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3:15 am and Other Stories by Rudo D. M. Manyere

“Even after thirty odd years since our liaison came to an end, she still makes my heart flutter under my chest.” page 13

3:15am and Other Stories is a debut short story collection by Rudo D. M. Manyere. In this collection of nine stories Manyere paints the unending colours of life as we know it, the good and the bad, the tragic and the inevitable. Manyere is sincere in her writing without losing her firmness on the thread that weaves this collection. From love, betrayal, pain, fate and second chances, the reader walks through this journey with her. In an interview with Manyere a few weeks before the publication of this collection, she highlighted that what she enjoys about writing is the freedom of it all(you can read the interview here). This is evident in her stories where she does not restrict herself to time, place and expectation. Of the nine short stories, two were previously published in the anthology Brilliance of Hope (you can read my review here). To honour the the reading experience, I reread them in this new collection and they had a new impression on me. I believe that stories take on new life in a different settings and here they just read better and are fitting into the collection as a whole.

There is a whirlwind of romance in this collection which takes on new shapes as the reader is introduced to the various characters and their take on love and romance. Pamushana is a story that puts the proverb “time heals all wounds” to the test as a couple who thought they’d lost each other find their way back to what bound them in the first place. Love is lost due to circumstances beyond the lovers’ control but there is reconciliation written in the stars, if ever there was such a thing. Not all is good and stands the test of time. Manyere is dedicated to bringing out the best of reality from her stories so in Farisai one finds a kind of love that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Gogo and Dumi; long lost lovers who have a hopeful and comforting future on the horizon, Tunga and Vongai; two dotting lovers with a tragic ending, Tom and Natsai; lovers who defy the discriminatory times, Kurauone and Adesua, a love lost in the seasons of life, Farisai and Tinashe, a one sided and obsessive love that has all the signs that it will go wrong. These are real life matters of the heart situations which hand me on my toes.

The drama is unending in this collection. Comedy is a relief that Manyere uses in the midst of a heavy plot or life threatening twists. If it’s not someone biting their lover’s phallus or an agitated mother giving back a vendor a half-eaten banana because she is one rand short of the fee but her child has already had a bite (or half!), someone falling into a pot of sadza or a newspaper with a bit of water to soften it turning into three ply tissue paper. I could not help but laugh at some of these incidents. Manyere’s timing is clever as the comic relief lightens the other wise heavy stories. Just like in life, you win some and you lose some, not all stories have a happy ending. Without giving too much away the detrimental effects of colonialism, Gukurahundi and migration are brought to the fore. I found Tom in “1965” to be one of the most intriguing characters in the collection. At the end of the day, with his privilege and later on selfishness, is he really a saint?

Manyere explores the social and political history of Zimbabwe in her work. Three stories stand out for me on this. 1965, is set in the period when Ian Smith had announced, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The segregation and discrimination is clear in this story. Intentional or not, Manyere touches on the social history of alcohol in the townships at the time. Farisai, gives a highlight of Zimbabwe’s queuing culture and the rise of vending on the streets. It is an apt social commentary about where the country currently stands as the economy deteriorates, unemployment spikes and its effects on citizens. It’s the way of life and Manyere reflects the times. Pamushana gives a personal picture of the effect of the Gukurahundi in just one person’s life and the unfading scars. The increased documentation of what transpired during that time, be it in fiction or non fiction,  is commendable.

The collection is short bearing nine short stories and can easily be read in one sitting if you are looking for a quick read. Most of the stories are heavy, speaking to the times in which they are set in, Manyere still finds a way to throw in humour without throwing off the reader or making it misplaced. There was a translation/language issue which I found unsettling. There are words writtten in Isindebele which although they are grammatically correct did not work quite well in the context of the sentences and intended effect. For example, while “umfana wami, even I do not know but…” is correct for “my boy,” it does not sit well in the sentence where “mfana wami,” or “mfanam” would have worked seamlessly. Or words like “Nkulu,” which is translated in the glossary as grandfather, yet the actual word is “Khulu,” or “Mkhulu,” the latter being isiZulu.  “Litshonile, unjani?” gives a different meaning to what was intended and even the translation in the glossary misses the spot. These are little itches to me because I speak the language and I hope that with due care this can be corrected in the later editions. I love this collection and recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh voice. Am I allowed to have favourites? You have to read, 1965.


Book Details

Title: 3:15am and Other Stories

Genre: Short Story Anthology

Authors: Rudo D.M Manyere

Publisher: Carnelian Heart Publishing(2022)

Pages: 192

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