by Brian Chikwava - £8.99 Vintage (2010)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780099526759 | ISBN 10: 0099526751
When he lands in Harare North, our unnamed protagonist carries nothing but a cardboard suitcase full of memories and an email address for his childhood friend, Shingi. Finessing his way through immigration, he spends a few restless weeks as the very unwelcome guest in his cousin’s home before tracking down Shingi in a Brixton squat.
In this astonishing, revelatory original debut, Caine Prize winner Brian Chikwava tackles head-on the realities of life as a refugee. This is the story of a stranger in a strange land – one of the thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants seeking a better life in England - with a past he is determined to hide. From the first line the language fizzes with energy, humour and not a little menace.
As he struggles to make his life in London (the ‘Harare North’ of the title) and battles with the weight of what he has left behind in a strife-torn Zimbabwe, every expectation and preconception (both his and ours) is turned on its head. The inhabitants of the squat function at various levels of desperation: Shingi struggles to find meaningful work and to meet the demands of his family back home; Tsitsi makes a living renting out her baby to women defrauding Social Services; Alex claims to have an important job in Croydon.
Fearlessly political, laugh-out-loud funny and with an anti-hero whose voice is impossible to forget, Chikwava’s novel is an arresting account of London as it is experienced by the Africa’s dispossessed.
(Price & availability last checked: December 2018)
In booklists: World Fiction - Zimbabwe, Fiction and Poetry: Immigration, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, World Fiction - Africa, Fiction - Black British Writers, Writers by Surname - C, Political Fiction, In categories: Fiction, World - Africa, Anti-Racism, Poetry & Writing, Black, Asian & Other Diasporas, Politics & Philosophy,