Book of the Week: 03/25 - 03/31


Nervous Conditions

BY Tsitsi Dangarembga

A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.



Tsitsi Dangarembga, an African writer and director, was born in 1959 in Mutoko, colonial Rhodesia. Ages two through six she spent with her family in England. After returning to Rhodesia she finished her education in a missionary school in the City of Mutare, upon completion of which Dangarembga returned to Britain to attend Cambridge University. There she pursued a course of study in medicine.  In 1980 Dangarembga returned to her motherland right before it became Zimbabwe under black-majority rule. She continued studies at the University of Harare and joined a drama group affiliated with the university, for which she wrote and performed. Seeing the inequitable representation of women in the African cinema, Dangarembga got involved in Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ) and studied in Berlin at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie. She made many film productions, several of which were acknowledged on the world scale, such as “Everyone’s Child” and “Elephant People.”

In 1985 Danagremba published a short story “The Letter,” and then two years later – a play entitled “She No Longer Weeps”. However, the real success came to Dangarembga with the novel Nervous Conditions, the first novel written by a black Zimbabwean woman to be published in English. In 1989 the novel won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Partly autobiographical, the book set in colonial Rhodesia describes the challenges of the oppressive patriarchal system and reveals the deep social alienation that stems from political and mental state of dependence inflicted by colonialism.