Laughing Now: New stories from Zimbabwe

Laughing Now, edited by Irene Staunton and published by Weaver Press, is an anthology of 14 short stories, which follows up from previous Weaver short story collections – the critically acclaimed texts, Writing Now and Writing Still.

Conceived at the height of the era of galloping inflation and foreign currency and fuel shortage, – known to many as Zimbabwe’s lost decade – the stories in the anthology are a laugh a minute, showing that in the face of adversity laughter can, indeed, be the best medicine.

The most recognizable contributing writers are the late Julius Chingono, John Eppel, Daniel Mandishona, Bryony Rheam and The Guardian’s First Book Award winner, Petina Gappah. Literary heavyweight, Shimmer Chinodya, also lends his talent to this collection.

There is humour in A Grave Matter, Dianna Charseley’s tale of an undertaker’s assistant who tries to find his feet after he is evicted from his parental home. In Minister Without Portfolio, Julius Chingono, equally adept in prose and poetry, manages to fit ministerial corruption, land redistribution, a hip twirling courtesan, oodles of liquor, black market foreign currency deals and sidesplitting humour, all into the confines of a moving Mercedes Benz, which is the setting for a well-crafted story.

Amidst the economic troubles of the last decade, the discovery of diamonds in Chiadzwa provided one bright moment for the country. In his story, The Chances and Challenges of Chiadzwa, Edward Chinhanhu puts a fictional spin on events in surrounding the diamond rush in Marange.

There are man-eating lions, rhinoceros chases, lights, cameras and action in Rory Kilalea’s wickedly funny story, African Laughter.

Possibly one of the most difficult things to do, for an adult, is to see the world through the eyes of a child. Bryony Rheam brings out her inner child as she narrates Christmas, through a 10 year old protagonist and she does it to great, and often humorous, effect.

Petina Gappah is the queen of diction and her story, Murambinda Dancing Champion deserves special mention. In this story, Gappah’s language is so descriptive that one is transported to the scene of a dance contest in Murambinda growth point. Amidst the ubiquitous punch lines, Gappah makes subtle political commentary in this expertly composed piece.

All in all, Laughing Now is a time capsule, in which a fragment of the country’s history is stored but, thankfully, made less painful by the humour of the authors. It is the one instance where the reader is permitted to judge a book by its cover and is a read-worthy divertissement from the troubles of everyday life.

Post published in: Arts

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