Dangarembga writes with intimacy and compassion; there’s a sharp poetic crack to the work that keeps the story from muddying in melancholy, as it might in the hands of a less cinematic writer ... Both novels are inspiring, not in spite of Tambu’s hopeless situation but because through it all she never loses sight of herself while, at the same time, never underestimating the brutal reality of her predicament. In this regard, This Mournable Body is a story of triumph, not despair.
The book demands that its readers witness the personhood behind the experience of postcolonial violence in Dangarembga’s native Zimbabwe, one corner of the world that often goes unconsidered ... In This Mournable Body, the author’s uncompromising second-person voice insists that you, the reader, identify with Zimbabwe’s plight at the turn of the millennium ... Dangarembga investigates the ironic psychological demands of global capitalism on a country whose citizens have been fractured by that system. Complex and flawed, they are more than symbols. This Mournable Body makes their struggles visible ... She often writes the harshest scenes so obliquely that I had to reread them two or three times to decipher what unfolded. At first, this seemed like a flaw. But as I found the book’s rhythm, its effectiveness became clear: the subtlety forces our attention onto outrages ... This Mournable Body, set in the neocolonial milieu, brings the issue of consent into lurid relief ... Dangarembga is doing something sly and layered here. She romanticizes her country for a Western reader even as she makes an example of Tambu for doing the same. The book makes you, the reader, complicit too.
Author Tsitsi Dangarembga, who lives in Zimbabwe, writes this often grim story with a great deal of wit ... Dangarembga gives us something rare: a sparkling antiheroine we find ourselves rooting for ... Tambu can be seen as a symbol as well as a character: Her striving to become prosperous amid dysfunction echoes modern Zimbabwe’s ongoing struggle to outgrow stifling corruption.
Who are the people who succeed in life? Why do they succeed? Are some people condemned to failure? It is a line of thought that brings the protagonist in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s new book, This Mournable Body, close to a point of self-destruction as she engages in a harrowing mental fight against the demons of her own poverty and failure ... This Mournable Body is a harrowing psychological journey. Dangarembga does not give her heroine any easy escapes. Like the period of Zimbabwe’s history this story is set in, the pain, false hopes and dashed enthusiasms come in large doses, and victory lies at the end of a very long road.
... magnificent ... Dangarembga’s sentences are chromatic, rich and impressively precise with wonderful detail, capturing Tambu’s elusive struggles to slough off her heavy past ... the language takes on a Kafkaesque sensibility ... This Mournable Body is a sublime reckoning with the young, sparkling Tambu of Nervous Conditions by her wry, adult self, and by a young postcolonial nation with the betrayal of its convictions ... Dangarembga has written another classic.
In Tambu’s battle to overcome ‘the poverty of blackness on one side, and the weight of womanhood on the other’, the reader is firmly on her side ... Where Tambu’s ‘I’ is inviting, her ‘you’ is coercive. We’re hemmed in, unable to deny the qualities we share with her, even when she’s inhumane. It’s an oppressive narrative method—apt for a novel about oppression. The second person also hints at Tambu’s detachment from the person she used to be, her fractured and faltering sense of identity ... In due course, perhaps, the trilogy will become a quartet; Tambu is too interesting a character to be laid to rest in her thirties.
Tambu has a rich internal narration—the author’s use of the second person is very engaging. It simultaneously draws the reader closer into the action and conveys Tambu’s sense of depersonalization. Tambu is a very relatable narrator, in that she’s not extraordinarily brave or heroic or virtuous. She does what most of us would do in a dire situation ... Aside from telling an engaging story about a woman plagued by fear and dread, This Mournable Body will hopefully open the eyes of Western readers to the history and politics of a region they may have been unfamiliar with.
... feels as though Dangarembga loses confidence in the realist novel, returning to a less developed form, at the same time as Tambu loses confidence in the narratives of progress running through her early life ... a brilliant portrayal of contemporary Harare with its juxtaposition of energetic worldliness and violence ... Because the novel is episodic, it takes us into several of these worlds, most compellingly into the eco-tourism business offering the so-called real ghetto and village experience ... Throughout, a lot of the interest is in the parallel arcs of worldly success and moral worth. These are tellingly disconnected: it’s when Tambu’s fortunes are relatively stable that she performs her most morally shocking act. It’s hard to reconcile morality and survival, especially in a hybrid culture where the moral frameworks of the Shona villages and white society in Harare have not been well aligned. If there is progress amid the book’s structure, then it’s in Tambu’s realisation that she must learn to balance prosperity and kindness.
I felt the story of Tambu had something missing ... So does the book stand up on its own merits? It’s told in the second person, a technique that normally forces the reader into identification with a character, but here it feels distant after the close first person narrative of the previous books ... while individual scenes can be strong, the story overall is robbed of any real tension, and there’s no more sense of resolution at the end of this book than there was with the previous two volumes.
