Tendai Huchu was born in Bindura

Bindura girl earns a living talking to ghosts

Well, not exactly true. It’s all fiction.

Ever come across books such as The Hairdresser of Harare and The Maestro, The Magistrate and the Mathematician which have been translated into multiple languages and won awards? Those (and more) are the works of Tendai Huchu, a Zimbabwe born author who however has has lived in Edinburgh, UK, for most of his adult life. 

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Here he talks about his journey thus far:

In 2015 I published a story called “Ghostalker” about a young girl who earns a living talking to ghosts in my hometown, Bindura, Zimbabwe. The voice stayed with me long after I wrote the story, and I kept thinking about what I could do to work with this character again.

Then in 2017, I published another short story “The Library of the Dead” which was the prototype of the new version in my novel. In a sense, I was cannibalizing from my own work. For me, short fiction is an area in which I experiment with ideas and if they work then there’s always the potential for me to refine them in the form of the novel.

No, they’re not.

I go through multiple drafts and so change is inevitable. My agent Jamie Cowen helped me go through a huge structural edit that resulted in a much tighter novel. In the process, I lost Ropa’s first sidekick, a kid called Murdo, but then Priya who was only supposed to be in it for a single chapter ended up becoming more prominent, and her role will grow as the series progresses.

We currently have two books. The second Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments is currently with my publishers, Tor. But I have plenty of ideas for what to do with Ropa and her merry band, so there’ll be more to come after that.

I’d originally intended to set the story in Bindura. But once I got to planning, I decided I needed a larger canvas, and, because I’ve lived in Edinburgh for as long as I lived in my hometown it was a natural fit. Edinburgh isn’t a particularly large city, but what it lacks spatially it more than makes up for temporally, in the depth of its history. And so Edinburgh’s history and, by extension, Scottish history is a key element in my storytelling.

As for a favourite place, I really love Union Canal, because I’m an avid runner and there’s an awesome path that runs along the canal which means you can go for miles without meeting traffic…well, except for bloody cyclists!

I have enough trouble dealing with the living, I wouldn’t appreciate having to deal with ghosts too. I’ll have plenty of time for that when I’m dead.

C. T. Rwizi‘s Requiem Moon which is the sequel to his utterly stunning Scarlet Odyssey. It’s a fantasy novel with a unique magic system, believable characters, intricate plotting and perfect pacing, and I would love to read more by him in future.

Jon Mcgregor
China Mieville
Sarah Ladipo-Manyika
Ben Aaronovitch

A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. It is the most perfect story ever told.

There are perks to having been born after the Sexual Revolution, so, no.

Ha, I hope I never get to be that pretentious.

Lauren Beukes‘ Zoo City has this stunning cover by the artist Joey Hi-Fi. It’s a whole ‘nother level of dopeness, and, thank God, the story is just as amazing, so it was a great purchase.

Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky blew my mind in my twenties. It made me really want to be a writer because I saw all these possibilities of how to express your ideas within the form of the novel. In fact, my first ever attempt at writing a full-length novel was a godawful plagiarism of Demons, a 19th-century Russian novel transposed to reflect the 21st-century Zimbabwean experience. And that’s because what Dostoevsky wrote spoke to my reality in a deep, meaningful, fundamental way like nothing else had.

Absent: The English Teacher by John Eppel. Eppel is this outstanding Zimbabwean author based in Bulawayo, a true master of the form. He is a poet and so you can imagine when he writes prose, the shit just sizzles. Technically, he is a master of the form, but he is also very playful and witty, utterly entertaining. I’ve bought and given away so many copies of this novel over the years because I can seldom find anyone else who’s read it so we can talk about it. This makes me very sad.

Harare North by Brian Chikwava is wildly inventive and does incredible things with language. The first time I picked up a copy in Waterstones, I was so appalled by the syntax, I remember asking myself how on Earth it ever got published. Then I went back on a different day, sat down in a chair, started reading it, and gradually realised the genius behind it. I would love for a book to shock me like that again.

Episodes 1-12 of Prison Break (season 1) were a masterclass in storytelling and wildly inventive for the time. How it works is simple though, character has a problem—they find a solution—the solution leads to another unforeseen problem that requires a solution, and so on…It was exceptionally well done. Unfortunately, they kept the thing going too long and stretched it far beyond what the idea could sustain, but I use that schema in my work often. It reflects a fundamental fact of life: everything has a cost attached.

Pulling a sickie and having coffee with a mate. What greater act of resistance to “the man” could there possibly be?

I tend to speak about the stuff I want to anyway, so I never have the burning desire to be asked something first in order to express my views.

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments the second book in the series is with my publishers, so now I have a bit of time to chill and enjoy the summer. Feels like the apocalypse is nearly over, so I’m taking a bit of time out.

The Library of the Dead Huchu, T. L. View on OverDrive View in Catalog

  • Tendai Huchu is a Zimbabwean author, born in 1982 in Bindura. He is best known for his novels The Hairdresser of Harare and The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. Tendai Huchu’s first novel, The Hairdresser of Harare, was released in 2010 to critical acclaim, and has been translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish.

This press release was produced by the Los Angeles Public Library.

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