Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

18 August 2010

By Beaven Tapureta

(First published in The Standard, January 31 –February 6 2010)

As Zimbabwean publishers and writers last year tried their best, readers continue to be burdened under the economics of dollarization.
In 2009, more than 10 titles were issued out from different publishing stables in and outside the country but the high cost of living have affected the reader who is an important stakeholder in the book industry.
Petina Gappah, who won the 2009 Guardian First Book Award for her book An Elegy for Easterly (2009, Faber and Faber), a collection of stories which critics described as “disarmingly funny” and Christopher Mlalazi, author of Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township (Amabooks, Bulawayo) which received Honorable Mention at the NOMA Awards for Publishing in Africa, did their country proud but not much is known about an Elegy for Easterly to the ordinary readers in Zimbabwe. Petina’s book will be translated into seven languages soon. The same could be said of Brian Chikwava’s Harare North (2009, Jonathan Cape), available from Weaver Press.
Lion Press Ltd which is based in the UK and specializes in books written by Southern Africa writers, especially those resident outside Africa, has brought hope and last year the company featured writers such as David Mungoshi (The Fading Sun), Christopher Mlalazi (Many Rivers), Ignatius T Mabasa (The Man, Shaggy Leopard and the Jackal), and others. Again, some of these books and together with a poetry anthology called State of the Nation: Contemporary Zimbabwe Poetry (Conversation Paper Press, UK) are yet to be available in the local bookshops. Many Rivers is now available in Zimbabwe but the author is worried about the dying reading culture.
Generally, the novel competed closely with the short story.
Weaver Press published The Trek and Other Stories by Lawrence Hoba, which deals, among other issues, with the plight of women and children in the “masculinised’ land reform era. Daniel Mandishona also published a short story collection called White Gods Black Demons (Weaver Press, 2009).
As a way of encouraging people, especially writers, to buy books, Weaver Press hosted readings on January 21, 2010 at the Book Café with Hoba and Mandishona reading from their short story collections. There was also a discussion on book buying and book marketing in Zimbabwe led by Murray McCartney and Fanuel Jongwe.
Local women also came on board with important literature. Primrose Dzenga came up with an exceptional biography called Auxillia Chimusoro: The Unsung Hero published by Zimbabwe Women Writers. This book is about the life of one the earliest women in Zimbabwe to divulge their HIV status.
Tendai Kateketa Westerhof, an AIDS activist, of the Unlucky in Love fame, came on with her second book Dear Cousin published by Public Personalities Against Aids Trust last year.
Coming Home, a book which tracks a character’s journey from exile to his home country written by the late Olley Tsino Maruma, was also published last year by Gonamombe Press. The author died during the 2009 festive season.
How many of these titles are circulating in Zimbabwe remains a matter of conjecture. The diminishing reading culture remains a setback. With the snail-paced economic transition the country is going through, many Zimbabweans would rather first seek the dollar before they settle down to read a book.

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