Start your review of An Elegy for Easterly Write a review Shelves: black-writers , african-writers Before reviewing An Elegy for Easterly, I wanted to rant a little bit about publishing politics and my frustration with the lack of writers of color that get published. The well-known publishing house Faber is launching a special publishing programme to mark its 90th anniversary in , featuring short stories, poetry and new branding. Are you actually kidding me? This just pisses me off.

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The tone of each one is perfect: the language is consistently beautiful but also completely natural. You get to know the characters very quickly, through small details artfully described, and are left at just the right moment to move on to the next tale.

Perhaps the lament is not so much for the country itself as for the people who have suffered so much. In many of the stories, the humour is very real and genuinely funny, and yet it feels like a thin veneer which Gappah deliberately lets slip every now and then, exposing the horror underneath.

My favourite story, though, has no real humour. The title refers to the hope that relatives in the UK will either return or send back money or gifts for their families. With the collapse of the economy, a few UK pounds is millions of Zimbabwe dollars, and can help a family to survive. But it gradually becomes clear that what this particular family is waiting for is the coffin of their son, Peter.

And what follows is a tragic, drawn-out description of the anxious waiting for weeks and weeks, interspersed with explanations of what brought Peter and the family to this point, all the sacrifices and mistakes and disappointments.

But this particular story really got to me more than all the others. Which brings me back to the tone. When describing suffering, and especially when interspersing it with humour, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid: melodrama, tastelessness, didacticism and exploitation to name but a few. Gappah skips effortlessly through the minefield, achieving just the right tone in every story. Almost all are set in the Zimbabwe of the dictator Robert Mugabe, sometimes with a minor backstory from the time of the guerrilla war.

In the one story set outside Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwean man whose life and understanding are constrained by the various kinds of poverty he brings with him from Zimbabwe tries to cope in Europe but is betrayed by his own limitations and by other Africans. Readers will see the latter kind of understated, almost hidden, I liked these stories separately and together. One of the pleasures of reading fiction is your encounter with different customs and attitudes—even though they are based on feelings that are not so different from those we know at home.

But though Gappah is a Zimbabwean she is a citizen of a much larger world. So she when she writes about Zimbabwe, she has the perspective of binocular vision. On the other hand, the universals of human feeling and problems are the core of these stories.

Beyond that, though, it is striking to me how very many of the details, including the flaws and outrages of dictatorship, are very much like our own. In "The Mupandawana Dancing Champion," a character tells a joke about Zimbabwe supporters of the ruling elite who appears at the Pearly Gates asking admission to Heaven. Peter is taken aback and runs to see God about whether to admit them. God say that even the those of the elite are His children, whereupon St. In the same story, the main character, about to retire, learns that his employer has used his pension money elsewhere and is now going out of business, leaving the employee two pair of ill-fitting shoes instead of a pension.

As happens in America, too, because Congress in inviting employers to set up pension plans provided zero security for the money.

The first three stories especially pursue the themes of power vs. But as formally simple as most of these stories are, they are not simple good guys against bad guys. The powerless victim may after all find a way to strike back. Or may turn against other powerless people. As important as victimizers are in some of the stories, virtually all the stories are precisely focused on the relationships of particular human individuals--their growth, their disintegration, their ongoingness and sometimes renewal.

Sometimes the power abuse is simply part of the background, like the kind of cigarettes characters smoke, and the real story is about the human beings, particularly in their relationships with one another. At other times, Gappah integrates the story of power with the story of individual relationships.


An Elegy for Easterly

Akilabar An Elegy for Easterly For the first time he realized that Easterly was still awake, unusually so; it was well after eelgy and yet here were people gathered around in knots in the moonlight. An Elegy for Easterly: I loved the vivid life in these stories. The hunger for a woman came over him. At other times, Gappah integrates the story of power with the story of individual relationships. I use a lot of Shona in my writing because I write about Zimbabweans who speak Shona. Explore the Home Gift Guide.


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An Elegy for Easterly: Stories


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