The author, Marechera, returned to Zimbabwe from exile in the UK, in 1982. The setting of Scrapiron Blues is in post-war Zimbabwe and this collection of writings reflect his sense of the culture and environment of that time. It is the early to mid-eighties and echoes of Rhodesia at war find their images within the pages of this posthumously published book of works. Common themes are psychological reactions to psychological trauma, the repressive nature of gender roles, and the superficial nature of those who accept conformity.
There are several stories published in Scrapiron Blues that come from an earlier manuscript entitled, "Killwatch or Tony Fights Tonight". Also included in Scrapiron Blues is a prose narrative, "When Rainwords Spit Fire" (a novella written in 1984) and an unfinished novel-like piece called "The Concentration Camp" (depicting the end of the war from 1979-80.) . As well as these, we find some children's stories, such as "Fuzzy Goo's Guide to the Earth." These read as entertaining snippets in their own right, but do not appear to be finished.
Magic is evident in unwitting, accidental or forced social dissent. That is Marechera's message to us. There are metaphysical principles at work: chaos returns us to the primeval soup, which contains more possibilities than we can actually think, for regeneration.
Societies victims are bound to be mad; but they are also bound to be magical. They live beyond and between the regulating forces of rationality, beyond that which can be rationally imparted using regular language. Rather than screening their reality through a system of conventional norms and abstract concepts, they have touched unmediated reality itself -- (the noumena, in Kant's terms, or the traumatic Real as per Zizek and Lacan.) Such an experience can be felt as a visceral shaking, separating one from one's habitual modes of processing reality -- thus instigating different emerging perspectives.
This view underlies the approach of Marechera in Scrapiron Blues, whereby those who are economically, socially and physically under duress -- eg Jane in "Dreams wash walls" ( p 6, 7) and Tonderai's father (p 195 - 198) in "The Concentration Camp" -- have direct access to the spirit world.
"The other day [Jane] had a fight with a dream that refused to come. The dream was critically injured and when Jane took it to hospital she could not understand why the doctor and all the nurses could not see the severe injuries and gave her a sedative and phone Tony to come and take her home. But Tony said he was too busy washing the blood from the walls to be able to come and the doctor drove her home instead. Was there a one-plus-one somewhere?
"And there was the other dream that had an accident and she had to phone the garage for the breakdown truck. The breakdown truck driver arrived within five minutes. Jane was delighted.
"You are very prompt," she said brightly.
The truck driver wildly looked around. He croaked: "But ma'am, where ... ?"
Jane pointed. The driver turned. There was nothing but the brittle, bitterly cold winter night. Hairs standing on end, the driver leapt back into his truck and with a scream of gears and shriek of tires backed away and was soon a glo-worm speck screeching down the road. Jane shook her head in disgust, puzzled. (p 6-7)"
"The Alley" is a play that deals with this issue of societal and individual healing, through an encounter with the split-off aspects of the self. The play examines the traumatic legacy of post-war Zimbabwe (post the second Chimurenga that ended in 1980). Marechera is keen to show how the dissociation from the past (and therefore from aspects of one's self), in post war Zimbabwe, leads to a mode of forgetfulness that is the forgetting of the self. In such a condition, one goes through life without the sense of who one really is, or how one got there. One needs to face the trauma of the past in order to affect "soul retrieval" - that is, in order to become who one is, again.
In "The Alley", a black and white tramp struggle against their tendencies to forget. Their forgetfulness is a sign that they will not face the damage they have done to each other, but especially to women, during the war. They had both fought in the war of liberation on opposite sides, and they had both had the privileged status of career lawyers, before making their descent into the grey mists of fugue and loss.
SCRAPIRON BLUES provides posthumously published material that immensely nourishes the spirits of those who seek means to recover from a fifteen year war. The writing searches for new cultural basis apart from compliance with ideals of family, work and domesticity.