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Without a Name and Under the Tongue [Paperback]

Yvonne Vera

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Book Description

Feb. 13 2002
Yvonne Vera's novels chronicle the lives of Zimbabwean women with extraordinary power and beauty. Without a Name and Under the Tongue, her two earliest novels, are set in the seventies during the guerrilla war against the white government.

In Without a Name (1994), Mazvita, a young woman from the country, travels to Harare to escape the war and begin a new life. But her dreams of independence are short-lived. She begins a relationship of convenience and becomes pregnant.

In Under the Tongue (1996), the adolescent Zhizha has lost the will to speak. In lyrical fragments, Vera relates the story of Zhizha's parents, and the horrifying events that led to her mother's imprisonment and her father's death. With this novel Vera became the first Zimbabwean writer ever to deal frankly with incest. With these surprising, at times shocking novels Vera shows herself to be a writer of great potential.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (Feb. 13 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374528160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374528164
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.7 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #800,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

With a poetic flair for transforming the earthly into the surreal, the critically acclaimed Vera sets out in these two chaotic novellas to describe life during Zimbabwe's civil war in the late 1970s. Cadence and enigmatic descriptions are her obsessions; characters and plot are not. As a result, the cracked earth is more palpable than the bristling of Vera's displaced heroines, and her stilted and superfluous ruminations eclipse what are otherwise intriguing themes. In Without a Name, young and fiercely independent Mazvita sets out from her small village for the city of Harare to escape her brutal memories of the war. She cannot find work and soon grows dependent on her quasi love interest, Joel. Pregnancy follows. And when the baby arrives prematurely, Mazvita, hampered by a lingering malaise, neglects to name it. The rest of the story sifts through conflicting emotions of love, scorn, shame and alienation. Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Under the Tongue chronicles adolescent Zhizha's search for identity through a complicated relationship with her family. The tongue-tied girl cryptically reveals her family's secrets why she has come to embrace her grandmother as her mother; why her mother has been jailed; how her father has died. Zhizha is caught between the desire to remember and to forget. Again, the characters are amorphous and often seem merely vehicles for language that would be better suited to a volume of poetry than a work of fiction. These stark tales explore the painful scars left by incest, murder, dislocation and war, but their emphasis on phantasmagoric imagery and failure to make characters more than a reflection of their circumstances leaves their potential power largely untapped.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Vera's most recent novel, Butterfly Burning, was published in the United States last year, and with this first U.S. publication of her two earliest works one of which, Under the Tongue, won a Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1997 U.S. readers now have full access to this prominent African writer. Both novellas are set during Zambia's guerrilla war in 1977. In startling prose, Vera writes of women enduring the horrors of war and poverty as they live on the fringes of the dominant white society. In Without a Name, a young woman escaping war in the countryside falls into a relationship with a man in order to cope in the city and finds herself pregnant. In Under the Tongue, a family of women living in township housing maintain a tenuous grasp on their former culture as the war impinges on their lives. Both works show how violence invades the women's lives in unexpected ways, bringing irrevocable changes. Throughout, Vera braids earlier and later incidents together in alternating chapters to build a narrative whole. Her brief, at times childlike sentences capture the fresh, sharp vision of someone new to modern society revealing, for example, the fascination of seeing a bicycle for the first time. Highly recommended for all libraries and essential for African literary collections. Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing April 6 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I can barely find words that adequately express what Yvonne Vera accomplishes in her writing. This book contains some of the most gorgeous language I have ever read. It is dense, poetic, sensual, muscular, challenging, honest, deeply humane. I read and reread it, and each time I am lifted to a blissful, mind-swelling state of aesthetic arrest.

You may not enjoy Vera's style if you tend to prefer a light-hearted read. But if you enjoy a sensitivity for language, it will be pure joy. Your mind glides with the smoothly sustained surface of the writing, undulates with its poetic rhythms, startles with her revelations, lifted to your new eyes like some just-born thing, dangerous or gentle, held in the tender palm of her cupped hands.

The story lines are described well enough in the product description above, but it is a mistake to read Vera's writing with eyes focused on the scaffolding of character and plot. She has imploded that structure, sinking to some deeper level and creating the story from the inside out, with a pure and powerful voice that has the impact of poetry in the space of fiction.

This fiction isn't well-crafted, it is inspired.
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT July 30 2013
By Morenike' - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book! I only read Without a Name but Yvonne Vera's storytelling skills are authentic and intriguing. I was reeled in by the situation the main character was "stuck" in. There is a bit of history and compromise within the story that makes it hard to put the book down.

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