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A Modern Classic In The African Literary Canon And Voted In The Top Ten Africa S Best Books Of The Th 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

10 thoughts on “Nervous Conditions

  1. says:

    Last year I discovered the writing of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Writing contemporary accounts of Nigerians in both Africa and in the United States and England, Adichie has becoming a leading African feminist voice Before Adichie, thirty years ago Tsitsi Dangarembga attempted to assert rights for African women in both her writing and film making Needing an African classic for my classics bingo this year, I decided upon Dangarembga s debut autobiographical novel, Nervous Conditions, which is influential enough to be included in the book 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Baumeister Reading through the books in this anthology is a personal ongoing challenge of mine, so I was happy to immerse myself in Dangarembga s work.From Zimbabwe and educated in Germany, Dangarembga wanted to expose her children to Africa and returned as an adult She bases the story in this novel on her own upbringing and it is evident from the opening pages Readers meet Tambudzai, a precocious rural African girl who has no future other than living on a Rhodesian homestead with her family until she marries Her uncle Babamukara decided his future at age nine when he started school and reached the top of class Later on a scholarship, he attended secondary school and university in South Africa and later England His wife Maiguru has been equally educated, and through their education, the couple become the headmaster and head mistress at a prestigious missionary school in central Rhodesia It is through this education that Babamukara attempts to uplift his entire family so that they are viewed as the most prestigious members or Rhodesian society It is in this regard that he sponsors the education of Tambudzai s brother Nhambo As the eldest sibling and only boy, the future hinges on Nhambo to use education to uplift his family away from their primitive conditions.Like Babamukara s children Nyasha and Chido who have been educated in England and at the missionary school for their entire lives, Nhambo develops a sense of arrogance towards his family, especially toward his younger sisters reminding them that they are girls and that the homestead is their future Then, through Tambudzai s narration, Dambarembga writes of the opportunity that Tambudzai gains At age fourteen, tragedy strikes at the mission, Nhambo develops the mumps and dies in mere days The mother is beside herself even though is less developed societies the death of one s children is commonplace Babamukara decides to sponsor Tambudzai s education because he feels that the family still needs someone to lift it out of poverty As a result, Tambu moves into her uncle and aunt s care, away from the homestead and poverty, and into a luxurious life.As in many coming of age books, Nervous Conditions is not without conflict Tambudzai is taken under Nyasha s wing and views firsthand how life in England has made her arrogant and vows not to repeat this behavior Babamukara praises Tambudzai as a model child and wishes that his own daughter would follow in suit Nyasha, unfortunately, by the time she reaches puberty is English than African and some of her disdain for primitive Africa has rubbed off on Tambudzai While Tambudzai still loves her family and wishes her sisters the best, she finds it harder and harder to return to the homestead with each passing vacation There is no electricity or plumbing or books and life on the Rhodesian plane has become tougher to face Tambudzai finds faults in both of her parents and wish that they would adhere to her uncle s example of using education as a means of bettering oneself in society Yet, her father is the laziest member in his family, and her mother having had no education and married since age fifteen have no future ahead of them Tambudzai does not forget the upbringing that she came from, but on her later visits home she vows to achieve as much education as possible for a female from her era in order to lift her family out of its primitive conditions once and for all.In the past few years I have not enjoyed coming of age books I find as the protagonists are the age of my children that I suffer from a generation gap in my reading During the last few months, I have read quality coming of age fiction, offering me hope for the genre moving forward Tsitsi Dangarembga is an example of how education has lifted her out of poverty Primitive lifestyles and few rights for women are still issues facing Africans today, so when Nervous Conditions was first published in 1988, the work was considered groundbreaking Dangarembga has paved the way so that authors like Adichie have a platform today, and for that I feel privileged to have had read her work In recent years, she has written two follow up novels so readers see where education has taken Tambudzai, and I look forward to following her on her journey through life.4.5 stars

  2. says:

