NoViolet Bulawayo allegorizes the consequences of Robert Mugabe

GLORY By NoViolet Bulawayo At the start of NoViolet Bulawayo’s very clever new novel, “Glory,” she completely removes the vocabulary of...


GLORY
By NoViolet Bulawayo

At the start of NoViolet Bulawayo’s very clever new novel, “Glory,” she completely removes the vocabulary of “people” from the story and the language of her characters, who are all animals. The book is set in Jidada, a fictional African country that can be understood as a sort of fantasy Zimbabwe in the period between the military overthrow of its president in 2017, Robert Mugabe, and his death two years later. It’s a brilliant 400-page postcolonial fable about the fall of a tyrant – whose counterpart here is an aged horse – and the rise of a new one.

Other inhabitants of Jidada are pigs and cows, goats and sheep, cats and dogs, chickens and a few peacocks. There is a very large symbol-laden crocodile reminiscent of the actual nicknames given to Mugabe’s human replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwaas well as the South African Prime Minister PW Botha, supporter of apartheid. There are no men or women in “Glory”; there is no personality at all, only “mals” and “femals”. Things that are kept private are “personal” matters. Quadrupedal animals switch freely between moving on four legs and two, and when they opt for the latter, it is called “recoiling”. It’s an allegory that works entirely on its own terms, with its own ingenious lexicon. By removing humans from the equation, Bulawayo eliminates the hierarchies that their presence would impose. She succeeded in creating the anti-“Babar”.

And while there are certainly parallels between Jidada’s creatures and Orwell’s chronicles of Snowball, Napoleon, Boxer and company, in the very first chapter “Glory” cautions against interpreting the book solely by similes with “Animal Farm”. In a speech to the crowd gathered for the Independence Day celebrations, Dr Sweet Mother, a donkey in Gucci heels and the equine equivalent of the ousted leader’s wife, Grace Mugabe, announces:

“I stand here to answer this nonsense right here right now, with Jidada himself and that sun over there as witnesses, and I say: this is not an animal farm but Jidada with a -da and another -da! So my advice to you is, stop it, and stop it now!”

Although part of a litany aimed at Tuvy, her political rival, Dr. Sweet Mother’s words are too explicit not to be a warning to the reader. Here and again, when Dr. Sweet Mother happily watches the YouTube video of her own speech, we hear it straight from the donkey’s mouth: This is not “animal farm.” Not his remix, nor his translation. “Glory” is its own living world, drawn from its own folklore.

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Newsrust - US Top News: NoViolet Bulawayo allegorizes the consequences of Robert Mugabe
NoViolet Bulawayo allegorizes the consequences of Robert Mugabe
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