If Dambudzo Marechera were still alive, he’d have been celebrating his 63rd birthday today.
The Zimbabwean author, best known for the experimental fiction titled The House of Hunger, is to African literature what Fela Kuti is to African music.
Marechera was born in in Rusape, Zimbabwe on June 4 1952 and lived a troubled and enigmatic life.
Marechera was something out of the ordinary in an African literary scene where cultural conservativeness was the norm. He once said of himself: “I think I am the doppelganger whom, until I appeared, African literature had not yet met.” He was a social misfit and even earned a reputation for being something of a madman. Somehow, he channeled this outsideness into some of the best fiction ever written in African literature.
The are 6 books in his repertoire—The House of Hunger, Black Sunlight, Mindblast or The Definitive Buddy, The Black Insider, Cemetery of Mind, and Scrapiron Blues—the last three of which were published posthumously.
Marechera was not well-liked in his day. Everyone from Wole Soyinka to Ama Ata Aidoo have had something to say about Marechera. And they have not always been nice things.
But today, Marechera is an icon for experimental fiction and cultural rebellion in African literature.
Sadly, he met an untimely death in 1987 at the age of 35—something to do with AIDS-related illness. What a loss!
Let’s raise our glasses to the life and legacy of a man whose genius and enigma continues to inspire us.
1. “If you are a writer for a specific race or a specific nation, then f**k you.”
2.”I think I am the doppelganger whom, until I appeared, African literature had not yet met.”
3. “I am against everything. Against war and those against war.”
4. “To write as though only one kind of reality subsists in the world is to act a mentally retarded mime for a mentally deficient audience.”
5. “Life is a series of minor explosions whose echo, fading away, settles comfortably at the back of our minds.”
6. “I dont hate being black, I am just tired of saying its beautiful.”
7. “For a black writer the English language is very racist; you have to have harrowing fights and hair-rising panga duels with the language before you can make it do all that you want it to do.”