    Identity is a powerful concept But how does one establish such a thing Conventionally it develops from childhood due to an association with home and place But what happens if your home is changing What happen if you re taken away from that home Indeed, if you are forced to accept another culture s ways and customs, who is the you that is left What nationality do you become These are the question Tambu has to ask herself She s a young black girl living in a small, rural, improvised village in postcolonial Rhodesia She initially believes that her ticket to self improvement is through education However, the only education available is the white man s education She learns to speak English, and eventually she looks back on her origins with an air of indifference and woe Not as much as her brother did, but to a degree that considers them underdeveloped and primitive Again, this is the white man s education coming through She has opportunities afforded to few, but is this a good thing if she comes to scorn her origins It s bad enough when a country gets colonized, but when the people do as well That s the end, really, that s the end She, like her cousin Nyasha, becomes a creature of flux, a hybrid, a person that walks between worlds and cultures without a true home She can no longer fit in with her kin at the village her intellect has gone beyond that But, she cannot fit into the white man s world because she is black She is too white to be black, and to black to be white Franz Fanon s Black Skins, White Masks arguments become thematic here he argued that to accept the white man s culture is to allow the African heritage to be destroyed It, in essence, leaves the black man wearing a white mask As well as being a black person, Tambu is also a woman in an incredibly misogynistic society She has to deal with the dominating nature of the patriarchal culture, and the oppression associated with it So, life for Tambu is rather shit because everyone treats her like shit Here s some terrible advice she receives when she is young Can you cook books and feed them to your husband Stay at home with your mother Learn to cook and clean Grow vegetables This is such a strong story with such a strong message In essence it s a response to Achebe s Things Fall Apart which is a response to Conrad s Heart of Darkness. So, that s lots of responses What the author is trying to portray, in a persuasive and compelling manner, is the voice of the colonised female, the voice of her ancestors and the effects on the everyday life of one living in postcolonial Africa Achebe s protagonist was incredibly misogynistic he beats women down In this, Tambu has a chance to prove her worth in such a male dominated society Her awakening does come very late in the novel it takes her a long time to realise the absurdity of her situation condition and it does eventually completely change her The novel is narrated retrospectively, so we do know it s coming, but it s still great to see her find her voice and become an empowered women By the end she develops the will to speak out and stand up for what she believes in Tambu comes to hate the men of her family she comes to hate every aspect of her situation she becomes hardened and convinced not to conform to the white man s way She s still got a lot of prejudice to wade through before the world accepts her, but I feel like she will get there You can t go on all the time being whatever s necessary You ve got to have some conviction, and I m convinced I don t want to be anyone s underdog This is a great coming of age story.

  3. says:

    Quietly, unobtrusively and extremely fitfully, something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things and refuse to be brainwashed, bringing me to this time when I can set down this story It was a long process for me, that process of expansion Thus ends the novel which started with the narrator s confession that she was not sorry when her brother died The painful process of expansion which made Tambu s story possible was blocked for many years blocked by the patriarchal system which provided education for men and exploited women s physical labour at home.When her brother dies, Tambu is allowed reluctantly to take his place Brainwashed to believe in her own inferiority, she enters the world of education at her godlike, patriarchal uncle s mission school, and she defers to his charismatic omnipotent rule But as she gets closer to her cousin Nyasha, she realises that there are other ways to perceive the world, once you have a comparison and a choice And she sees the power of women underneath the rule of ridiculously pompous men And recognising one s own strength is the first step to shake off injustice The victimisation, I saw, was universal It didn t depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition It didn t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them But what I didn t like was the way all the conflicts came back to this question of femaleness Femaleness as opposed to and inferior to maleness Tambu would have been surprised to discover how universal it REALLY is, that conflict she hates It goes beyond the question of race and colonialism and Christian versus tribe rites You find it in highly educated, modern and over privileged families in liberal democracies Men take it everywhere with them But of course the situation is extreme if you are a young, sensible and gifted girl in the clashing worlds of Christian bigotry and tribal patriarchy As a woman, you are barely human And you have to learn to play your cards well to survive in a society designed for and by men You have to know which fights to pick, and which ones to drop for your own safety Tambu and Nyasha learn to navigate the dominance of maleness and whiteness while they grow up side by side, but it is not without major sacrifices Tambu has to let go of her broken mother, and force her own way in order to make a change for herself Nyasha, a hybrid schooled in England, fights for her right to be an equal to men, and almost dies in the process, while taking out the punishment on herself as she develops bulimia and anorexia only to be told by a white psychiatrist that Africans don t have that kind of illness.The two girls support each other, with the help of their female relatives, and encourage each other to stay on the path of searching for their own identity, rather than to assimilate with Christian or tribal oppression In the most difficult times, education is not only a means to reach independence, but also a soothing medicine for repeatedly broken hearts and wills Most importantly, most wonderfully, there was the library, big, bright, walled in glass This novel should be required reading for the metoo generation It is as powerful as Things Fall Apart, but it adds the experience of the hidden world of women An inspiration on so many levels, I strongly recommend it to the world of today

