Chenjerai Hove (1956-2015) is an extremely influential novelist, poet, essayist and cultural politician in Zimbabwe. He has published four novels, four collections of poems, one drama and a large number of essays in his life. Known as the father of Zimbabwe’s modern literature. Hof’s works tend to portray the repressed history of women’s suffering under the colonial background and the plight of people’s cultural identity after the trauma of war. His writing uses both his native language Shona and the official language English, which is rich in folk tales, fables, rituals, myths, proverbs, jokes and other folk cultures of the Shona tribe. The combination of rural Shona and standard English has formed a unique poetic medium, enabling his creation to incorporate many local elements in the context of post-colonial writing, which has had an important influence on Zimbabwean literature and even African literature as a whole.
Double Writing: Colonial Reflections During the Civil War in Zimbabwe and Political Criticism after Independence
Zimbabwe achieved national independence in April 1980, and the Mugabe government succeeded the white colonial government to obtain the leadership of the country. Hoff’s literary creation began around the 1980s. The timing of his meeting and the national turmoil he experienced made his texts sympathize with the sacrifices caused by the civil war in Zimbabwe on the one hand, and on Mugabe on the other. The poverty of the people’s livelihood caused by the new government made a questioning voice. The Mugabe government became more afraid of Hoff’s writing, and finally forced the latter to exile. He first fled to London and then to France with the help of the International Writers Association. In 2001, he won the German-Africa Prize for his literary contributions to freedom of speech. After leaving France, Hof moved to the asylum in Stafinger, Norway, and died in Norway in 2015.
Hoff began his writing career as a poet, and some of his early poems were included in the 1981 poem collection “Now the Poets Speak”. In 1982 Hoff published his first collection of poems “Up in Arms” (Up in Arms). In “Ancestor’s Creed” and “If You Use This Land”, he paid tribute to the Shona culture before colonial rule. The issue of land ownership was discussed. He endowed the land with spirituality, justified the desire to regain the land, and pointed out that this was the main reason for the outbreak of the War of Independence in Zimbabwe. In 1983, “Armed Uprising” won a special prize at the African Shaman Publishing Award.
Hoff served as the first chairman of the Zimbabwe Writers Association in 1984. In 1985, he became the chief editor of the Zimbabwe Publishing House, and his second collection of poems “Red Hills of Home” (1985) was published in the same year. This collection of poems expresses the frustration that the people’s living conditions cannot be changed even though the country has become independent, and their disappointment with the country’s development policies after independence. The theme of the poem has aroused many people including Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. The resonance of the new generation of African poets. “Independence Song” admits that after political independence, although the blacks were allocated to the land, they did not get real freedom. They were still “people walking barefoot on the barren land.” Hoff believes that unless the policies pursued by the Mugabe government can truly improve the economic level of the people and guarantee the people’s right to freedom, this situation will continue.
Although Hoff first appeared in the world with poetry, it was his novels that really established his position in the history of Zimbabwean literature, especially the first English poetic novel “Bones” published in 1988, novels It tells the story of a peasant woman looking for a child, expressing the pain caused by the war to the people and the unfortunate experience of women in the war. It is one of the first novels in the history of Zimbabwean literature to criticize African colonialism from a female perspective. Hoff studied literature and English at the University of South Africa and the University of Zimbabwe. In 1990, he became one of the founders of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Council. In 1991, he became a writer-in-residence at the University of Zimbabwe. In the same year, Hoff published his second English novel. “Shadows” (Shadows), the book describes the displacement of the people caused by the war, but also satirizes the soldiers who participated in the liberation war committed the same atrocities as the white colonists. In this book, Hoff not only criticized the disaster brought by the colonial system to the people, but also deeply reflected on the national character of Zimbabwe.
In 1994, Hoff became a guest professor at Louis-Clark University in Portland, Oregon, and at the same time he became a guest writer at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and the Heinrich Burr Foundation in Germany. In 1996 Hoff published his third English novel “Ancestors” (Ancestors). This work is about a legendary story about soul calling. The protagonist Mi Ruiou is a lonely and depressed woman. She was deaf and dumb. She committed suicide after being forced to marry an alcoholic. After that, her ghost entangled her descendants, Mu Xia, a century later. This novel won the second prize at the 1998 Zimbabwe Literary Prize.
Hoff was a supporter of the Patriotic Front of the African National Union when he was young. However, as the Mugabe government became increasingly corrupt and authoritarian, his criticism of the government gradually increased. He believed that the countries under the Mugabe government sometimes even Worse than the colonial period. His collection of poems Rainbows in the Dust (Rainbows in the Dust, 1998) focuses on political topics, especially the corruption and violence of the Mugabe government. Because of his insistence on political criticism and advocacy of human rights, the Mugabe government can no longer tolerate Hof’s writing. Hoff, who was in exile, lashed out at the Mugabe government in his poem “Blind Moon” (Blind Moon) published in 2003, condemning its use of force as a way to solve national problems. The collection of poems satirize the Mugabe government’s fooling of ordinary people. Through the struggle of poets, Hoff redefines human nature in the language of poetry.
In 2004, Hoff published a children’s book “The Keys of Ramb” (The Keys of Ramb), and in 2007 published the script “Travel News” (Travel News). Without Maps) mentioned that creativity has always been a search for possibilities for him, and this search has never stopped, no matter whether he is in the country or exiled. The cognition of human nature will not only decline due to the change of the external material environment. This cognition contains more things. It contains the real existential situations that emerge in our hearts when we travel through different time and space.
Gender Awareness: Female Images that Break the Traditional Narrative
Zimbabwe adopts polygamy, women’s status has always been low, men have mastered the main political power and educational opportunities, women are relatively low in aphasia, and rebuilding women’s discourse means breaking the imagination of men’s subjectivity in the literary tradition. Writing women’s experience of life into words, Hoff’s “Bone” has made a groundbreaking practice for this. “Bones” was created to commemorate the huge sacrifices of ordinary people in Zimbabwe a few years before the founding of the country, and focused on depicting women’s struggles and misfortunes in the war. Reno Zuwarara, a lifelong lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, commented that this novel is the first time in the history of Zimbabwean literature to explore the lives of African people under a colonial background from a gender perspective.