16 Matching Annotations
  1. Feb 2021
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    1. Was this all there was to it?

      (p. 120) I am confused about what the mirror represents. At first, I thought it was a device that split the character into parts, thus setting the battle between the two sides - the man and the ape. The man is seen by all and represents a being capable of deep thought. The ape is the monster-like creature, which hunts the back of one's mind, the force that must stay hidden. Their fight begins when the individual reaches puberty - a time of transition from child to adult (the process of becoming independent). All of this I connected to the struggle of establishing one's self-identity - a problem present in House of Hunger as well (represented by the fight between Shona and English). Now that I have looked more carefully, I am more inclined to believe that this mirror is some portal to a sort of evil reality. I think so because of the grotesque representation of the ape and the use of emptiness. Emptiness is the lack of anything. In this book, it has been associated with the hunger that dominates life in colonized Rhodesia. This hunger causes misery, unfulfilled dreams, etc. As the narrative progresses, we see how it enters the character's lives and messes them up. The man is slowly absorbed by the mirror, his surroundings are messed up by it (the missing days, the destroyed room). The woman sees the change in her partner and fights with him (she is not absorbed by it, she only sees the emptiness behind the man; some female characters in the "House of Hunger" novel seem to represent purity, hope, light (not overwhelmed/seriously touched by the harsh reality)). So, what is the mirror in the end?

    2. These hands that now were part of the drought,

      (p. 125) The idea of the hands losing their ability to create and becoming a part of the harsh reality is similar to the idea of the House of Hunger's narrator's head becoming the House of Hunger itself (60). In this passage, the narrator uses vivid imagery to convey this loss through the contrast of life and death. Initially, his hands are described as "dry and deathlike", as full of deep scars, as broken from the "slow-burning furnace of the drought" (125). In the middle of the paragraph, however, the narrator brings forth the memory of the hands which could create, to come in contact with the pure and beautiful, the soft and warm presence of another human being; the hands that could shape the future - "build a future out of the bricks of the past and of the present" (125). This juxtaposition of loss and creation makes the differences stand out to the reader and make him think what the reason for this contrast is. That is simple - it's the act of robbing someone of their future, of their life, of their choice. In "Protista" this is caused by the exile and the sudden loss of Maria. It takes the character's freedom, their future, their right to dream, their reason to live, and their life force. In "House of Hunger" this is caused by the British colonization. The misery, squalor, and unfairness, the conditions, and the society trap the individual, wrapping him in an unescapable spider web, robbing them of their future as well (They stretched the wings of our race (...) senile gods, p.60). Losing their freedom, the characters give in to the force exerted by reality and become another cog in its machine.

      *I believe it isn't a coincidence that the author names the girl Maria. This name means "sea of sorrow" or "sea of bitterness." A sea is a pool of water, so by leaving, Maria does take, in a sense, the water from the main character's life, leaving only the feeling of sorrow that haunts him.

    3. Boers

      (p.112) A Boer is a term that comes from Dutch and is translated as "husbandman" or "farmer".It refers to a South African with German, Huguenot, or Dutch descend, or more specifically, those who settled in the Transvaal province (a former province in Africa) and the Orange free state. This immigration began with the establishment of a shipping station on the Cape of Good Hope - a task accomplished by Jan van Riebeeck (a dutch colonial administrator) in the service of the Dutch East India Company. By 1707, the colony's former European population numbered more than 1779 people. As the state grew, so did the economic stagnation. Eventually, many of the originally settled people left their communities because they couldn't find a supporting job there (most of the manual work was done by slaves at the time). They became known as trekboeren ("wandering farmers"), and they lived a self-sustainable life. However, they were hostile towards ingenious African communities and frequently fought with them, as well as with the Cape's government. They compared themselves to Hebrew patriarchs and formed such communities. After Britain gained control over the state in 1806 (a result of the Napoleon wars), the Boers moved to southern Natal because they disagreed with the liberal policies introduced by the new government. In 1852, the British Empire agreed to recognize the settlers of Transvaal and the Vaal-Orange rivers and proclaimed them to be independent states. However, after the discovery of diamonds and gold in South Africa, a war broke out. Although brilliant at guerrilla fighting, the Boers surrendered in 1902, and the republics they had formed fell apart.