  4. says:

    It uses the old method popular among novelists of highlighting the prevalent social injustice and conditions through a shocking event you know how Medea s killing her children reflected on patriarchy of her time, when Beloved s heroine kills her child it reflected on slavery Camus Outsider s narrator failed to feel any grief for his mother s loss reflecting the way how people are unable to feel a sense of belonging to our surroundings and so on, Before I had read Phaedra I thought her incestual intentions reflected on the unjust assumption where a woman expected to remain happily married to a man twice her age and take a man her own age as her stepson Here the event disclosed in the very first sentence is narrator s then a little girl inability to feel any remorse on the accidental death of her brother and reflects on unequal treatment of girl and boy child.One of the first African feminist novels what at first seems like a coming of age novel of a girl in Zimbawe expands to contain stories of other women around her At one point, the narrator points how the women are unable to react to a situation as they wish to and feel morally obliged to because the identity that the society and culture have imposed on them and which they have come to completely identify themselves with expects them to stay silent.It is unfortunate indeed to think of families where only one child would be able to get the education but to resist a better life style choice just because it seems western culture To be honest, I m not a big fan of those words culture and identity the only purpose they seem to serve is to confuse people and make them avoiding taking choices which will help them to live their lives to fullest I think it is foolish not to make a life style choice just because the community you identify with doesn t normally make such choice or its members aren t allowed to.And culture except for really first civilizations bronze age iron age great civilizations that were also really productive in sciences and arts have only shown up only in places where people have been willing to learn from different cultures Romans were willing to learn Greek Philosophies, Ottoman empire learned sciences and philosophies both from Romans and Indians, Mughals at their best Akbar, Shah Jahan, Jahangir had artists from every living culture in their courtrooms, renaissance artists were willing to adopt dead civilizations and gods of Greece Even colonial empires were in time of their rise translating literature of their colonies Russia s great literary periods were at best when authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy were studying ideas from around the world and ended slowly when they raised the Iron curtain USA s first became world power when it was willing to accept migrants from around the world More recently, the Latin American literary boom was the result of works by authors who refuse to limit their inspirations to Latin America It thus seems foolish to denounce something just because it wasn t first created or done in the country Okay now some ramblings on India there is nothing about the book itself.The problem of these confusing words is particularly relevant to India where there is always a talk of saving Aryan, Hindu and Indian culture There is a fallacious reasoning that just because something is being done for centuries, we should continue to do it Another very stupid belief is older is somehow better So Vedas are superior because they come earlier than other books and culture being first ancestors they deserve to be followed But if you go along this chain of reasoning we should rather be living on trees because we lived on trees even before we wrote books and monkeys are our real ancestors Also, think of it, the practise of Sati was defended on cultural reasons IMO, culture should not be thought of as a guide to direct our future but in terms of footsteps left behind by society.Moreover, all this talk about saving culture is always raised when it is a question of maintaining some sort of maintaining some sort of injustice typical examples include the protests against reservations for SC ST when they were first made, protests against Hindu marriage act because it divided property equally between all heirs rather than merely male heirs and legalized divorces and now there are similar protests against a similar reform law for Muslims Same thing with those goon attacks on pubs Have you ever wondered what part of pub culture is not Indian A pub is just a public drinking place and such public drinking places were always there in India What are called pubs are merely fashionable It isn t drinking itself these culture protectionists are against or they would have attacked alcohol factories It is not men getting drunk or getting drunk in public they are against again those things that has always been done in India You might for once think their problem is presence women at those places but wrong the problem is not the fact of the presence of women itself but who those women are You see these goons maintain a list of actions that a good man can do but good women can t And so okay, this lecture just got boring and I feel sleepy

