Those of us who came of age in the business of literature in the 80s and 90s knew that beside Nigeria who boasted of Achebe and Soyinka, among others, and beside Kenya and perhaps South Africa, Zimbabwe is the, should I say? African preeminent literary powerhouse. I don't know whether I got this right. Well, I think I did. Just think of names like Marechera who mesmerized us all with the existentialist bent of his writings; Yvonne Vera, who pulled at the lyrical strings of our souls. Or Chenjerai Hove etc etc. Then Mugabe suddenly reminded us all what we hate about African leaders: they love to die in office, of course, having sent uncountable others to their early graves.
Anyway, literature, like many other things went into a kind of winter sleep. Like the polar bears.
But then the human spirit never dies. Zimbabwe experiences a cultural renaissance in the narrative art now. Petina Gappah and Brian Chikwava blaze the trail in this regard. I have heard that many more are following their example.
Here is a review of their works by Aminatta Forna. I thought that the review was excellent. I had to read this sentence more than three times, though: "Through humour and compassion, she depicts that most quintessential of African characteristics: the ability to laugh at life, for fear of crying."
Quintessential African characteristics? Hmmm.