    4. kraals

      (p. 113) Kraal (or craal) is a word with mixed origins. Some believe it came from the Dutch and Afrikaans languages (the latter having only a spoken form), but it was used in South African English. It has two definitions. First, it refers to a South African enclosure for domestic animals. Second, it is used when talking about a native African village surrounded by an enclosure for domestic animals. Sometimes there is a central place for livestock inside. Its second meaning was widely popular during the English colonization of South Africa. Many ethnographers, however, believe that the word should only refer to the animal area of the settlement in question. Interesting to know is that the kraals of the Zulu people were used for ritual and defense purposes as well. They were built up in the form of a circle, surrounded by a large wooden fence (the fence could be made from branches and bushes, but mud as well). Women and men were separated on opposite sides of the village. The chief's hut stood farthest away from the entrance, while the huts nearest were left for guests. Some kraals would also include a few watchtowers.

    5. She wrung my hand: 'Let's both get out of this.'

      (p. 89) The scene with Patricia mirrors the one with Immaculate on page 23. In both cases, the main character is offered a way to escape and a person to escape with - a young girl with a fighting spirit he admires. Patricia offers him a plan - "We'll run to Botswana (...) There'll be..." while Immaculate is ready to give him money. And in both cases, he declines, finding ways to explain why he wouldn't leave. Leaving means fighting against the hunger, the oppression, the unfairness. The main character isn't ready to fight. When things "get rough", he runs away. In the very beginning, we see him leave home. Even Marechera himself is shown (in the documentary we saw) trying to leave Rhodesia when he finds out that his book is banned when he could have stayed and found a way to change what he didn't like. He is a "fool" because he has given into the disparity of life in his country- the poverty, the emptiness, the lack. Immaculate, unlike him, is determined to hold onto the hope of finding something better even while being beaten up "into a stain. Patricia leaves three times and gets back injured, is left unable to speak, yet she doesn't give up and shows what she earns for that struggle - a publication of her notebooks.

    6. Christopher Okigbo'

      (p.74) Christopher Okigbo (1932-1967) was born in Ojoto, Nigeria. His father was a teacher, who lectured in Catholic missionary schools during the prime of colonial rule of Britain over Nigeria. Because of that, the family traveled a lot. When he grew up, he studied and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Western classics (Greek and Latin) at the University of Ibadan. Later, he became a teacher there, followed by a job as the librarian of the University of Nigeria, as well as a position as the private secretary of the federal minister of research and information of Nigeria. As an African poet, modernist, and postcolonial writer, Okigbo was influenced by various texts and mythologies: Modern English Literature, the classics, and Western and African mythology. Although he published only three volumes of poetry, his work wasn't left unrecognized, and, in 1966, he was awarded the Langston Hughes Award for African Poetry at the Festival of Black African Arts in Dakar. He declined it based on his belief that poetry shouldn't be judged on race. The themes in his works include loss, nature, and the passing of time. His poems are infused with heavy symbolism, and in them, he speaks a lot about the role of the poet. His works are characterized as being "obscure, allusive, or difficult" (Britannica). He died in the Nigeria-Biafra war and received the National Order of Merit of Biafra after his death. As can be noticed, Okigbo and Marechera share common themes in their works, as well as the tendency to write hard to comprehend texts.

