An Elegy for Easterly: Stories

[PDF / Epub] ☉ An Elegy for Easterly: Stories ❤ Petina Gappah – Johndore.co.uk
  • Hardcover
  • 224 pages
  • An Elegy for Easterly: Stories
  • Petina Gappah
  • English
  • 19 July 2017
  • 0865479062

About the Author: Petina Gappah

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organisation that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries.


An Elegy for Easterly: StoriesA Woman In A Township In Zimbabwe Is Surrounded By Throngs Of Dusty Children But Longs For A Baby Of Her Own An Old Man Finds That His New Job Making Coffins At No Matter Funeral Parlor Brings Unexpected Riches A Politician S Widow Stands Quietly By At Her Husband S Funeral, Watching His Colleagues Bury An Empty Casket Petina Gappah S Characters May Have Ordinary Hopes And Dreams, But They Are Living In A World Where A Loaf Of Bread Costs Half A Million Dollars, Where Wives Can T Trust Even Their Husbands For Fear Of AIDS, And Where People Know Exactly What Will Be Printed In The One And Only Daily Newspaper Because The News Is Always, Always Good.In Her Spirited Debut Collection, The Zimbabwean Writer Petina Gappah Brings Us The Resilience And Inventiveness Of The People Who Struggle To Live Under Robert Mugabe S Regime She Takes Us Across The City Of Harare, From The Townships Beset By Power Cuts To The Manicured Lawns Of Privilege And Corruption, Where Wealthy Husbands Keep Their First Wives In The Big Houses While Their Unofficial Second Wives Wait In The Small Houses, Hoping For A Promotion.Despite Their Circumstances, The Characters In An Elegy For Easterly Are Than Victims They Are All Too Human, With As Much Capacity To Inflict Pain As To Endure It They Struggle With The Larger Issues Common To All People Everywhere Failed Promises, Unfulfilled Dreams, And The Yearning For Something To Anchor Them To Life.At The Sound Of The Last Post An Elegy For Easterly The Annex Shuffle Something Nice From London In The Heart Of The Golden Triangle The Mupandawana Dancing Champion Our Man In Geneva Wins A Million Euros The Maid From Lalapanzi Aunt Juliana S Indian The Cracked, Pink Lips Of Rosie S Bridegroom My Cousin Sister Rambanai The Negotiated Settlement Midnight At The Hotel California

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10 thoughts on “An Elegy for Easterly: Stories

  1. Paul says:

    4.5 starsA collection of short stories by a Zimbabwean writer previously unknown to me thirteen stories, all bar one set in Zimbabwe They focus on recent history, post independence The characters struggle with the vicissitudes of daily life, bureaucracy, hyperinflation, the pomposity of those in authority, AIDS, misogyny, unfaithful partners mostly men , corruption and yearning Gappah is also interested in the motivations of those who wrong as well as those who are wronged The Easterly of 4.5 starsA collection of short stories by a Zimbabwean writer previously unknown to me thirteen stories, all bar one set in Zimbabwe They focus on recent history, post independence The characters struggle with the vicissitudes of daily life, bureaucracy, hyperinflation, the pomposity of those in authority, AIDS, misogyny, unfaithful partners mostly men , corruption and yearning Gappah is also interested in the motivations of those who wrong as well as those who are wronged The Easterly of the title is a shanty town that was cleared and destroyed by the government Gappah manages to capture the initial sense of optimism following the end of colonial white rule The long shadow of AIDS is present usually referred to by officialdom as a long illness Although the men are human, they tend to treat women very badly and Gappah says a lot with humour, as in the story At the Sound of the Last Post where a wife is reflecting at her husband s funeral Like the worthless dogs that are his countrymen, my husband believed that his penis was wasted if he was faithful to just one woman The writing is sharp with a strong vein of humour with dissects the subject being examined Gappah is a lawyer and it shows The Mupandawana Dancing Champion is a delight with a very original ending The play on words in the story The Mupandawana Dancing Competition has an acronym which is the same as the main opposition the Movement for Democratic Change illustrates the sheer silliness of those in power when the local MP is called to account by the governor for promoting a dance competition which also promotes the opposition by means of acronym What business does a ruling party MP have in promoting the opposition, the puppets, those led by tea boys, the detractors who do not understand that the land is the economy and the economy is the land and that the country will never be a colony again, those who seek to reverse the consolidation of the gains of our struggle However stories like An Elegy for Easterly have a much sharper effect and here Gappah tackles the story of a squatter community, the daily trials and struggle to survive It also broaches mental illness with the character of Martha Mupengo Equally Gappah can also make the reader feel sorry for a rather pompous diplomat who is new to e mail and loses money to a lottery scam The theme of lament runs through the stories, but it is also a paean to the people of Zimbabwe

  2. Calzean says:

    These short stories based mainly in Zimbabwe show a country experiencing a series of epidemics AIDS Corruption Black marketing Inflation Marital affairs Hyperinflation The stories cover both the poor and the rich Not a lot of happy stories But the writing is a treasure Each short story is well composed, very different from each other and the various endings are clever Well worth picking this one up to see how one unhappy country tries to survive the Mugabe era.