  5. says:

    We first meet Tambudzai, or Tambu as she is commonly called, as she talks about her brother I was not sorry when my brother died Nor am I apologising for my callousness, my lack of feeling For it is not that at all I feel many things these days, much than I was able to feel in the days when I was young and my brother died, and there are reasons for this than the mere consequences of age. p 1 From this opening, introducing us to thirteen year old Tambu, we enter the world of a young girl on the brink of becoming a young woman in a patriarchal African society of the late 1960s, not far removed from colonial times, where she and all of the women around her nervously await the decisions of the highest male in the family as to their future For Tambu wants to go to school But her older brother, her only brother will be the one educated for she is, after all female.Thus part of the meaning of the opening sentence Would she now have a chance Tambu speaks to the reader of all she encounters at home in the run down homestead, of her dreams of an education at the Mission School, the reality of her extended family as she begins to understand the hierarchical structures around her and where she fits or doesn t The family patriarch, her uncle, seems god like to her, with his English education and degrees and power at the school He is the family decision maker.Life is full of questions that can t be asked and answers that are elusive All Tambu knows is that she loves learning and striving for something beyond what she has had And as she slowly grasps and understanding of her place, she sees that she is just one of the many women she knows who are struggling with life, that the usual goals of a little learning and early marriage are not her goals How can I describe the sensations that swamped me when Babamukuru started his car, with me in the front seat beside him, on the day I left home It was relief, but than that It was than excitement and anticipation What I experienced that day was a short cut, a rerouting of everything I had ever defined as me into fast lanes that would speedily lead me to my destination There was no room for what I left behind My father, as affably, shallowly agreeable as ever, was insignificant My mother, my anxious mother, was no than another piece of surplus scenery to be maintained, of course to be maintained, but all the same superfluous, an obstacle in the path of my departure. p 58 Tambu is ready to leave it all behind for the shining world ahead But this new world holds a multitude of everyday complexities that add to her nervousness, Sit down, my child, invited Babamukuru cordially as I tiptoed into the living room Actually, I walked in normally, placing my whole foot on the floor, but it felt like tiptoeing, so respectful was my gait On the seat, my child, on the seat, he added, as I sank humbly to the carpet in the corner next to the doorway I stood up, but hesitated, not knowing where to sit It was a complex problem Babamukuru was sitting in his armchairwhile Maiguru sat at one end of the sofa There was room on the sofa between Maiguru and Babmukuru s chair, as well as an unoccupied armchair beside Babamukuru, but I could not take those seats since it would not do to sit so disrespectfully close to my uncle. p 87 Thankfully there was another chair The levels of behavior Tambu worked to maintain every day were part of the general nervous condition that builds, higher in some than in others Some women are seen striving for independence in small, individual ways while others may break under an unrelenting system She slowly begins to see that women around her, even the highly educated Maiguru, lose out in this system Your uncle wouldn t be able to do half the things he does if I didn t work as well You must earn a lot of money, I breathed in awe My aunt laughed and said she never received her salary I was aghast What happens to your money The money that you earn Does the government take it You could say that, my aunt laughed, forcing herself to be merry again but not succeeding What it isto have to choose between self and security When I was in England I glimpsed for a little while the things I could have been, the things I could have done if if if things were different But there was Babawa Chido and the children and the family As for me, no one even thinks about the things I gave up p 103 Tambu is observing relationships and realities, especially that between men and women, and coming to the realization that women all around her, and herself included, were victims of the male s assumed superiority The victimisation, I saw, was universal It didn t depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition It didn t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them Even heroes like Babamukuru did it And that was the problem what I didn t like was the way all the conflicts came back to this question of femaleness Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness. p 118 This is an exciting book to read, and an important book too, highlighting as it does important social issues of a country I wish to understand better while also dealing with human issues that affect us all Using the coming of age form, Dangarembga has created a novel that reveals, teaches and inspires It has become a classic in Africa and really should be well known world wide.Initially rated 4 to 4.5 but now, after thinking about the book as I wrote, I am changing the rating to 5.