    7. unilateral declaration of independence

      (p. 83) A unilateral declaration of independence is a formal process that leads to a state, earlier dictated upon by another (usually more powerful that gained control over the particular country during a colonization process), declaring its independence without getting a formal agreement from the previously ruling state. On November 11, 1965, after numerous attempts to persuade Britain into giving Rhodesia its independence, Ian Smith's (the prime minister of the state) government announced the UDI, thus separating from Britain. This was the first country after the USA, which had left the United Kingdom without its agreement. In response, the UN and the UK placed sanctions on the breakaway state, but, due to the help received by South Africa and Portugal, Rhodesia's economy continued to thrive. In 1969, the government accepted a constitution that guaranteed political power to the white minority of the country. This led to unrest among the black population, which culminated in the Bush War. After it ended in 1979, Rhodesia (at that time - Zimbabwe Rhodesia) revoked its unilateral declaration of independence. For a brief period, the state was under absolute British rule. In 1980, the country was granted official independence and international recognition, thus becoming what today is known as Zimbabwe.

    8. The sunlight had imperceptibly grown weaker -there was a brittle tang in the air.

      (p.73) Throughout the book, Marechera uses light to transition from one moment of his life to another. Let's start from the beginning. On page 11, his journey starts with the rise of the sun. On page 53, just before the storm commences, the author remarks on the afternoon sun, which "had rings around it" (44). On page 71 - "Sunlight bounced off a grimy phone booth (...) coffee shop", on page 72 - "The oily white-hot sunlight (...) in the windows", and right here, on page 73, "The sunlight had imperceptibly (...) tang in the air". Light is present throughout the entire novel, and the author changes the tone and the scenery he uses it in. Why do transitions begin with a remark on light (be it coming from the sun or some match)? On one hand, it could be connected to the fact that he lives in Rhodesia. Africa is known for its endless sun that keeps the temperatures high and the land dry. That, however, doesn't have anything specific to it. Could it be that it serves to create a contrast with the grim world the main character endures? Light is a symbol of hope, knowledge, salvation - something reality has trapped or extinguished. It is, however, seen in the burning eyes of Immaculate, which signifies a fighting spirit. Light comes from the matches lit to help see in the dark, from the lightning that splits the sky and brings some clarity to the character's mind. Sometimes, however, it is part of the angry reality. On page 72, it is "razor-sharp", "asphalt-melting", unforgiving heat. Does that mean that even the light is tainted by the House of Hunger? Maybe light is used as a framing device. After all, the story begins at dawn, and although it doesn't end at dusk, we can certainly see how the sun travels its path from gently striking "the swirling dust" to becoming "imperceptibly" weaker (p. 21, p.72) and begins a new at the end.

    9. final say of the storm.

