Concept

The House of Hunger

Résumé
The House of Hunger (1978) is a novella/short story collection by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera (1952–1987), his first published book, and was published three years after he left university and ten years before his death. Sometimes subtitled Short Stories, this work is actually a collection of one novella of 80-odd pages ("House of Hunger") and nine satellite short stories. The small group of texts in its entirety reflects the author's vision of (mainly township) life in Rhodesia (specifically, the period of Ian Smith's rule of the country that at independence became Zimbabwe) — with a minority of the shorter pieces in the book depicting an African exile's experience of life in Britain (mainly at Oxford University, where Marechera had studied). The book is typically described as "vulgar", "obscene", "lewd", "morally objectionable", "irreverent", "notorious", "brutal," and "violent", but also as "honest" and "beautiful". Marechera's distinctive collage prose is discussed and utilized frequently. Commenting on the semi-autobiographical nature of the book, April McCallum has said: "Marechera's debut The House of Hunger is as much a product of being down and out in Oxford, sleeping rough, being beaten up by thugs and policeman alike and struggling with alcoholism, as it is of the Rhodesia it describes.... The 'hunger' of the book's title does not refer only to the literal starvation which was ravaging post-independent Zimbabwe at the time. Rather it implies a more far reaching and metaphorical hunger of the soul – the vacuous yearning and emptiness within the national consciousness, aspiring for more but held back by poverty and corruption." First published to critical acclaim in 1978 (Heinemann African Writers Series, no. 207), The House of Hunger the following year was joint winner — alongside Neil Jordan's Night In Tunisia — of the Guardian Fiction Prize. At the award ceremony, with typically unconventional and disruptive behaviour, Marechera threw plates at his fellow guests.
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