Have You Heard? Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Author Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions is one of the most famous novels of Rhodesia. The work is by Tsitsi Dangarembga. The novel’s main character is partially based on the novel’s Zimbabwean author. A former student at Cambridge, Tsitsi Dangarembga is one of Zimbabwe’s most influential filmmakers and authors. After spending part of her childhood in England and later studying medicine at Cambridge University, she returned to her native Zimbabwe to major in psychology at University of Zimbabwe. While there, she was a member of a drama troupe and blossomed into the famous artist known today.

Nervous Conditions was the first novel in English ever written by a black Zimbabwean woman. It won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. Dangarembga continued her education later in Berlin at the Deutsche Film und Fernseh Akademie. She made the film “Everyone’s Child,” shown worldwide including at the Jameson Dublin International. She wrote a sequel to Nervous Conditions in 2006.

“The condition of natives is a nervous condition.” -Frantz Fanon, 1961

Nervous Conditions
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About the Classic Novel:

Set in Rhodesia in the 1960’s, Nervous Conditions is a classic novel enduring unto today for its memorable protagonist and strong statements about gender inequities of women, stolen educational access and resource gaps in a politically-charged nation.

Tambu is the daughter of Jeremiah and Mainini, wise and stable Rhodesian parents. The family toils in poverty. Her brother Nhamo has been pulled away to a boarding school courtesy of her wealthy relatives. When Nhamo meets tragedy and dies, the novel turns. Suddenly Tambu’s extended family enters the novel, including a female cousin who operates as her foil.

Eventually Tambu, like her brother, is attending a new school. She later aces a critical exam to earn admittance to a better school. However, Nervous Conditions describes a grim fate woman under strict constraints and limited expectations are fated to keep. Despite her poise for success in society, Tambu remains skeptical of the world. The novel’s memorable title originates from a Frantz Fanon quote.

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