Tendai Huchu is a Zimbabwean novelist who currently lives in Scotland. His critically acclaimed first novel The Hairdresser of Harare was published in 2010 and has been translated into several languages. In 2013 he received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship. His short story ‘The Intervention’ was shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing. His second novel The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician was published in 2014. It tells three parallel stories of Zimbabweans living in Edinburgh. We interviewed Tendai via an email exchange.
HC/PD: Tendai, this issue of African Literature Today focuses on diaspora and returns to Africa. We're very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you about your novel The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician and the multiple ways in which the novel relates to this theme.
Several of the characters express their desire to return to Zimbabwe but, for various reasons, they are unable to do so. Does this imply that, once someone has been away from Zimbabwe for a long time, being in the diaspora becomes a way of life?
TH: I would not say they're ‘unable’, rather, they choose not to, and that's an important distinction. I would never try to portray these expatriates as being without some degree of control over their circumstances. All my characters are fully autonomous and they make certain choices, and, as we all know, every choice one makes comes with a trade-off of one sort or the other. They have the same autonomy and same agency that the western character who goes to Africa or Asia has to return to their place of origin. Migration in either direction is a choice; the difference in the reception of the traveller on either side is a reflection of the power dynamics of the era we currently live in, but this doesn't affect the free will people have to go or stay where they will. I'm also uncertain about what the second part of the question means: ‘being in the diaspora becomes a way of life?’ – being anywhere is a way of life. There's a great Spike Milligan line: ‘Everybody has to be somewhere’. And for me, it is as simple as that; there is nothing particularly special here.
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