Reading Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions”

Nervous ConditionsNervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written in 1988, set in the sixties when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, this novel follows two girls, who are cousins, in a mission school. One is the narrator, looking back at her life in the school from a more informed perspective. There is just enough of the mature commentary to remind us of the incomplete version of the younger girl.

The first section describes Tambu’s life on the family farm while her brother goes to school and her attempt to grow enough corn and sell it to get her own school fees. The next section shows her in the mission school living with her uncle, the headmaster, rooming with her cousin, Nyasha. The third section I will leave unidentified, for it would be a giveaway.

In the second section as Tambu waits for her aunt, the description of the uncle’s house conveys the difference between the conditions of the native population and the privileged black population. Only very indirectly do we get indications of the white population. The events that follow reveal the identity issues the two girls face.

I have just learned that a sequel was published in 2006 and look forward to reading it.

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