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.

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