anyone?’
‘Ah, I will remember you,’ you say. ‘These days there are already too many.’
‘If it weren’t for that El Niño,’ sighs the man. ‘That water and wind haven’t left anything to live off, for most of us.’
Your companion asks for a pen. He scribbles his neighbour’s telephone number on the corner of an old receipt he pulls out of his pocket. You take the scrap.
‘Pano! Armadale!’ he says.
‘Here! Armadale,’ the conductor relays to the driver.
Disembarking, the man hunches his shoulders and ambles off.
You drop the note under the seat. People climb in. You slide into the would-be gardener’s place, lean against the window. The combi stops at the hostel corner. You allow it to carry you onward.