Yvonne Vera: Without a Name
As in her next book, Under the Tongue, Vera gets a bit carried away with the poetical, impressionistic writing but, nevertheless, this incredibly tragic tale of Mazvita, a young Zimbabwean woman, a victim of Zimbabwe’s violence and male-dominated society, is very moving. On almost every page, Vera makes us feel Mazvita’s pain and, while sometimes you want to say that enough is enough, you cannot help but feel the pain that Mazvita and presumably other women in her situation, both in Zimbabwe and elsewhere, have to suffer. Mazvita travels from rural Mubaira to find work. She works in a tobacco field, where she meets Nyenyedzi and they have an affair. But Mazvita is scared living in that area. It is 1977 and the war of independence is in full flow and she is understandably worried about being caught up in it. She wants to go to live in Harare, where she feels that she will be safer but Nyenyedzi has no desire to go to Harare, preferring the rural area. Eventually, she sets off on her own.
When she arrives there, she finds the streets of Harare are not paved with gold but, rather, strewn with rubbish. More importantly, she is unable to find a job. She meets Joel who lets her move in with her and takes care of her. However, when he finds out that she is pregnant – a pregnancy that must have started before they met – he is eager for her to leave and, eventually, he throws her out. She wanders the streets with her baby, tired and weak. She decides to take a bus though she does not where to. Finally, she feels that she is left with no choice and ends up with a dead baby and lost. Vera has shown us Mazvita’s pain – as well as the pain of her country, particularly its women – in a forceful way but sometimes you feel that she has been just too forceful.
First published 1994 by Baobab Books, Harare