Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses on the story of a Shona family in post-colonial Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, during the 1960s. The title is a reference to Jean Paul Sartre’s introduction to Frantz Fanon’s 1963 book The Wretched of the Earth. Sartre writes, “the status of ‘native’ is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among the colonized people with their consent.” Dangarembga takes Fanon’s exploration of African people oppressed by a colonial regime and expands this narrative to consider the specific experiences of black women and how that gender compounds the oppression they face.
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Nervous Conditions has received many awards and is often cited as a critical tenent of African feminist and postcolonial literature. The book was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989. The Bloomsbury Review, called it an “absorbing page-turner”, the African Times said, “another example of a bold new national literature”, and Booklist reviewed, “a unique and valuable book”.