  3. AC says:

    Patina Gappah is a real find A fabulous collection of short stories, each flawless and nuanced Both melancholy and humerous and ironic Set in contemporary Zimbabwe.

  4. Alan says:

    Funny, sharp stories of contemporary Zimbabwe 2010 with all its horrors and corruption handled through personal stories Paying trillions of dollars for tractors or millions for a night in a hotel is commonplace People long for stability and opportunity but meanwhile cope as best they can with the situation while some, conmen, politicians, generals thrive Gappah has their measure and in satirical stories of everyday life there she lets us in on the situation with humour and gusto These stor Funny, sharp stories of contemporary Zimbabwe 2010 with all its horrors and corruption handled through personal stories Paying trillions of dollars for tractors or millions for a night in a hotel is commonplace People long for stability and opportunity but meanwhile cope as best they can with the situation while some, conmen, politicians, generals thrive Gappah has their measure and in satirical stories of everyday life there she lets us in on the situation with humour and gusto These stories live and breathe

  5. Andrew says:

    This debut short story collection by Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah is a wonderful read The tone of each one is perfect the language is consistently beautiful but also completely natural You get to know the characters very quickly, through small details artfully described, and are left at just the right moment to move on to the next tale.The title gives a clue to what s in store Elegy is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as A song of lamentation, esp a funeral song or lament for This debut short story collection by Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah is a wonderful read The tone of each one is perfect the language is consistently beautiful but also completely natural You get to know the characters very quickly, through small details artfully described, and are left at just the right moment to move on to the next tale.The title gives a clue to what s in store Elegy is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as A song of lamentation, esp a funeral song or lament for the dead This book feels like Petina Gappah s lament for the Zimbabwe she grew up in, a Zimbabwe that has been scarred by political corruption, economic chaos and the scourge of AIDS I can t say whether she means to say that the Zimbabwe she knew is dead Of course the country endures, the people endure, and that s what these stories are about Perhaps the lament is not so much for the country itself as for the people who have suffered so much In any case, there s a deep sadness underlying all these stories, and there s a death or a funeral in most of the stories.Yet the strange thing is that there s also a lot of humour, and the humour often goes hand in hand with the sadness There s the old carpenter who is cheated out of his pension and wins a dancing contest, the diplomat who is new to email and loses thousands of euros to the old lottery scam, and the bizarre goings on at the Hotel California In many of the stories, the humour is very real and genuinely funny, and yet it feels like a thin veneer which Gappah deliberately lets slip every now and then, exposing the horror underneath.My favourite story, though, has no real humour It s called Something Nice from London and tells of a family waiting at the airport for the twice weekly flight from London The title refers to the hope that relatives in the UK will either return or send back money or gifts for their families With the collapse of the economy, a few UK pounds is millions of Zimbabwe dollars, and can help a family to survive But it gradually becomes clear that what this particular family is waiting for is the coffin of their son, Peter And what follows is a tragic, drawn out description of the anxious waiting for weeks and weeks, interspersed with explanations of what brought Peter and the family to this point, all the sacrifices and mistakes and disappointments It s important that the body returns because the whole extended family is staying at their house awaiting the funeral, and they literally can t afford to feed them much longer.It s probably not a representative story to pick the others, as I said, hadhumour mixed in with the tragedy, and I think it s that mixture that makes the book successful But this particular story really got to methan all the others There s just a real power to that image of the family waiting at the airport, surrounded by all the other people waiting for Something nice from London while they are waiting for the coffin of their son.Which brings me back to the tone When describing suffering, and especially when interspersing it with humour, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid melodrama, tastelessness, didacticism and exploitation to name but a few Gappah skips effortlessly through the minefield, achieving just the right tone in every story It s a tremendous achievement, and I look forward to readingfrom her

