Author: Brian Chikwava
When he lands in Harare North, our unnamed protagonist carries nothing but a cardboard suitcase full of memories and an email address for his childhood friend, Shingi. Finessing his way through immigration, he spends a few restless weeks as the very unwelcome guest in his cousin’s home before tracking down Shingi in a squat. This shocking, powerful first novel is the story of a stranger in a strange land—one of the thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants seeking a better life—with a past he is determined to hide. From the first line the language fizzes with energy, humor, and not a little menace. As he struggles to make his life in London (the “Harare North” of the title) and battles with the weight of what he has left behind in a strife-torn Zimbabwe, every expectation and preconception is turned on its head. The inhabitants of the squat function at various levels of desperation: Shingi struggles to find meaningful work and to meet the demands of his family back home; Tsitsi makes a living renting out her baby to women defrauding Social Services; Alex claims to have an important job in Croydon. Fearlessly political, laugh-out-loud funny, and with an anti-hero whose voice is impossible to forget, this novel is an arresting account of London as it is experienced by Africa’s dispossessed.