Friday, 23 October 2020

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga



This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
First published in the USA by Graywolf Press in 2018. Published in the UK by Faber and Faber on the 15th September 2020.

A More Than One challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Here we meet Tambudzai, living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare and anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job. At every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.

In this tense and psychologically charged novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga channels the hope and potential of one young girl and a fledgling nation to lead us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed.

This Mournable Body is actually the third in a trilogy of novels, after Nervous Conditions which I read over two years ago and The Book Of Not which I haven't read. Fortunately, while having read the previous two books recently enough to remember them would probably be an advantage in gaining a deeper understanding of Tambudzai's life story and present predicament, I didn't actually ever feel as though I were missing out by not having this information easily accessible.

I would disagree with the synopsis in that Tambudzai is no longer a 'young girl' but very much a woman and a woman whose bitter disappointment at her life and future prospects is so overwhelming as to be damaging her mental health. In her blind determination to achieve a certain level of material success, she is unable to recognise how much more life has to offer even when examples such as her sister's marital happiness or her mother's village leadership are staring her in the face. For Tambudzai, anything that doesn't revolve around an affluent city businesswoman's situation is simply failure. 

For Dangarembga to make me care deeply about the predicament of an essentially selfish and unlikeable character is quite the achievement. I could understand how a combination of wartime psychological trauma and wholeheartedly swallowing the capitalist myths of her education had led Tambudzai to such an impasse that her mind was no longer capable of buoying her up against ghastly reality. This Mournable Body is a sympathetically realistic portrayal of mental collapse which, I thought painted an authentic picture of both the woman at its centre and also of the family she keeps at bay.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Tsitsi Dangarembga / Contemporary fiction / Books from Zimbabwe

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