Without a Name and Under the Tongue by Yvonne Vera

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Yvonne Vera's novels chronicle the lives of Zimbabwean women with extraordinary power and beauty. Without a Name and Under the Tongue, her two earliest novels, are set in the seventies during the guerrilla war against the white government.

In Without a Name (1994), Mazvita, a young woman from the country, travels to Harare to escape the war and begin a new life. But her dreams of independence are short-lived. She begins a relationship of convenience and becomes pregnant.

In Under the Tongue (1996), the adolescent Zhizha has lost the will to speak. In lyrical fragments, Vera relates the story of Zhizha's parents, and the horrifying events that led to her mother's imprisonment and her father's death. With this novel Vera became the first Zimbabwean writer ever to deal frankly with incest. With these surprising, at times shocking novels Vera shows herself to be a writer of great potential.

About Yvonne Vera

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Yvonne Vera was born in Bulawayo, where she is now director of the National Gallery. The author of Butterfly Burning, she received the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa region) for Under the Toungue.
Published February 13, 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 224 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Without a Name and Under the Tongue

Kirkus Reviews

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In the prizewinning Under the Tongue (1996), Vera offers a more robust plot in the story of how young Zhizha came to find herself in the dreamy residence of her grandmother, her father dead and her mother dying beside her.

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Publishers Weekly

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These stark tales explore the painful scars left by incest, murder, dislocation and war, but their emphasis on phantasmagoric imagery and failure to make characters more than a reflection of their circumstances leaves their potential power largely untapped.

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Project MUSE

Reading them back to back reveals the logic of pairing the two works in this way: most obviously, both novellas are set in the late 1970s, during the civil war against Ian Smith's white minority regime, and they depict the effects of the war on poor and working township dwellers.

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