Zimbabwean novelist, NoViolet Bulawayo read from her novel-in-progress at the third STIAS public lecture of 2019. “I’m both lucky and cursed to be working on a currently unfolding drama, that is, and of course without giving anything away, very much inspired by a most public narrative where pretty much everybody follows and therefore knows and understands the story, and some probably even better than I do. What this means is I don’t have to work that hard to dig up for my material, I simply have to be present in all the possible ways, open myself up, and really listen. And then, this is perhaps the fun part for me – take the obvious, the known, that which is in front of our faces and make it fresh, make it new, make it interesting.”
This is NoViolet’s first work to be researched and written in its entirety on the continent. In reflecting about the importance of space, she says: “America is the second home, and I’ve grown to love and appreciate it, it’s become such an important space for me – it’s where I’m based in part, where I went to school, have taught, among other things. But Zim, and the continent . . . well, it’s the homeland, and beyond that, it’s the place I’m writing about at the moment, and spending the last half of the year in Zim, and the first half of 2019 in South Africa on a STIAS fellowship has been such an incredible and needed gift. It’s true that where you look at something from definitely impacts how you see it; it’s been such a gift to my sight, my vision, and my process to look at my project from the homefront, and I’m grateful to STIAS, especially for the rare gift of time that’s allowed me to work and apply myself in the ways I needed.”
NoViolet is the author of We Need New Names, which has been translated into 20 languages. She earned her MFA at Cornell, and has taught fiction writing at Cornell and Stanford.
Michelle Galloway: Part-time media officer at STIAS
Photograph: Christoff Pauw