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.
Brian Chikwava is among the exciting new generation of writers emerging from the African continent. His short story Seventh Street Alchemy was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writing and his debut novel, Harare North, was published to critical acclaim in 2010. He has been a Charles Pick fellow at the University of East Anglia, and lives in London.