  6. says:

    This is one of those books I went into reading not knowing anything about it, other than Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author I ve known about the book s existence for a while, have even picked it before but I have to admit the title itself has always prevented me from reading it There s not really a good reason for that But you know how sometimes you re drawn to a certain shirt because the color appeals to your eyes Or you re turned off by a certain song because there s a chord that really bugs the shit out of you I have experiences like that with books something about a title can really work for me and I ll read the shit out of it Or alternatively a title can strike feel discordant.This is one of those titles.I think the word nervous in the title makes me well, nervous I can be a somewhat anxious person by nature, and so over the last year or so, and while that s something I m working on keeping under control, I try not to indulge in things that might make me extra nervous Like reading a book with the word nervous in the title.Laugh at me if you will, it s okay.But now that I ve read the book, I am so glad I did The first couple chapters were a bit slow They were engaging enough to make me want to keep reading, but I wasn t feeling the story yet I feel now that was purposeful Once I made it through the first couple of chapters, I realized that I, the reader, was growing alongside Tambu, the narrator of this story This is Tambu s story written years later, reflecting on when she was first 9 years old at the end of the Sixties.The first sentence packs a punch and I wanted to know about that and those circumstances, but I have to admit that the resolution of that was anticlimactic and not terribly interesting after all The real meat of the story is the rest of what happens Tambu leaving her home and going to live with her uncle and his family in a mission, her relationship with them, with her cousin Nyasha with whom she shares a room at the mission, her relationship with herself and her family back home It s all very well done and I feel the story writing only gets stronger as the story progresses.What I was surprised by was just how little Dangarembga shied away from discussing some really sensitive matters A lot of stories along these lines especially of the coming of age sort can sort of sidestep the major issues, or refer to them in a terribly subtle way, letting the reader work things out for themselves But here Dangarembga holds a mirror up to some serious issues and calls them out for what they are, especially race and prejudice , colonialism, and feminism.One of my favorite parts of the book involves a conversation Tambu has early on with her mother about the burden of being not only black but also a woman, and this theme carries on throughout the whole story That early conversation deeply affects Tambu and I wonder now if her mother phrased things the way she did in order to spark a little fire under Tambu s ass so she would be inspired to create a different existence for herself than what was expected of her as an African girl.The story is powerful, and short I know there is a sequel though it seems to be even harder to get my paws on than this one was, which is hard to believe since out of all the libraries in Pittsburgh there is literally only one copy of this book I m surprised that this isn t required reading in school, particularly in my own education I would have expected this would have ranked highly on required reading for me in college, but somehow it was not.I want people to read this book.

