Not Another Day 

Not Another Day

I was invited the other night to the launch of Not Another Day, Julius Chingono’s new book of short stories and poetry. Chingono is a Zimbabwean poet and writer whose work has been featured in many local and international collections, and whose poetry appears on Poetry International.

At 60, Chingono is younger than my mother. But he looks old enough to be my grandfather. Maybe it was the strain of growing up on a commercial farm, the harshness of a long life as a mine blaster, or the general struggle of rural life in Zimbabwe, but something has aged him quickly. His gap-toothed tobacco stained smile comes easily, but his gentle eyes, weather beaten cheeks and ragged white beard frame the face of a many who has known pain.

His wife came along to the launch. She sat quietly at a table in her simple clothes, a black headscarf wrapped tight around her skull. A rural woman, she looked out of place in the young, vibey, urban atmosphere of Harare’s Book Café.

Chingono’s work is striking, no-holds-barred writing that catches you off guard with an impressive combination of humour and honesty. As it says on the back of the book, “Chingono is a compassionate writer. Many of the characters are facing poverty, tragedy, or violence. But he gives them hope and strength. He can inject funerals with farce, and find courage in unlikely places.”

His poem “Subjects” gives a taste of his style:

From my bedroom window
I watch them
walk down the road
they pretend
they are not subjects
of a despot
they saunter
down the street
as if they’ve had
a square meal
as if they can enjoy
the sunshine
they will not let
the world know
for fear of their skin
yet their ordeal still smells
like a subdued fart.

Zimbabwe is a country of storytellers, and has a strong oral tradition. But its fiction industry is weak, with Weaver Press, Chingono’s publisher, one of the few publishing houses in the country. Many authors struggle to make a living with their writing. Fear and intimidation also hold many would-be authors back if they believe their work would be perceived as “too critical” or “too political,” thus jeopardising their own security or that of their family. Authors like Chenjerai Hove and Brian Chikwava currently live overseas.

But Chingono’s book is a brave, honest, thoughtful account of modern life in Zimbabwe. He comments on many of the issues facing Zimbabweans today—HIV/AIDS, poverty, and the youth militia, among others. As my best friend once told me, to love Zimbabwe, you have to know both its beauty and its harshness. It is clear Chingono loves his country.

For more Zimbabwean literature and poetry visit:

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Comment ringtones free

Mon Sep 4, 2006 2:29 pm MST by

Comment Wonderful poem. And so lovely to hear the Book Cafe' is still going strong.

Fri May 19, 2006 3:45 am MST by ExAfrica

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