  6. Dan says:

    I liked these stories separately and together Almost all are set in the Zimbabwe of the dictator Robert Mugabe, sometimes with a minor backstory from the time of the guerrilla war In the one story set outside Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwean man whose life and understanding are constrained by the various kinds of poverty he brings with him from Zimbabwe tries to cope in Europe but is betrayed by his own limitations and by other Africans Readers will see the latter kind of understated, almost hidden, be I liked these stories separately and together Almost all are set in the Zimbabwe of the dictator Robert Mugabe, sometimes with a minor backstory from the time of the guerrilla war In the one story set outside Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwean man whose life and understanding are constrained by the various kinds of poverty he brings with him from Zimbabwe tries to cope in Europe but is betrayed by his own limitations and by other Africans Readers will see the latter kind of understated, almost hidden, betrayal again, part of Gappah s talent and her confidence in the reader s empathy and sense of irony.One of the pleasures of reading fiction is your encounter with different customs and attitudes even though they are based on feelings that are not so different from those we know at home As you d expect, that is one of the pleasures for an American reading these stories But though Gappah is a Zimbabwean she is a citizen of a much larger world She is in touch with the grit, but she s a sophisticated citizen of the world who works in Geneva and holds a law degree from Cambridge So she when she writes about Zimbabwe, she has the perspective of binocular vision On the other hand, the universals of human feeling and problems are the core of these stories Beyond that, though, it is striking to me how very many of the details, including the flaws and outrages of dictatorship, are very much like our own In The Mupandawana Dancing Champion, a character tells a joke about Zimbabwe supporters of the ruling elite who appears at the Pearly Gates asking admission to Heaven St Peter is taken aback and runs to see God about whether to admit them God say that even the those of the elite are His children, whereupon St Peter goes back to the gates, then returns to God They ve gone he tells God How can all those people disappear God asks No, says Peter, the Pearly Gates are gone If that doesn t sound to you like a story that could be told about Western politicians, you haven t been reading the newspapers In the same story, the main character, about to retire, learns that his employer has used his pension money elsewhere and is now going out of business, leaving the employee two pair of ill fitting shoes instead of a pension As happens in America, too, because Congress in inviting employers to set up pension plans provided zero security for the money Maybe you ve heard of Enron, too, selling stock in its fraudulent and crumbling empire to guess what, its own employees pension funds Almost all of the stories explicitly or implicitly consider the effects of power of the state, of large social institutions, of employers on individuals, even if the dictatorship s abuse is secondary in many stories The first three stories especially pursue the themes of power vs its victims But as formally simple as most of these stories are, they are not simple good guys against bad guys The powerless victim may after all find a way to strike back Or may turn against other powerless people I d like to sayabout this, but resist and stick with abstractions to avoid spoliation As important as victimizers are in some of the stories, virtually all the stories are precisely focused on the relationships of particular human individuals their growth, their disintegration, their ongoingness and sometimes renewal Sometimes the power abuse is simply part of the background, like the kind of cigarettes characters smoke, and the real story is about the human beings, particularly in their relationships with one another At other times, Gappah integrates the story of power with the story of individual relationships The relationship issues are often the universal and simple ones the husband regularly cheats Gappah s word on his wife, a man makes his way in the straitened economy of inflation by dealing in the black market a young woman tries to get free of a mental ward and all its associations parents exaggerate their children s accomplishments abroad and use the supposed accomplishment as offensive weapons young people build a destructive fantasy life or they go abroad and find themselves too innocent to cope well with life in Dallas or Geneva.Some stories are told in the first person, others in the third There is even one told in the second person, a rarity, but it works The first person narrator is sometimes a male, thoughoften a female She writes in the present tense and in the past In other words, on these elements, the stories are varied.Varied but in a way quite simple in style No big puzzles here for the reader What does that pear tree symbolize is not the kind of question you have to figure out But simplicity is not shallowness here And I, at least, found myself thinking back about stories, not to figure out puzzles set by the author but to get a better feeling for the depth I ll probably re read some of them, something I almost never do without an interval of 30 years Dialog may be Gappah s best suit, but her narration, even when it becomes just telling, holds you Sometimes the telling is a bit too summary and in one instance the piece is not, in my view, a short story at all, but rather effective social commentary without a story The main character in the Cracked Pink Lips of Rosie s Bridegroom, is a collective the guests at a wedding who believe they observe symptoms of HIV in the groom The individuals getting married here are not explored they arelike Muller s ghostly characters in Green Plums Even as a piece of social commentary, I felt this piece lost something because the author s outrage at HIV AIDs and at its wanton devastations of women by men who marry them seems to be redirected in the end at the character of the wedding guests who are commenting on it If you are going to attack everyone at once, you may need a novel, not a short story To the extent that these stories implicate the theme of the state vs the individual, or develop the day to day life in a dictatorship, Elegy suggests many comparisons or contrasts I recently read Herta Muller s Land of the Green Plums, another book that deals with an economically ruinous dictatorship Ceausescu in Romania But the whole feel of Muller s book is surreal In Gappah, the title story, Elegy for Easterly, is a powerful tale of life in the Zimbabwe, seen from the life of a few individuals Muller s characters had almost been turned into ghosts, by the regime or perhaps through their own flaws, but in either case they are visible to us mostly in outline Gappah s are vivid even in their quotidian lives Sometimes I wantedof the characters Maybe Gappah know how to quit when she s ahead, or maybe that s my love of the longer forms of fiction.Another dimension it might be instructive to see these stories in the context of modern African literature, particularly literature written in English This is beyond my knowledge However, Gappah has been quoted on the web and maybe elsewhere as saying she doesn t think of herself as an African writer and this has prompted some discussion among writers who are, in some sense, African An interesting blog by Chielo Zona Eze, a Nigerian writer teaching in Chicago, gave me an introduction to this topic He sees two schools of thought among writers with roots in Africa One, growing out of Achebe who attacked Conrad s Heart of Darkness as essentially racist sees its role as primarily redefining the African, challenging the West s single story The other, based on Soyinka, cares little about the burden of meeting the gaze of the white man I d guess Gappah goes this group if classifying her is deemed important Eze sees her as confronting life rather than in defining herself visited December 17, 2009 However you might classify her on the African spectrum, it would be unfair to suggest that Zimbabweans are, to her, the other They are part of her, and if you read the stories, I don t see how you could think otherwise She does not turn her back on Zimbabwe or its cultures She doesn t see Mugabe as a representative of some permanent flaw in Zimbabwean culture and she cannot be accused of showing Zimbabwe as somehow inferior, though its suffering is great In other words, Gappah is not the outsider like Conrad writing Heart of Darkness You really can t avoid thinking that she has a sense of individual human beings that do not merely stand for something else but are themselves That s what makes her a fiction writer and not a polemicist or philosopher

