At only 112 pages long, Chenjerai Hove’s Bones is by no means small in context or theme. Rather, it is a complex story often looking concurrently into the future and the present. Hove’s style of writing is outstanding and unique in its own right: poetic in nature and employs the traditional Shona way of telling a story. In fact, the narrative is more akin to telling children a story in the night-time gathered around fire. In that way, every child listening to the storyteller has a chance of both listening to the story and contributing to it.
Bones tells the story of a Zimbabwean farm-worker, Marita, looking for his only son who has gone on to fight in the Zimbabwean War of Liberation as a freedom fighter. Marita is a strong and courageous woman, a farm worker who promises herself to be happy when she finds her son, the freedom fighter:
“MARITA, what will you do if you find your son?
Child, how can you ask me such a question
Çhokwadi, I want to know what you will do when you find your son.
Í will be happy.
Yes. Just that. The things that trouble my heart will go away. I will be happy.” p43
Life on the farm, the farm on which hard-working women like Marita work, is gloomy and unpleasant because Manyepo slaves them into working, and screams at them.
“Manyepo was here, fuming as if the villagers had annoyed him by coming to offer their sweat to him. He growled like a lion with little ones… Did someone say I was opening a refugee camp? … People must learn to work, not to loiter around as if waiting for manna from heaven.” p39
With the future spelt clear before us, the question is has Robert Mugabe achieved for Zimbabwe what the freedom fighters stood for in the cause of the liberation war. Hove’s Bones could be a fast read but hugely demands patience to run through till the last page.
First published in 1988 by Baobab Books, Hove’s Bones won the 1989 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.