Is a writer supposed to respond to a critical review of his story or book? We think not, unless if the reviewer has mixed up facts, and one wants to point out corrections.
Other writers might have a different take on this, but my argument is that the critical review is an interpretation of one’s work as perceived by the reader, to whom you sent your message as the writer/encoder. The critical reviewer is trained to make a fair attempt at decoding the message or messages encoded into our text, and explain them to his or her audience, and so when the piece has been published, no amount of complaining by the writer will reverse anything, you just have to sit back and be brave, and hope to walk out still sane from the whole experience.
The good reviewer, whether s/he slams your story, or praises it, has this value to the writer – s/he tries to explain your story for you, and if there are any inconsistencies, to also shine a light on them, so that they are visible for scrutiny.
What does the writer gain from all this – if s/he is a good listener, the next time s/he tries to write another book, s/he will carefully consider what was suggested in the previously reviewed book, and maybe use, or not use the input, all in the drive to become a better writer telling better stories.
As much as we as writers hate reviewers sometimes, the fact is that they are a Godsend to all forms of artistic endeavor.
But where does the reviewer draw the line from making personal attacks on writers or publishers?
With that, it was with amazement when we read the so called review of Running With Mother from The Partisan newspaper in Zimbabwe, a site which, ironically, if you try to open it online, you get the message –‘ this site might be harmful to your computer.’
We showed the so called review to a few people, and here are just two comments from them about this ‘review:’
‘It is hate speech…’
We are happy that people are able to see what this ‘review’ really is, and that, despite this attack from The Partisan, our resolve is still unchanged, we are writing more stories about our beloved country and its beloved people, romances, thrillers, political satires, you name it – no subject is taboo for us.
We leave you with the review in concern, and like we mentioned, open the link at your own risk.
We hope The Partisan will be happy too at this free publicity we are giving their newspaper.
Weaver Press, Oh Weaver!
Written by Patriot Reporter, Evans Mushawevato
IT is common knowledge that works of art be they books, sculptures or painting are influenced by ideologies.
The book we review this week, Running with Mother claims to paint a picture and provide a vivid account of events surrounding the disturbances in Matabeleland in the 80s. The book published by Weaver Press and written by one Christopher Mlalazi heaps the blame on the disturbances and unfortunate incidences that happened in Matabeleland on the Government of the day. The book tells the story of how Government soldiers went on a killing spree butchering women and children and burning them while alive in their houses. “What had seemed one thing was many, a mass of human bodies burnt together, charred limbs, bones shining white in the moonlight and defaced skulls. The stench of burnt flesh was intense,” says the protagonist Rudo. The book that Weaver Press describes as a ‘short, but powerful novel’ is a narration of horrors committed by Government soldiers. Last year, The Patriot published a consolidated 64 page police report of the atrocities that the dissidents perpetrated on the population in Matabeleland, Midlands and Mashonaland West between 1981 and 1987. Information about events of the time show that soldiers went in to assist the police to contain the atrocities. But in Running with Mother villagers were more afraid of Government security forces and atrocities were committed by soldiers on a ‘mission’ to ‘wipe out the Ndebeles’. Evidently the book is another offering with a heavy Rhodesian influence. Rhodesians having realised that they cannot overtly fight and ‘regain’ what they feel they ‘lost’, have resorted to mechanisms that create animosity between the people of Zimbabwe. And the country’s army has not been spared as it is said its leadership is made up of ZANU PF apologists. “Running with Mother provides us with a gripping story of how Rudo, her mother, her aunt and her little cousin survived the onslaught,” writes Weaver Press. And predictably, the book will be shortlisted for some skewed award from the West. The book is not based on fact and twists events to suit the regime change agenda. It is an attempt to ‘Indict’ the Government of the period led by ZANU PF. It is common knowledge that there are elements in the country that have been tasked with the duty of gathering information that will be used to charge the likes of Robert Mugabe with ‘crimes against humanity’, whatever that means. Thus in the book we are told of Government soldiers wantonly killing villagers. ‘Come my child, we have to hide. The devil has come to our village’. “The soldiers came to the clinic and burned it down too.” “It’s hard to believe the people today were really government soldiers. Government soldiers are trained and disciplined and they would not go around burning up people and children in their homes,” the reader is bombarded. It is highly unlikely that Mlalazi said these words! As we celebrate silver jubilee of the signing of the Unity Accord one is best reminded that the book is a typical example of the employment of the divide-and-rule strategy. Here is a book produced to fan the tensions between the Shonas and Ndebeles. “The message was chilling. It was speaking in Shona,” states the writer. Mlalazi is currently hopping from one Western capital, of our former colonisers, to the next. They are feting him because he is spewing out the kind of story that they used to colonise us: to ‘stop the Africans from exterminating each other’. The writer may proffer all sorts of argument for his work, but as he is hosted in Europe he must never forget that there is more that unites us as Zimbabweans, as Shonas and Ndebeles than divides us. Seeds sown to cause disharmony among Africans by whites using surrogate blacks might germinate, but will not grow. Weaver Press does not know this. That is why Zimbabwe has survived the unprecedented onslaught
Now to the opinions on the theme