  7. Terez says:

    An amazing collection of stories Worth the struggle with English Beautiful and honest at the same time And I must do some research on history of Zimbabwe one day.

  8. Christopher Charamba says:

    This collection of short stories form a brilliant read In An Elegy for Easterly the author manages to capture moments in the lives of Zimbabweans Growing up in Zimbabwe the stories are familiar, I have my own cousin sister Rambanai, I know my own M dhara Vitalis, I bought my own school uniforms from maIndia, waited for something nice from London Petina Gappah with this cross section Zimbabweans rich and poor alike, urban and rural, illustrates beautifully their afflictions and their successes This collection of short stories form a brilliant read In An Elegy for Easterly the author manages to capture moments in the lives of Zimbabweans Growing up in Zimbabwe the stories are familiar, I have my own cousin sister Rambanai, I know my own M dhara Vitalis, I bought my own school uniforms from maIndia, waited for something nice from London Petina Gappah with this cross section Zimbabweans rich and poor alike, urban and rural, illustrates beautifully their afflictions and their successes The stories invoke an array of emotions, tears of joy and of sorrow A highly recommended read for all

  9. Alison Smith says:

    Unvarnished modern Zimbabwe with all its trials, tragedies, daily struggles against a corrupt and broken system Despite these obstacles the stories are vivid and flavourful A few are downright funny for example The Mupandawana Dancing Champion The stories are so authentic you can smell the woodsmoke If you want to discover what modern, post independence Zimbabwe is really like, then the collection of short stories is a Must Read Bio Petinah Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees Unvarnished modern Zimbabwe with all its trials, tragedies, daily struggles against a corrupt and broken system Despite these obstacles the stories are vivid and flavourful A few are downright funny for example The Mupandawana Dancing Champion The stories are so authentic you can smell the woodsmoke If you want to discover what modern, post independence Zimbabwe is really like, then the collection of short stories is a Must Read Bio Petinah Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries Her first novel is The Book of Memory

  10. Bianca says:

    I loved, loved, loved The Book of Memory and thought I would love this as well because she is a truly great writer While I can definitely say her characters are brought to life through her words, the stories just fell flat with me and I was generally left unmoved It s an easy read though and it does give some insight into life in Zimbabwe.