They Called You Dambudzo : A Memoir by Flora Veit-Wild
Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd, 21 March 2021
Soft cover, 292 pages
How shall I tell our story? I hear your voice ringing in mine. I struggle to disentangle a dense tapestry of memories. One thread will be caught up in another. Early images will embrace later ones. My gaze will often be filtered through your eyes, your poems. In the end I will not always be able to tell the original from the reflection. Just as you wrote, Time’s fingers on the piano / play emotion into motion / the dancers in the looking glass never recognise us as their originals.
This book is a memoir with a ‘double heartbeat’. At its centre is the author’s relationship with the late Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, whose award-winning book The House of Hunger marked him as a powerful, disruptive, perhaps prophetic voice in African literature. Flora Veit-Wild is internationally recognised for her significant contribution to preserving Marechera’s legacy. What is less known about Marechera and Veit-Wild is that they had an intense, personal and sexual relationship. This memoir explores this: the couple’s first encounter in 1983, amidst the euphoria of the newly independent Zimbabwe; the tumultuous months when the homeless writer moved in with his lover and her family; the bouts of creativity once he had his own flat followed by feelings of abandonment; the increasing despair about a love affair that could not stand up against reality and the illness of the writer and his death of HIV related pneumonia in August 1987.
What follows are the struggles Flora went through once Dambudzo had died. On the one hand she became the custodian of his life and work, on the other she had to live with her own HIV infection and the ensuing threats to her health.