Tsitsi Dangarembga: ‘A flawed fighter who doesn’t give up? That sums me up’

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  • The author talks about Hilary Mantel’s audacious language, Guyanese poet and novelist Wilson Harris and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Where are you now and what can you see?

I’m writing this in bed, recovering from a bug I contracted while on tour in Europe. I can see my kitten, Chiutsi, which means “smoke”. She is a perfect silver-grey. Behind her is a Chinese-made leopard-print blanket I inherited from a cousin.

What are you currently reading?

Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. I’m gulping down the simmering language and audacious style, while the content makes me shiver at the parallels with contemporary Zimbabwe.

Who is your favourite author and why do you admire them?

I have lots, so I’ll go with my most recent discovery, [the late Guyanese poet, novelist and essayist] Wilson Harris. I love the way he contemplates the dregs of humanity in hypnotic language that is always tender.

Describe the room where you usually write…

I write in the upstairs sitting room. It has a warm, north-facing balcony and a window that looks out on my garden of local and exotic trees. It’s perfect, except that it’s over the kitchen and has a curtain instead of a door, so I hear every pot that bangs, as well as all the chatter when the young people gather there.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Meridian Hill, the heroine of Alice Walker’s Meridian. The text has been described as Walker’s meditation on the Civil Rights movement. Meridian is a flawed fighter who is not always strong but doesn’t give up on her ideals. That sums me up.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My last was former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but I don’t hear about her any more. Heroism for me is ongoing, and there is no one at the moment. It’s a rather depressing state to be in. But I do admire model Winnie Harlow’s grace and courage.

Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangarembga is published by Faber on 18 August