  7. says:

    This book takes its title and epigraph from an introduction to The Wretched of the Earth, which I ve been reading slowly for several weeks It was really wonderful to read this, partly as an illustration of some of Fanon s ideas, and as a female perspective that answers and critiques Fanon s highly male centric account of the colonised subject.But forget every other book and every other author from the incendiary opening sentence to the fraught and nervous close, this story held me heart and soul 14 year old Tambudzai is my ideal narrator, sharp, sensible, caring, social and respectful but independent of mind, na ve but quick to learn, occasionally daunted or overshadowed, but considered in her responses Despite the ominous and shocking beginning, she emerges in contrast to her brother as a sympathetic character unlike him, she values her local community and natural environment, and works hard on the farm and in the house with her parents and siblings, the poorest branch of the extended family She is thoughtful towards her mother, appreciative of her helpful younger sister, caring for the toddler Her academic talents are equal to her strong motivation to become educated like her wealthier uncle and aunt, but circumstances and family members initially thwart her ambitions.If this sounds like other coming of age tales, then maybe it is, but aside from being movingly and believeably told, it s rich in on point analysis and insight, never spelled out but always elegantly demonstrated For example, Tambu tells at some length, and amusingly, how her brother, Nhamo, forgot how to speak Shona after spending time living with their uncle and studying at the mission schoolA few words escaped haltingly, ungrammatically and strangely accented when he spoke to my mother, but he did not speak to her very often any He talked most fluently with my father They had long conversations in English, which Nhamo broke into small irregular syllables and which my father chopped into smaller and even rougher phonemes Father was pleased with Nhamo s command of the English language He said it was the first step in the family s emancipation since we could all improve our language by practising on Nhamo But he was the only one who was impressed by this inexplicable state my brother had developed The rest of us spoke to Nhamo in Shona, to which, when he did answer, he answered in English, making a point of speaking slowly, deliberately, enunciating each syllable clearly so that we could understand This restricted communication to mundane insignificant matters.But the situation was not entirely hopeless When a significant issue did arise so that it was necessary to discuss matters in depth, Nhamo s Shona grammar, vocabulary, accent and all would miraculously return for the duration of the discussionI have included this lengthy quotation because I wanted to show how subtly Tsitsi Dangarembga uses a passage like this to place each person in relation to the issue at hand this technique is consistently used to develop characters, relationships, social positions, and the different effects interaction with colonial ideologies has on all of them Sense of place is developed lovingly yet without lengthy description Tambu s grounded, benefit of hindsight, no nonsense narration somehow captures every atmosphere perfectly with control of pacing, sentence length, dialogue and emotional commentary Changes of scene make this carefully constructed ambiance apparent for example when a teacher takes Tambu to town in his car The journey, though dreamlike and extraordinary, is atmospherically contiguous with the walk from the homestead to the village, but the town is jarring The scene in the town, where Tambu encounters white people, made me laugh out loud, so incisively does it expose the whites ignorance and prejudices.Tambu s relationship with and admiration for her cousin Nyasha reminded me of My Brilliant Friend and Wench both of which have a close female friendship in which the less extraordinary one of the pair is the viewpoint character As I reflected about Wench this is a good strategy for relateability, because admiring a charismatic person is a familiar experience than being one Further to this, in the interview at the end of this edition, Tsitsi Dangarembga shares that she chose to tell the story from Tambudzai s viewpoint, rather than that of Nyasha, daughter of that family s most privileged patriarch, so that people would be able to relate to it, people in the area of Zimbabwe who live like Tambu This reveals that Tsitsi Dangarembga did not write this novel in or for the white gaze, as Kwame Anthony Appiah also points out in the introduction Of course, I implacably embody that gaze however much I want and work to abolish whiteness, but I still strongly feel that the story is all the effective and enjoyable for not being styled for a white audience, even though I didn t always understand the honorifics and everyday Shona words scattered around Nyasha, though materially privileged and extremely intelligent, is in the most literal nervous condition of all Her early life experience of living in England has made her into a hybrid , and she no longer fits in with her family or school friends She calls her experiences in England exposure , which suggests something traumatic and damaging Her problem is clearly not merely an excess of knowledge and it goes beyond a shift in beliefs she is in a state of dis ease with her own self, holding contractory desires that threaten to tear her apart But Dangarembga does not present the nervous conditions that affect Nyasha and Nhamo as inevitable Nyasha fights towards a subjecthood she can survive, and while Tambu is grateful for some aspects of Nyasha s guidance, she is able to remain critical of some of her cousin s actions and ideas, and she resists the influences that Nhamo succumbed to Nyasha s brother Chido also seems to have retained a degree of balance His explanation of how he got into a pretigious mixed black and white school is every bit as acute in its analysis of coloniser colonised relations as anything in Fanon The narrative is thoroughly female centred, and highly critical of the patriarchal ordering of society Tambu is furious with her brother for exploiting his power over his sisters to be lazy, for example Yet the situation is complex with her aunt, Maiguru,highly educated wife of the rich uncle Mukoma known to Tambu as Babamukuru Tambu admires her uncle, her family s head and benefactor, so intensely, that she continually rationalises his treatment of Maiguru to make it seem acceptable and correct Other women characters extend the range of perspectives, strategies of accommodation or resistance, and complexity of the social fabric that Dangarembga shows us I think the characterisation is so acute throughout because it s relational, each person comes to life in her or his response and relation to others In this light Tambu s experience of finding subjectivity, through many separations, is both liberating and unsettling.

