An Elegy for Easterly

An Elegy for Easterly

By Petina Gappah

Faber and Faber – £12.99

To describe An Elegy for Easterly as a spirited piece of work is akin to saying Paul McCartney has a way with melody. These thirteen short stories by Zimbabwean authoress Petina Gappah are so readable, yet gut wrenching in soaring sincerity and trip-switch sobriety – I occasionally found myself (inadvertently) starring into the abyss.

An abyss, wherein my disbelief and hesitation – in acknowledging that many regions of Africa have been subsumed into an ideologically vile and potentially violent lottery – were repeatedly knocked senseless. For why is it that in this day and age of Television and the Internet, The UN and The UN Security Council, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that such an odious Fuck as Robert Mugabe and his ghastly collection of corrupt cronies, are still FREELY ALLOWED to literally bleed Zimbabwe to death?

Why is that?

And why is it that such a profoundly honest and well-written book such as this, will probably be allowed to fall on deaf ears? And I don’t mean deaf ears in the literary world, but rather, that of the humanistic world.

What’s left of it.

Such is the colourful language and courageous depiction of modern day Zimbabwe throughout An Elegy for Easterly, I’m inclined to suggest all nagging and fleeting ailments readers may have had at the outset, will, by its conclusion, have evaporated into nothing other than mere particles of dust.

‘’Each heartbreak is a little death,’’ writes Gappah in ‘The Annexe Shuffle,’ while in relation to a royal visit in ‘An Elegy for Easterly,’ the authoress more than eloquently writes of an entire nation’s heartbreak: ‘’She did not come with those who arrived after the government cleaned the townships to make Harare pristine for the three-day visit of the Queen of England. All the women who walk alone at night are prostitutes, the government said – lock them up, the Queen is coming. There are illegal structures in the townships they said – clean them up. The townships are too full of people, they said, gather them up and put them in the places the Queen will not see […]. Allow them temporary structures, and promise them real walls and doors, windows and toilets.

And so the government hid away the poverty, the people put on plastic smiles and the City Council planted new flowers in the streets.

Long after the memories of the Queen’s visit had faded, and the broken arms of the arrested women were healed, Easterly Farm took root. The first wave was followed by the second, and by another, and yet another […].’’

Petina Gappah is a proud writer, who herein writes of a nation’s relentless resistance and lust for life; neither of which come particularly easy, especially in a country where an ‘’army of men are paid to get offended on behalf of the ruling party’’ (‘The Mupandawana Dancing Champion’).

As An Elegy for Easterly makes abundantly clear, where there’s hope, there’s a future – and here’s to Zimbabwe’s.

David Marx


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