MAN Booker Prize finalist NoViolet Bulawayo launched her debut novel We Need New Names at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo, last night, saying the book was inspired by Zimbabwe’s social and political situation.
NoViolet’s novel has been described as a “visceral and bittersweet” portrayal of life in a Zimbabwean shantytown called Paradise.
The launch, graced by Bulawayo’s who-is-who is in the literature and arts industry, also featured discussions between NoViolet and Drew Shaw of the National University of Science and Technology.
NoViolet, born Elizabeth Tshele, revealed that the world-aclaimed book was inspired by the Zimbabwean situation.
“As Zimbabweans we should find new ways of seeing and doing things in our country and also even when we are outside,” she said.
Many who have read the novel have likened the main character Darling — who went to the Diaspora for greener pastures — to the author.
The book tells the story of Darling and her friends S’tina, Chipo, Godknows, S’bho and Bastard.
They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they live in a shanty town called Paradise.
They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach.
They dream of escaping to other paradises, America, Dubai and Europe.
But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for?
NoViolet said her story line was not inspired by her life, but the goings-on in the country which she said were hugely influenced by the socio, economic and political conditions.
“I am not connected to the story in any way since I was born after independence and I lived a normal life which Darling did not,” she said.
The author also urged other upcoming writers to write some of their literary works in local languages, pointing out that her novel Where to Now? is due to be published in Ndebele by local publishers amaBooks later this year.
NoViolet was born in Tsholotsho.
She earned an MFA at Cornell University where she was also awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship.
She is a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University in California, US.