Fondest memories of writer Hove

MY fondest memories of the late renowned Zimbabwean novelist, poet and essayist Chenjerai Hove who passed away on Sunday July 12, 2015 is when Irene Staunton the editor and co-founder of Weaver Press, together with Murray McCartney, gave me a review copy of Hove’s collection of short stories titled Palaver Finish, for review in one of Zimbabwe’s leading weekly publications.

The year was 2003, and one of my bookworm colleagues, Onias Chiwanja, who was still at university pursuing his degree in English, was one of the first people whom I thought of in sharing the book with since I knew him inside-out about his passion for literature; hence Hove’s anthology “Palaver Finish” ended up in Chiwanja’s laps. 

Earlier on, we (our clique of writers who included former English teacher and journalist Ambrose Musiyiwa who is now based in the UK, veteran journalist and poet Fanuel Jongwe who has poetry anthologies ‘Tears’ and ‘Sweet People’ to his name, Tavengwa Kaponda and of course Chiwanja) had some of Hove’s publications like “Red Hills of Home”, “Up in Arms”, “Rainbows in the Dust”, “Bones”, “Ancestors”, “Shadows”, Blind Moon”, “Shebeen Tales” while his only novel in his mother tongue of Shona titled :”Masimba Avanhu” was out of print and this therefore meant that it was difficult to for us to lay our hands on it no matter how hard we scoured the nooks and crannies of all the places that we thought could be of assistance to us.

Apart from this rich compendium of creative works both in fictitious prose and poetry, Hove was also gifted as an essayist par excellence, having contributed to numerous newspapers in Zimbabwe and abroad apart from publishing critical amylases in the form of books like “Guardians of the Soil: Meeting Zimbabwe’s Elders”, “Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa” which was written by Obey Ndike and which Hove edited.

In all his works, Hove showed a deep-seated commitment for his people, the African race, be it in pre-independent or post-colonial Africa.

For instance, in the poetry collections, “Red Hills of Home” and “Up In Arms”, Hove chronicles about how the war for liberation left many “red hills of home” inhabited by the bones of those who sacrificed life as well as the innocent civilians who fell victim and whose lives were claimed by the war for independence.

Hove however did not limit himself to the rut of mourning the loss that was inflicted on his people by this war, but he further casts his view and vision on the future by jolting political leaders that he is “up in arms” with a post-independence revolution that cooks babes for supper. 

According to one book reviewer, Elliot Ziwira, writing in The Herald of Zimbabwe edition of July 28, 2014, Hove is a voice of the voiceless who knows the “suffering, pain and hopelessness” of the ordinary people while those in the upper rooms are full of “greed and hypocrisy”.

This is the same thread that Chiwanja and I followed in our review of Hove’s anthology of essays, “Palaver Finish” which was published in The Herald in 2003 under the title “Hove Lashes Out at Political Sharks” and in the Standard.

In the reviews, Chiwanja and I wrote that the Noma award-winning author tackled “relevant issues ranging from political violence, voter intimidation, corruption and lawlessness to dictatorship and the dereliction of duty by African leaders.”

“In (the) essay, The New Millennium in The Village, Hove projects African leaders as ruthless “political sharks” who only enter the political arena for personal aggrandisement and embezzling state coffers while the ordinary man wallows in abject poverty. 

He (Hove) writes: “African politics is always marred by a dangerous obsession with power and money.  Our problem is that Zimbabwean and other African politicians enter politics not for the service they want to give to the nation, but to make money. 

They enter politics with nothing in their hands and in a few months become millionaires.”

Although he sometimes wavered in terms of his political inclination, Hove who died in exile in Norway aged 59, was one of the best authors that Africa has ever produced and he ranked in the mould of Ngugi wa Thing’o, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Peter Abrahams and of course his late fellow countrymen the late Dambudzo Marechera and Yvonne Vera, among others.

July 2015
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