My Brilliant Friend from Zimbabwe. About Tsitsi Dangarembga's novels
A young girl from a poor family fighting to get the education she wants, but which is primarily reserved for her brother. A beautiful and worldly friend who brings her out of her shell. The history of a region told through the childhood of a young girl.
This could be the description of Elena Ferrante’s Naples Quartet, but in fact it describes the trilogy of Tsitsi Dangarembga, began several decades earlier.
In this trilogy, we follow the young girl Tambudzai from her childhood in colonised Rhodesia, through adolescence during the liberation war to the young woman attempting to carve out a life for herself in an independent, but disillusioned, Zimbabwe.
How are these novels read today? And why is it that many of the most central authors from the African continent are still unfamiliar to many European readers?
Dangarembga has made her mark as a writer for more than 30 years. In 2021, she was the eighth writer to be included in the art project The Future Library in Oslo, and this Spring, she was awarded the Freedom of Expression Prize from the Norwegian Writers Union. Her novels have become modern classics, and a number of writers have been inspired by her nuanced portraits of a young girl, by how she renders girls’ and women’s fight for equal rights and how she tells the recent story of Zimbabwe through her fiction.
One of the writers inspired by Dangarembga’s fiction, is Ethiopian Maaza Mengiste. She has also employed the novel to tell the story of a country in her books Beneath the Lion’s Gaze and The Shadow King.
Marjam Idriss is the author of the novel Jannikeevangeliet («The Gospel of Jannike»), a literary critic and a translator of names such as Audre Lorde and Amanda Gorman. This Spring, she has delved into Dangarembga’s body of work.
Tonje Vold is a professor at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo. She wrote her thesis about Tsitsi Dangarembga, and her research has focused especially on postcolonial literature and literature from Southern Africa.
Moderating the conversation is writer and former artistic director at the House of Literature, Andreas Liebe Delsett.
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