My Son, The Terrorist : The Meaning of Guerrilla Fighters in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe

Heather Sofield, English 119,. Brown University (1999)

Hove chooses to narrate Bones with many voices. Alternating between Janifa, Chisaga, the unknown woman, and Marita's own husband, Marita's story is told. But this example of post-colonial literature, which goes beyond the story of one woman, encompasses the tales of the entire nation. We feel simultaneously the emotions and confusions and experiences which are shaping so many lives. I would like to examine the effect of this style of storytelling. What do we learn from this unique chorus of voices about the Postcolonial experience in Zimbabwe?

Marita is searching for her only son. He ran away from the village to join "the terrorists," as they are referred to by most people. These men fought for Zimbabwean independence, for the rights of the common people who, in spite of Independence, still suffer. But what do the people think of this? What is the opinion of the public? Is it possible to derive from the narrative voices employed by Hove a true indication of popular opinion concerning the political situation in Zimbabwe?

Janifa says in the beginning of the book,

Yes, I have a letter, even though I know I would never marry him. How can I marry a terrorist, do they not say that a terrorist eats people without roasting them? Do they not say a terrorist takes the wives of other men, sleeps with them before the eyes of their very husbands, then asks the parents to roast their children for him? I cannot marry a terrorist, a killer who kills his own mother. [p. 4]

Here we hear Janifa repeating popular myth about these "terrorists" but she does not reflect any knowlege or opinion about the real political situation. All the actions she attributes to these men are seemingly arbitrary acts of violence, directed at all people instead of focused upon a recognizable enemy. Where do such legends form? Why are these people so ready to believe that the boys they grew up with could perform such demonic acts?

Later, we hear the voice of an Unknown Woman, and through her, the voice of her husband the government worker. These two share very different opinions of the "terrorists". The government worker washes his hands of his involvement in the deaths of a group of fighters.

"Listen to your evil Zapu spirit. Do you think a few armed gangsters will fight a whole army and win? You must be mad. I am a government worker and I do not want to get mixed up in such things. Mine is to work and get home for a good days rest, nothing else." [p. 51]

But his wife, the Unknown Woman, responds with compassion,

"Do you now know that even if you do not like them, they are someone's children?"

And then, we also hear a plea from the fighters themselves:

"No, baba, we are not murderers. Listen carefully to us. We are your children. All we need is medicine to treat ourselves with if we should get injured in the fight with the strangers..." [pp. 53-54]

They identify themselves as sons of the people and clearly identify their enemy as the "strangers".

With all these voices, all these opinions concerning these terrorists, what do we learn? Did the common people have any understanding or appreciation for these efforts? Were they supportive? Where do the myths originate that identify the fighters as murderers of their own people? How much is fact and how much is fiction? Certainly the history of this guerrilla army is a central issue to Zimbabwe's postcolonial state. Do the people embrace these men as their sons, or do they shrink back from them in fear? What does Hove wish to convey about this in Bones?

Postcolonial Web Zimbabwe OV Chenjerai Hove Overview Bones