Born in Zimbabwe in , Petina Gappah came of age after independence in As a child, she also lived through the ending of the liberation war and the start of majority rule. Today she belongs to the Zimbabwean diaspora, working in Geneva as a lawyer. All of this experience has shaped the 13 stories of An Elegy for Easterly, 12 set in Zimbabwe. The title story is, literally, an elegy for the Easterly shanty town, razed by Robert Mugabe's thugs.
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Petina Gappah's characters may have ordinary hopes and dreams, but they are living in a world where a loaf of bread costs half a million dollars - a country expected to have only four presidents in a hundred years.
In this spirited debut, Gappah evokes the resilience and inventiveness of the people who struggle to live under Robert Mugabe's regime whilst also battling issues common to all people everywhere: failed promises, unfulfilled dreams, and the yearning for something to anchor them to life.
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July 2, After a promising start and years of prosperity, a toxic blend of unbridled power and unrestrained corruption has led to the current disaster: a nation ravaged by AIDS, farmland lying idle, and inflation so mind-boggling that it has rendered the Zimbabwean dollar more valuable as an eBay curiosity than as legal tender. An Elegy for Easterly , a debut collection of stories by the Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah, turns this dire situation into a series of short, heartbreaking tales. Like people everywhere, the Zimbabweans in these stories personalize their troubles, viewing the social and economic forces that batter them in terms of the choices they make in their day-to-day lives. Although she is fully aware of what Mugabe has done to the country, her view of him — at least as a man — is surprisingly sympathetic. It makes him, for a fleeting moment, the very old man that he is.
2010 Book prize short list
Searing, but never over the top: Gappah holds the anger and horror in check with exemplary artistic discipline. Hunger, disease and a worthless currency loom over this varied collection. The truth, which involves her unfaithful husband and a pregnant madwoman in their ramshackle township, is almost as shocking. Rich or poor, Zimbabwean men are equally promiscuous. The funeral is a sham: Her husband was a corrupt bigamist who avoided the war. Elsewhere Gappah dips into the past. Thulani wed young and now feels trapped, though occasional flings relieve the pressure.