A mordant, often darkly witty study of postcolonial dejection, This Mournable Body is the third in Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga’s trilogy of novels about Tambudzai Sigauke and her family. At the end of the first volume, the acclaimed Nervous Conditions (1988), a brilliant career shimmered before Tambu. But in This Mournable Body, which has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, the once sparky and ambitious student – like her country, Zimbabwe – has fallen on hard times. This is the era of the contested land reforms in the country; the state is corrupt; much-needed economic reconstruction has not taken place; the gloss of the early years of freedom has faded, to the extent that Tambu sees no point in calling 1980 the year of independence. Women in particular bear the burden of the increasing violence, poverty and exploitation. For Tambu herself, every day is an ‘implacable terror’.
Nervous Conditions invited identification with both Tambu and her angsty westernised teenage cousin Nyasha. This Mournable Body takes us into Tambu’s troubled mindscape some twenty years later. She has left her good job at an advertising agency ‘on the pretence of marriage’ but actually on principle, her best lines having