  8. says:

    This is the novel we have been waiting for, said Doris Lessing I am sure it will be a classic And it is it ranks on the ASC s Top 12 of 20th Century Africa What Lessing was waiting for was feminism, and to call this Things Fall Apart for girls is a simplification but it ll do if you need to describe it in five words.Like Achebe s classic, Nervous Conditions 1988, set in 1968 is about the conflux between African society and white interference Its two main characters narrator Tambu and her cousin Nyasha react to it in different ways, Tambu going with it and Nyasha resisting You can t go in all the time being whatever s necessary, Nyasha tells Tabu You ve got to have some conviction, and I m convinced I don t want to be anyone s underdog view spoiler That rebellion costs Nyasha she develops bulimia and nearly manages to kill herself hide spoiler

  9. says:

    Some texts have been studied, reviewed, analyzed, and criticized so much that there is little left to say about them Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga is such a text All that is left for now is personal until some new form of critical or cultural theory descends upon us to offer an additional insightful interpretation It is a coming of age story mainly around two characters, Tambu and Nyasha The story is narrated by Tambu, the focal character, who is sometimes the I and sometimes the peripheral narrator I thought Dangarembga handled this rather well, as it shortened the distance between narration and emotion without going into the omniscient point of view However, we do have Tambu filtering all the emotions for us rather than experiencing them from the source characters There are several layers running through this book with all the themes you could possibly want postcolonialism, feminism, identity, Marxism, tribalism yet, at no point is this cocktail jarring, because at its heart it is simply a good story with fully rounded characters And that is really saying something Nevertheless, that is not to imply that this book is not without some unusual choices and glitches regarding the craft of writing.What surprised me was Dangarembga s choice of narrative distance by having Tambu narrate the story from a distant future, looking back at everything in hindsight, it made it harder to appreciate the peripheral characters as they became distanced and filtered through the eyes of Tambu who is now wiser and knows better This juxtaposition did not sit well with me, having a young child narrator with the voice of an older self was simply unnecessary and completely avoidable by positioning the narrator in the present tense with the characters as events unfold Consider this paragraph where we shift quickly from the immediate action young present day Tambu to a narrative analysis older and reflective narrator Tambu Nayasha, I said as she walked past me, but she did not answer I followed her to the servants quarters, where we sat, she smoking a cigarette held between shaking fingers and I feeling bad for her and thinking how dreadfully familiar that scene had been, with Babamukuru condemning Nyasha to whoredom, making her a victim of her femaleness, just as I held felt victimized at home in the days when Nhamo went to school and I grew my maize The victimization, I saw, was universal It didn t depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition It didn t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them Even heroes like Babamukuru did it And that was the problem You had to admit that Nyasha had no tact You had to admit she was altogether too volatile and strong willed You couldn t ignore the fact that she had no respect for Babamukuru when she ought to have had lots of it But what I didn t like was the way all conflicts came back to this question of femaleness Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness.There is a message so important here that actually summarizes rather nicely the crux of this book Yet it feels like Dangarembga choice of narration was made in order to be so vociferous with such a message In other words, she has created the opportunity to tell us She could easily show us which she already has earlier by keeping the story in the present, i.e young Tambu, without any overarching, reflective narration.And then there was an odd moment that made little sense Having grown accustomed to Tambu and her perspectives we are about 75% through in the book , she is faced with the wedding ceremony of her parents, she agonizes about