Bite-size Review: The House of Hunger | Dambudzo Marechera

AFRIKULT.’S OVERALL RATING: 

The House of Hunger | Dambudzo Marechera

House of Hunger as the title of Marechera’s novella effectively captures the cynicism and despair of Zimbabwe’s sociopolitical reality at the time of Ian Smiths controversial administration. Society is ‘hungry’ for political self-determination and retribution; yet through the skilfully crafted narrative it becomes more than just a comment on society, Marechera unapologetically forces his reader to critically engage with the enormity of colonialism’s impact. The repetitive use of visceral language combined with the powerful imagery it evokes creates a stagnant and cramped environment in which the unnamed protagonist and his counterparts attempt to survive. Through certain characters Marechera questions the nature of survival itself, in the sense that if the mind has been irrevocably damaged, how will it interpret the future? It becomes strikingly apparent that the systematically exploited bare their scares internally which conditions their behaviour and shapes their identity. This novella is filled with guttural metaphors that emphasise the multifaceted nature of political tensions in Zimbabwe; tensions between the Rhodesian administration and nationalist guerrilla movements, but also between ZANU and ZAPU in their identical wish to be the forbearers of national liberation. This national struggle of political determination is juxtaposed to the individuals own struggle with identity in a society riddled with gaping inequality. Despite the complexity of his writing style, Dambudzo Marechera’s ability to illustrate deeply significant historical events in such arresting ways coupled with his crudely refreshing use of language make this short novella a provocatively absorbing must-read.

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