The German publication DW Akademie caught up with NoViolet Bulawayo on her first visit to Germany to speak about her critically acclaimed novel, We Need New Names.
In the story, Bulawayo shares a personal anecdote about her own name. Her birth name is Elizabeth Tshele but she decided to change it to NoViolet to honour her mother, Violet, who passed away when she was 18 months old. “No” means “with” in Ndebele, she explained, and she chose Bulawayo as her surname after her hometown.
Bulawayo talks about the title of her novel, the turbulence in Zimbabwe that sparked the story, the autobiographical elements and the biggest differences between herself and her protagonist, Darling. “My childhood was very normal and beautiful. Zimbabwe in the 80s was this land of promise,” she says. “But as Darling does not know the stability my generation enjoyed and experienced, her childhood is really under pressure.”
Read the article, in which the author speaks about the beauty of the language in the text, the language of her heart:
The language you chose for your protagonists, the children who live in Paradise, is a mixture of African and English vocabulary, neologisms, incantations, curses. How did you find this strong and colorful language?
I’d say I’m indebted to my culture. I grew up in a space where language was alive. Language was currency. I wanted to write a book that captured that, that would resonate especially with readers coming from that space. And a part of it also came from the fact that I was raised by storytellers, especially my father and my grandmother, of course the women who stayed home when I was growing up, they talked, they gossiped. So I was very conscious of language as a living beast. I wanted the book to be a celebration of that. I wanted that color and that texture and that pulse present.
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