not wanting to attend, and we see how hard she takes it, but the reason why it is so hard makes little sense There is either something not well revealed from Tambu s psyche to the reader, or there is some kind of cultural undertone that has not been properly exposed, because saying The whole business reduced my parents to the level of the stars of a comic show, the entertainers I did not want to see them brought down like that and I certainly did not want to be part of it So I could not approve of the wedding does not cut it It is too weak an argument with what we are currently privy to.On a different note, there were a few instances of excruciating agony with over detailed narration Again, out of character but of a vociferous opportunity for cultural exposition For example, in one instance, there was a feast to be prepared and we had to read for several pages long about every detail concerning the making of the food, the dresses, the attendees etc when all this were it relevant could have been easily shown in a scene of the feast It was simply too much minute detail that did not add anything to the characterization, plot, or themes, and we are too far into the book for further development of the same setting.Finally, returning to the narrative distance construction, there was one other point, at the opening of Chapter Six, that frustrated because we have a young Tambu arriving at the mission, but we hear the older Tambu making a clear reference to Conrad s infamous take on the African The Whites on the mission were a special kind of white person, special in the way that my grandmother had explained to me, for they were holy They had come not to take but to give They were about God s business here in darkest Africa.Now Conrad s classic Heart of Darkness, brilliant in its own right, is sometimes the bane of some postcolonial African writers For example, Achebe said Conrad is a bloody racist in his essay An Image of Africa It would seem the Dangarembga is on Achebe s camp here as she singles out Conrad by indirectly referencing him The only other western literary reference we have in this book is earlier when Nyasha is reading Lawrence s Lady Chatterley s Lover to which her father objects and takes it away Referencing Heart of Darkness when Tambu arrives at the mission, a milestone in her life and on the reader s journey in this book, is an unnecessarily loaded gun with a pulled trigger than never fires Cedric Watts in his essay A Bloody Racist argues that both Conrad and Achebe are on the same camp, it is easy half a century later to say Conrad is a racist when in fact his knowledge is limited to the context in which he was in, and despite that, he used satire as a poetic license to depict the African, and not to disrespect, so it is a pity that Achebe saw Conrad as a racist It is a well argued essay What I take from it is this the same actions are sometimes depicted but with different intentions do we judge the act or the intention As far as I know, we judge the act, and the intention the cause is left undiagnosed.But this is the kind of thing I think of and start researching, certainly the loaded gun did not need to be present in Tambu s story It did not serve it at that point.All in all, it is an impressive story told by a novelist who was writing her first book in Zimbabwe Like all first books, there is much that is autobiographical, and Dangarembga split relevant parts of her story into both Tambu and Nyasha and pulled it off beautifully In their differences, we come to appreciate these two, young, coming of age girls._____________________Achebe, C 1977 An Image of Africa Racism in Conrad s Heart of Darkness Published by Penguin Classics ISBN 978 0 141 195281Watts, C 1983 A Bloody Racist About Achebe s View of Conrad The Yearbook of English Studies, 13, 196 209 doi 10.2307 3508121

  10. says:

    Holy fuck, this blew my mind I suppose what really got me was watching a young girl in an extremely male dominated world try to work her way through it to succeed in spite of a lot of adversity And to watch each of the women around her try to do so too What I really liked about the novel gets hit on in the author interview at the end, that there are no monsters in this book, each character does get to explain and be understood The author interview also mentions that Dangarembga finds race hard to write about I hope she succeeds though because what was touched on in Nervous Conditions was interesting and I d love to read .Read this book Now.