My first literary encounter with Zambia-born, Zimbabwe-raised Petina Gappah was a pleasure for my writing soul therefore I easily delved into the short story published by faber, part of their collection featuring individual authors on the occasion of the edition house 90th anniversary. Gappah has a training in law and currently works for international organisations in Geneva.
The action from An Elegy for Easterly is taking place in Zimbabwe during the so-called operation Move the Rubbish - or Murambatsvina in the local language - during which clums started to be cleared on the occasion of the Queen´s visit. The residents of Easterly were among the 700,000 people that lost their homes and livelihood during those intensive state-led operations.
The events that took place then are only the context of the short story, which follows short segments of life of some of the residents. The writing is clear yet able to bring to life the hustle and bustle of the African markets and everyday buzz. The humans and their short-lived stories and ambitions are adding more buzz and reality to the story. Martha Mupengo personifies the street madness perfectly, a lost soul keen to lift her dress for 0.20 cents. Lost in her own madness, without any help and human support, she is like a symbol of Easterly itself. Used, abused, stoled, abandoned dead in the housing where a crime took place. A no man´s land of sadness and displacement, of desperation, still, of a life following its own course. Like in her previous collection of short stories, Gappah gives a voice to all the residents, and by not taking sides and following the flow of the story, her accounts do have that literary attraction of authenticity. Curious and uninhibited, the author is bravely advancing her story on all fronts, no matter what the story development reveals. The end might be cruel, but this is part of acknowledging how life is.
I am not sure I will continue to explore other stories published by faber but definitely I am after more short stories, including for exploring the writing techniques.
Rating: 4 stars