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Chenjerai Hove: Bones

Using an oddly stylised language, Hove tells the story of the struggle for survival of a brave Zimbabwean woman, Marita, against the background of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation against Britain. Marita works on a farm owned by a white man. Her husband has left her and her son has gone off to fight with the guerrillas. Well before the end of the story, she dies in Harare, still looking for her son and still not having found him. Much of the story is told from the perspective of those who knew her, particularly Janifa, who loved the son but also worshipped the mother. Despite the difficult life she has had, Marita was a woman prepared to stand up for herself, particularly to the white farmer, who is portrayed as a heartless and cruel man, using his African workers almost as slaves. Hove, by contrast, paints the Africans as being abused and, in the case of Marita and a few others, particularly the women, as being courageous but also as being storytellers and the ones who support their men in their struggle. The novel doesn’t quite work for me, not least because of the language, but it is a fascinating attempt at portraying the victims of colonisation and how they maintained their humanity in the face of adversity.

Publishing history

First published 1986 by Baobab Books, Harare