      (p. 47) This whole passage showcases a way to combine environment and character to display conflict, a climax, resolution, and development in the span of a few pages. Everything starts with the storm. Through repetition and alliteration, Dambudzo Marechera induces a sense of gradation - "It drummed on the asbestos roofs (..) we could not stand it" (p. 44). Not only that, but the author turns water into heavy, sturdy, harmful masses, like solid objects that, if thrown with great strength, could wound or kill - "like the smack of a fist", "massive rocks of rain", "boulders of rain". All of this is described as the product of the angry sky that sticks "needles into the matter of" the student's brain, damps their words, roars "the lions out of voices" (44, 45). This vivid imagery creates an allusion to the main character's situation - the battle he is raging with the voices in his head. He feels the toll those nameless figures have on him (he can't stand it much like the students can't stand the rumbling rain). They come uninvited, torment him with arguments he cannot win, rob him (as the storm robs the lions of their voices) of his voice ("taken over the inner chords of my own voice"). Another allusion is seen on page 45, where the author describes the storm's blows as arguments - "The argument of it left us stunned. The words (...) of rain" (45). I don't think Marechera uses "arguments'' for no particular reason. The main character of the story is also faced with "mountains of arguments'' that overwhelm him. They are sent by the voices who are not planning to stop invading his mind, spliting his conscience in two parts (English and Shona), that are constantly battling each other. The quote "Its muddy feet ...dear" also alludes to the previous paragraph (45). There the character mentions that after he began hearing the voices of the figures he sees, everything he did - painted or wrote - contained something sinister. Every memory he recalled had some evil thought or wrongdoing - "The voices took out (...) slimy worm" (42). After all of this, we can conclude that the storm refers to the shadowy voices themselves, while the torment on the people refers to the torment of the main character. As we go forward (p. 46) and Harry plays a trick on the narrator, things change. The storm now becomes the main character. His fists hit Harry, his rage makes him smack him with a chair. Harry tries to run away (much like the main character would like to do), but the narrator is right behind him. Their fight outside in the mud resembles the one between English and Shona in the main character's head - never-ending, tiresome, with no one taking advantage. "And then something supremely white, blindingly so, erupted at the heart of the storm" (47). This is the climax and, if I am not mistaken, a form of catharsis for the main character (he overcomes his struggles and is free of the conflict inside of him). The storm is interrupted by something blinding (again, the juxtaposition of light and darkness) that clears everything, puts an end. The boys, tired of the struggle and struck by the lightning that split the sky, start laughing. This laughter reminds the reader of the voices' laughter - "Their laughter was of the crudest type, obscene. " (43). The boys remove their clothes and start painting each other with mud much like the narrator, who turns the world into a "turd" under the influence of the devouring laughter of the voices inside him. Afterward, they even scare their professor like the voices scare the main character ("Their laughter was of the (...) survive that impish laughter", 43). The roles have turned. The narrator on page 47 is associated with the voices on pg 43, who made him turn everything he touched into "stinking horror." Whether he has become a part of them or not isn't clear, but they have finally left his head, and he is now alone. This parallelism between scenes and characters prompts one to think about what else is left unsaid in this book and how the author has been and is going to use weather to drive the plot and character development in the future.

    10. The bulldozers have been and gone and where once our heroes danced there is nothing but a hideous stain

      (p.59) Stains are such a vital part of this narrative, mentioned numerous times in different situations - the death of "the old man"(19), the beating Immaculate is put through, "God's stains" (55), etc. What are stains in general? They are hard to remove marks. They are scars that itch and burn irritatingly, that stay for a long time and influence their carrier in some way. In Dambudzo Marechera's novel, they have many aspects, which impact the main character in various ways. I will focus more on the meaning conveyed in the usage of it in the selected sentence. This quote refers to the stains in the scope of the war for independence. Just before that, the narrator talks about Lobengwa and how he messed up, and how his mistake still haunts the people of Rhodesia. It is that stain that causes the misery and squalor of the people living at the time of the author's life. That stain, however, is more than just the consequences of a lost war. It prompts the realization the narrator comes to - that his life is a small man's one (the words are the same as the one he used when describing such a life on page 14). He will also become a stain - something he despises; a red splatter on some wall, the cause of which is his life as a black man, the House of Hunger that has infiltrated his environment and mind and has forced him into that life.

    11. sadza

      (p. 49) Sadza is part of the staple diet for the indigenous people of Rhodesia. It is a thickened porridge made out of pulverized grains. Usually, it is served with white maize (a type of corn) or with cooked meat (when served with the latter, it is called Sadza ne Nyama (Nyama - Shona for "meat"), which directly translates to Sadza and meat stew). Sometimes it includes vegetables, but that is not explicitly outlined (people say "sadza" without clarifying its ingredients). This food was originally imported, reaching Rhodesia in 1890 for the first time. Since then, it has been a vital source of starch and carbohydrates for the locals. It has also infiltrated their culture and language as the word may refer to a specific meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) when in combination with the Shona words for that time.

