Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Zimbabwean Liberation-War Novel in Shona: An Analysis of the Symbolic Value of the Guerrilla as Legitimating Discourse of Nation

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Zimbabwean Liberation-War Novel in Shona: An Analysis of the Symbolic Value of the Guerrilla as Legitimating Discourse of Nation

Article excerpt

Summary

The article discusses the Shona war novel published in the early 1980s as an avatar of human-factor content for the fledgling nation. It particularly draws corroborative evidence from selected Shona war narratives published between 1980 and 1985, a time when Zimbabwe attained political independence. While this novel has largely received negative criticism, the article advances the contention that it was/is legitimating discourse of the new nationalist government at independence in 1980. The nationalist government needed state-centred narratives that would sanctify its rulership, and obviously the liberation war provided an undisputed source for such narratives, and this trend remains unchanged up to this day. In this regard, the Shona war novel manipulates history for nation building and national identity formation purposes as well as the fortification of a heroic tradition. It achieves this by creatively blending history, myth and legend in a manner that defines the past, present and future trajectory of nation in terms that negate withdrawal and resignation. This makes it inseparable from the painstaking search for and enunciation of ennobling human-factor content and values. Without appropriate human-factor orientation, both the integrity of the nation as well as efforts aimed at nation building would be a far-fetched possibility. The article also points out that the Shona war novel played such a role because its production was controlled by the state-funded Literature Bureau.

Opsomming

In hierdie artikel word die Shona-oorlogsroman bespreek as 'n openbaring van die menslike faktor vir die jong Zimbabwiese nasie. Stawende bewyse word verkry uit geselekteerde Shona-oorlogsnarratiewe wat tussen 1980 en 1985 gepubliseer is--die tyd toe Zimbabwe politieke onafhanklikheid verkry het. Terwyl hierdie tipe roman grotendeels negatiewe kritiek ontvang het, word in hierdie artikel aangevoer dat dit die legitimerende diskoers van die nuwe nasionalistiese regering met onafhanklikwording in 1980 was en nog is. Die nasionalistiese regering het staatsgesentreerde narratiewe nodig gehad om sy bewind te regverdig en die bevrydingsoorlog was 'n onbestrede bron van sulke narratiewe. Hierdie neiging bly tot vandag onveranderd. Die Shona-oorlogsroman manipuleer die geskiedenis ten gunste van nasiebou, die vorming van 'n nasionale identiteit en die versterking van 'n heldetradisie. Dit word vermag deur geskiedenis, mite en legende kreatief saam te smelt, wat die verlede, die hede en die toekomstige baan van die nasie op so 'n wyse omskryf dat dit onttrekking en onderwerping negeer. Dit maak dit onskeibaar van die nougesette soeke na en verklaring van veredelende menslike inhoud en waardes. Sonder die korrekte gerigtheid op die menslike faktor bly sowel die integriteit van die nasie as pogings wat op nasiebou gemik is maar net 'n vergesogte moontlikheid. Hierdie artikel beklemtoon dat die Shona-oorlogsroman hierdie rol vervul het omdat die produksie daarvan deur die staatsgefinansierde Literature Bureau beheer is.

Introduction

The article deliberately avoids the fashionable tendency to dismiss the Shona war novel, as is largely the case with current critical scholarship in Zimbabwe. Instead, it derives impetus from the need to underscore the early 1980s liberation-war novelistic renditions in Shona as vessels of the founding human-factor content for the neocolonial nation, but without being completely neglectful of the weaknesses of this genre. The exegesis of liberation-war historical novels in Zimbabwe's African languages has to a large extent ignored the symbolic and human-factor value of the narrative discourse in question. Again, the article attempts, in a few instances, to show the interface of the Shona war novel and historical fact because critics such as Chiwome (1998) and Furusa (1998) have only been concerned with dismissing these narratives as celebratory, falsifying history and guilty of historical verbicide. …

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