Home » General » Beauty of Brevity, Simplicity in ‘Tudikidiki’

Stanely Mushava Litreature Today

Book: Tudikidiki

Author: Memory Chirere

Publisher: Priority Projects Publishing (2007)

The stories, fit to a template which equates less with more, are at once tantalising, frustrating and amusing.

Memory Chirere’s dynamic tool-kit reframes a familiar world with touches of humour and novelty in his second short story collection “Tudikidiki.”

Chirere carries his audience along the well-worn paths of love and hate, hope and frustration, resilience and triumph each time overlaying his didactic import with deceptive simplicity.

Brevity is a constant throughout his thread. From one angle, it seems to point to the transience of artificially contrived relationships which the author satirises in some of the stories.

“Tudikidiki” occupies its own place in local literature as the only individually authored short story collection in Shona.

Although Zimbabwe is inundate with short story anthologies in English, writers are yet to export their profligacy in the genre in local languages.

Chirere’s departure-point is a notable effort the subtlety with which the stories are told disarming.

Storytelling becomes an apparent end in itself such that the less observant reader may not be able to drill past the alluvial layer for nuggets of meaning.

The anthology is evocative of the fireside narratives where the storyteller has a way of riveting his audience with imagined pictures and sounds, often in the conveyance of a message but sometimes just for the fun of it.

Simplicity (or is it deliberate oversimplification?) in “Tudikidiki” belies a significant depth of field in some instances, while other parts seem to be only written to make readers laugh.

If you are one for superimposing your ideological scruples on every page you flip, you will find “Tudikidiki” code-protected, reserved for Chirere’s eccentric stock characters alone to tell their own stories, your own and the world’s, chiefly from infant lenses.

Ignatius Mabasa warns in the preface against downplaying the stories for their brevity and simplicity and maintains that these are stories about children, not stories for children.

“Tinodada naChibvongodze” demonstrates a deplorable condition one may find themselves in especially politically and religiously — that of suspending your own mental faculties or opening them to the sway of popular opinion to be part of a bandwagon or to blindly ride on the coat-tails of a revered personality.

The result is that acts like lying, flattery and malice against those out of the camp as a way of consolidating the artificial relationship becomes the norm.

When an individual demobilises their rational power and takes to all possible means for ingratiating oneself to others, double-standards become inevitable.

“Mandiziva?” is about a tramp who goes around claiming to be related to whoever can feed him, a ploy he executes over and over, as his claim to daily bread.

The story shows both the unorthodox means people resort to for survival and also the unaffordability of city life for many people.

As in all the stories, Chirere does not sit in judgment over the offender. He neither condones situational ethics nor condemns dishonest survival tactics, leaving it to the reader to reach a verdict.

The pain of divorce and pangs of being jilted are handled in “Ariko”.

The story is in second person and addresses the one who wrote the relationship off on the plight of his estranged companion.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for her to get over a broken relationship. The pictures and melody of their happy past keep streaming back, flooding her consciousness.

Separation is official yet it cannot be final. She yearns for the part that was severed from her life. She reminisces, cries and stalks. There must be a possibility for reunion.

“The person you jilted yearns to know what you are up to. Your address – she has it! She knows the new clothes you are wearing. She asks your acquaintances about you. She frequents your street. She knows whether you are eating or sleeping,” says the narrator.

The ultimate love story is “Ndikakuregedza Handizokuoni”.

It is that familiar story about mystical realignments conniving in favour of a man who is too poor to secure the love of his life.

Timid and penniless, he is apprehensive of visiting the girl he loves. He keeps deferring to the excuse that he has nothing to give her that can compare to gifts of the other suitors.

In the most unlikely of situations – a thunderstorm – he summons sudden courage and goes to the door of his dream girl’s house.

There being no one else who could possibly brave the rain to visit a woman, our hero revels in the triumph of his feat.

Touched by the sacrificial gesture and melting with love for the poor man, she insists that he take her out so she can be with him in the rain to experience what he has gone through for her.

As they head to a lovers’ paradise in the downpour, lightning strikes the girl’s home and everyone in it dies.

Looking back, the now married pauper observes that his wife’s life is the only thing he gave her when he could give her nothing else.

“Pembani Pembani” is about a complex character by the same name.

Defined but not confined by his background, he is subject of mean speculation and patronisation. He is dismissed as a mental case yet he is a genius and a master of art.

Shock and awe betides his peers when he outcompetes them in the examinations. The story is about resilience in a stifling environment and the indomitable nature of genius.

In “Pasi Pengoma” procrastination and cowardice have highly taxing rewards.

This is a hilarious story about another timid fellow who shies from proposing to a girl and makes way for his friend.

He becomes the reluctant go-between and watches in dismay as the girl slowly softens up to his friend. When they are finally together, he is cut to the quick as they take turns to taunt him.

“Chichena, Chirefu, Chinonhuwira” is a didactic folk tale about how we chase things which do not matter, piercing ourselves with unnecessary sorrows and destroying ourselves in the process.

“Pikicha” presents another side of life where uncertainty is the only constant.

A despondent crew ekes out a living by washing and guarding cars. They are joined by Maria, who has something to hide a picture in an envelope.

A nagging suitor eventually gets her to divulge her secret: A father who wanted to sell her! There is no saying what atrocity the love of money can conceive. Chirere has earned the admiration of elders Charles Mungoshi and Chenjerai Hove as a master of his art.

“I sense a new direction in the Shona short story, releasing it from the usual hidebound traditional oral rungano, to throw it in line with its written counterpart in the other, international languages, but the flavour is strictly here, now, homegrown and home brewed,” observes Mungoshi.

Hove believes that with contemporary Zimbabwean writers “at it like this” the country will soon witness another literary boom, more exciting than the one of the 1980s and early ’90s.

Chirere is a renowned literary critic and academic. His inventory features “Somewhere in This Country” (2006), “Toriro and His Goats” (2010) and “Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader” (co-edited with Prof Maurice Vambe, 2006).

“Tudikidiki” won the National Arts Merit Award for Best Fiction in 2009.

Source : The Herald