Zimbawean Author Gets Joint Book Deal

In a posting on her blog, Petina Gappah has announced, and confirmed, the news that she has secured a two-book deal with Faber & Faber in the UK and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in the US. The first book, An Elegy for Easterly, a story collection, comes out in April 2009 in the UK and June 2009 in the US, while the second, The Book of Memory, my first novel, comes out in 2010. In addition, writes Gappah, “Mouria, Gyldendal Norsk and Bonniers, three of the classiest and most respected publishers in Europe have bought the rights to both books in The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, so the books will come out at same time in Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish.”

“I am so thrilled, both for myself, but also for Zimbabwean and African writers,” stated Gappah in an email message. This is the first such joint deal offered to any writer by Faber-FSG.

If you have read any of Gappah’s fiction and other writings, especially her political commentary at such forums as the Guardian, Granta, Prospect, The Zimbabwe Times, you will already know her a facility with language and her riveting story-telling style.

Great news for Zimbabwe and the African continent, wonderful news for readers everywhere. I am looking forward to reading these books. For the first time I will be able to walk into a Borders or Barnes & Noble and actually find a book by a Zimbabwean author on the shelf, that is, if I even have to walk past the store-front New York Times bestseller list display!

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer and lawyer based in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds a doctorate from the Karl-Franz University in Graz, Austria, a Master of Laws degree from Cambridge University and a Bachelor of Laws Honours degree from the University of Zimbabwe.

Writers & their Audience: Dambudzo Marechera

I believe new emerging writers anywhere can learn something about writing from Marechera, so I make it a point that when I am teaching a fiction-writing course, I include the flash story “Night on My Harmonica” on the list of sample writings students should read. I ask students to write personal responses in which they interpret the story according to what they know already, or if someting they don’t understand comes up in a story, to do some research. Well, the last time I used the short story in a class the students had not option to do research because the exercise was an in-class assignment; they were reading the story for the first time without having been given a context. So here are some of the issues the responses focused on:

1. The main character is an alcoholic: The signs were clear. The readers leaned towards a pschoanalytic approach, focusing on the behavioural symptoms of a life affected by alcoholism. The main character is always in pubs: ” I am always in pubs buying the cheap joy pint by pint”. The pub life has affected the man’s relationship with his girlfriend, who complains that he does not her anywhere, except to the pubs. This is a compaint the readers are familiar with, since quality time is an ingredient of fun relationships.