Chenjerai Hove was born in Mazvihwa, a village in Zimbabwe, in 1956 (some sources state 1954). He attended Catholic grammar schools in Kutama and Dete. Contrary to his wish to become a veterinarian, he trained as a teacher and studied Literature and Education in South Africa and Zimbabwe. In 1981 Hove started working as an editor for Mambo Press and in 1985 became chief editor of the Zimbabwe Publishing House. He was chairman of the Zimbabwe Writer’s Association from 1984 to 1992 and today lives in Harare and works as a freelance journalist and writer. Being a critic of Mugabe, he was forced to leave Zimbabwe in 2002 and went into exile in France and finally in Norway.
Hove writes in English and in Shona, his father’s language. He published his first poems in Shona in 1978. Hove contributed 14 poems in English to the anthology ‘And Now the Poets Speak’, which was published in 1980 on the occasion of Zimbabwe’s independence. ‘Up in Arms’ (1982) was his first lyric poetry volume. This and the following poetry volume, ‘Red Hills of Home’, had already been commended by the Noma Prize commission before Hove received the coveted award for African literature for his first novel in English, ‘Bones’, in 1989. This work was translated into seven languages, in-cluding Japanese, German and French, giving the writer wide international recognition. In 2001, he was awarded the Prize of the German Africa Foundation.
All of Hove’s novels to date revolve around a female central character. ‘Bones’ tells of a mother’s search for her son, who has disappeared in the confusion of a war of independence. In ‘Shadows’ (1991) the lovesick protagonist Johana commits suicide, and the novel ‘Ancestors’ is the story of a deaf and dumb girl. However, the originality of Hove’s narrative perspective cannot be explained by his focus on female figures alone. A better description is ‘narrative discontinuity’, where all boundaries between past, present and future are crossed just as seamlessly as those between living and dead reporters. Read as a trilogy, Hove’s novels offer a fresh look at his country, a chronicle which consciously defies the traditional genre characteristics, chronology and monoperspective. Hove not only experiments with European narrative standards but also with the predominantly oral narrative tradition of his country. His simple vocabulary, the repetition and interjections lend his work lyrical character. Hove’s ability to fuse the different literary traditions he shares is reflected in the incorporation of Shona sayings, maxims and expressions into the speech of his protagonists.
Chenjerai Hove died in 2015 in Stavanger, Norway.
© international literature festival berlin