Anthology unearths great talent

Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
Although I edited the newly published anthology “Outside the Garden of Eden” (2017, Forteworx Press), receiving the final published copy still got me settling back again into my reading chair immediately. I was humbled having my copy but kept questioning myself: can I review or handle fairly the book that I edited without this review being labelled “hype”?I am always with my best friends beside me, though, who are “objectivity and truthfulness”. There are various types of reviews just as there are different points from which different people can look at a mountain! And so I read through the anthology patiently but it felt not like an echo. If it was a song, it sounded differently from the last time I played it in my room. There are eight, mostly new, authors giving out thirteen short stories which, in localized milieu, hammer into a certain travesty the “Edenic” theory of man’s creation.

The stories present in filmic scenes, individual styles and sensitive themes, “man and woman” diverting from the main highway of God’s law. The title spur us to go back to the Eden we know, defined by WordWeb as a beautiful garden where Adam and Eve were placed at the Creation; when they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were driven from their paradise (the fall of man).

Now the stories show how the African descendent of Adam and Eve is faring outside the garden. Fiction though this is, the authors must have done their little researches in this busy life because it was fun editing and it is fun reading and writing about this collection, now that it is out in the sun with different “evaluators”.

There may be various “shining stars and glooms” waiting on the anthology’s pages for the reader but that you will slide into the psyches and emotions of various characters who are rapists, the raped, problem-solvers, murderers, cheaters, AIDS victims, or winners, is no lie. And then the inquisitive may wonder but why much of the tone in the collection is “sad”, is about suffering? The joy is there, however, but it is shrouded underneath situations you have to “peruse” first.

How the young generation can rescue themselves from selfish lifestyles is shown in Victoria Tapera’s story “Mother, It’s Me Your Son” in which there are two young contrasting characters. MaSibanda is young enough to be the daughter of Anna who is her hard-working old maid but riches and being “educated” blind MaSibanda and she mistreats Anna.

It happens then that after a long separation from his mother due to certain circumstances, Anna’s son, now rich, returns “home”. The story shows love triumphing over pride. The reader may also see a certain addiction by the writers to the engagement of the first-person narrator in the anthology. Perhaps, we have to look for something new in the stories other than POV (point of view) if we are to find the scores! I found an experimental grip at humour by the authors. For instance, the story “Outside the Garden of Eden” by Edmond Shonhiwa is full of it and it moves the story forward.

Shonhiwa’s fictitious parliament session which is discussing burning gender issues will get you laughing while reflecting on women’s rights. You will be as vexed as the fellow in “The Anointed Condoms” by Nkosiyazi Kan Kanjiri who ends up writing a letter to God interrogating him on various issues. The unflinching ‘false prophets’ amidst us are making quick business with their anointed products. In the story, prostitutes wield anointed condoms at would-be clients; the main character’s wife brings home an anointed ballpoint pen from a dubious all-night prayer.

The pen, believed to help their daughter pass an exam, costs $25.While the stories skilfully strike at different “uncool” notes, they however come with their own consoling touches, suggestions to what needs to be done to rescue a world undermined by a trail of sin. The eight authors featuring in this collection are: Victoria Tapera, Gloria Murindi Dangah, Cheryl Matizamhuka, Tamuka Gurure, Nkosiyazi Kan Kanjiri, Medeline Angel Machonesa, Brian Tafadzwa Penny (who also did the compilation of stories), and Edmond Shonhiwa. It is up to the reader, to swim or sink in this pool of stories.

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