At times This Mournable Body is a difficult read. Tambudzai is a complex character, bitter and not particularly likable, with inner demons that threaten to derail her. But this is what makes the novel compelling—it’s unpredictable, and you can’t help but feel that Tambudzai is always about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Couple this with the complexity of Zimbabwe—political uncertainty, economic instability and a society that seems ready to attack itself—and Dangarembga has written an unflinching account of one woman’s struggles in a country that is rife with them.
In this sequel to 198's Commonwealth Writers' Prize-winning Nervous Conditions, which explored Tambudzai's childhood, Dangarembga writes with a graceful eloquence that keeps the pages turning quickly. One hopes...[another] book will continue the journey of this sympathetic character from an immensely talented author.
Uniquely choosing to write in second person, author Tsitsi Dangarembga (Nervous Conditions and The Book of Not) tells the story of Tambu Sigauke, a woman desperately seeking prosperity ... This Mournable Body is a tale of desperation and hopelessness which filled me with a hollow sadness, a book that made me stop and consciously appreciate living in a country that offers security, education, and the never-ending hope for a better life.
This woman [Dangarembga] has weathered all the upheavals of her country’s last forty years, forging them into a teeming yet tragic feminist trilogy ... Not that old, she [protagonist 'Tambu'] appears nonetheless to have aged into a monstrosity, and such animistic metaphor provides much of what’s best about This Mournable Body ... Mournable Body is more a picaresque, its episodes entertaining as much as disturbing, its humanity a crazy quilt. The knocking about can result, now and again, in bogging down. A few scenes use a neon highlighter to outline basic conflicts, and one or two do the same for male wickedness. But the occasional heavy-handedness isn’t so bad as to muddy the movement overall. The plot allows for just one coincidence, and this makes just the right difference for Tambu ... Otherwise this woman’s closed heart looks like the worst legacy of colonialism and machismo—and the scariest discovery brought to light by this gifted author’s prolonged excavations of the contemporary African soul.
This may not be what readers expected for the tough, determined girl who narrated Nervous Conditions, and it makes Body a difficult read, not just because of the downward spiral Tambu is on, but because of the challenging, fractured, hallucinatory prose Dangarembga uses to reflect the imbalance of her mind ... This Mournable Body can be read on its own, although readers may have more patience with Tambu if they’ve read Nervous Conditions first ... Dangarembga’s evocation of Harare’s social geography... immerses you fully in the city’s stressed fabric ... thanks to Dangarembga’s canniness and empathy as a writer, [the narrator] nevertheless bares the soul of the country that formed her.
Tambudzai now floats between temporary living situations before landing a job working for Green Jacaranda Safaris, an ecotourism company aimed at getting money from the hands of wealthy European visitors looking to witness the grittier realities of African life ... Set in the immediate aftermath of Zimbabwe’s hard-won independence, Dangarembga’s third novel is an urgent and unforgettable tale of the dangers of capitalism and colonialism in the developing world.
The entire novel is written in the second person so the effect is at once direct and distancing. The narration is unflinchingly frank about every one of Tambu’s thoughts and feelings ... The voice is relentless and cruel and there is no respite for the reader, but there are also moments of beauty ... But even the most evocative descriptions are merely deployed as armour. In a world where so much suffering is so easily ignored, Dangarembga has written a book so powerful and compelling she makes it impossible for us to turn our face away.
From the onset, Dangarembga floods the novel with descriptions that foreshadow the terror to come. Tambu’s observations are full of unnerving tension; everything, even the most benign objects and scenes, are full of predatory menace ... Dangarembga is unflinching in describing what happens to someone like Tambu—educated, determined, and proud—when society does its best to break them.
...a staggering achievement, ambitious yet compulsively readable, a novel that feels like the culmination of 30 years of work and self-exploration even as it repeatedly shows how a life will always be a work in progress ... This is partly accomplished through the use of second-person narration, which heightens the contrast with Nervous Conditions ... the potential for violence is always under the surface.
In terse, stark prose that paints a brutally realist portrait of post-colonial Zimbabwe, Dangarembga turns an appraising eye upon her nation in order to investigate the various inequalities that lie at its heart. This novel's Zimbabwe is a nation populated by cruel mobs, exploitative entrepreneurs, and mercenaries who care only about themselves. Her incisive realism is most effective when dealing with misogyny, especially the vicious violence inflicted on women's bodies. The mournable body of the novel's title turns out to be the collective body of Zimbabwean women. A difficult but ultimately rewarding meditation on the tolls that capitalism and misogyny take on a fledgling nation's soul.
...heartbreaking and piercing ... Tambudzai is an outstanding and memorable character; her struggles always feel real, even with the use of a second-person point of view. This is a smartly told novel of hard-earned bitterness and disillusionment.