    12. Kwame Nkrumah

      pg. 46 Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) was a Ghanian politician and revolutionary. He was the first prime minister and the first president of Ghana and fought for national independence. Nkrumah studied literature regarding socialism and nationalism at the University of Pennsylvania, and those studies greatly influenced his worldview and politics. In 1957 he led and won Gold Coast (a British colony in Africa)'s fight for independence. Afterward, Nkrumah formed the Convention People's Party, became one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, and won the Lenin Peace Prize. After the approval of a new constitution, he was elected president. During his presidency, Nkrumah and his party promoted Pan-African culture, developed a proper educational system, and funded many industrial projects. Because of them, Ghana was one of the more influential states in terms of African international relationships during the decolonization period. Some sources suggest that Kwame Nkrumah gave military support to groups fighting against Ian Smith's government (the white-minority government of Rhodesia that ruled from 1949 to 1974).

    13. A cruel yearning that can only be realised in crude photography. The squalor of reality was obliterated in an explosion of flashbulbs and afterwards one could say 'That's me, man -me! In the city.'

      This is another example of the juxtaposition of light and darkness, beauty and horror, dreams and reality. The "cruel yearning" is one that dominated the society the main character lived in. It is a dream for a better life, a life of luxury, happiness, one that lacks squalor, misery, poverty, cruelty. It is cruel because it is impossible to achieve. It is a goal for freedom that seems unrealistic in the scope of actuality. It is therefore achieved in the frame of a "crude photography" - a fake, an attempt to escape reality, that has wrapped its webs around the miserable humans that dwell in it. The second sentence introduces the contrast between light and darkness. Reality is tragic. The flashbulbs beam with illumination that blinds and hides the darkness for a split second so that reality may fade away and dreams might take place. This play with luminescence appears again on page 37. As the lights go out, the main character's mind recalls all light known to him - that of pain, warmth, fury, flames. During this, there is a change in the experience he is having - "Leaping like ecstasy grown sad - a violence slowly translating into gentleness" (37). The match that brightens the room allows for the transformation from something terrible to something kind. The violence that is customary for reality gives way to the warmth that is associated with dreams and beauty.

    14. A blue-grey spider lay on her exposed cheek. But when I held the match closer there was nothing there, nothing but the faint outlines of a dimple

      This is yet another juxtaposition between the horrific and the beautiful (a contrast that is present throughout what we have read so far). At first, the main character thinks he sees a blue-grey spider laying on Immaculate's face. Spiders are frightful creatures associated with empty and old spaces, chaos, darkness. They are also aggressive when it comes to their prey and weave webs that are used as a form of trickery to catch their food. A dimple is a beautiful facial feature that appears as a small depression on one's cheek as a result of a smile. Mistaking one for the other is a way to emphasize the difference between the two concepts and illustrate the dualistic nature of the world - something beautiful can also appear as something dreadful.

    15. Tiger tiger burning bright. In the forest of the night. The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart. When the stars threw down their spears what rough beas

      This is an excerpt from the poem The Tyger by William Blake (an English poet and painter) that was published in Songs of Experience in 1794. It contains six stanzas, each of four lines that rhyme with one another. It describes a scene in which the speaker asks a mighty tiger a series of questions that are connected by the search for the all-powerful being that created such a beautiful yet horrific creature. The Tyger shows the dualistic nature of the world - both its innocence and its ferocity, its beauty, and destructiveness. The themes presented in the poems are present in House of Hunger as the character constantly juxtaposes the alluring aspects of his life (Immaculate, the sunset ) and the chaos that surrounds him (the squalor, the death, the beatings, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

    16. Gandanga

      Gandanga is a term in Shona (the native language of Rhodesia), which refers to the rebels of the Patriotic Front that serve with the Zimbabwe African Nation Liberation Army (ZANLA-PF) or with the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) - both organizations which fought during the Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979). The word is directly translated as "rebel" or "insurgent" and is associated with the guerrillas that fought with the Rhodesian Security Forces during the 1970s. Through the years, Gandanga evolved to be used for a type of pop culture that developed in Zimbabwe. This culture is best known through its music called "Gandanga music" - translated as "Rebel music"- that is based on tunes the guerrillas would sing when going on the battlefield.