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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Without a Name

Yvonne Vera

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To purchase Without a Name

Title: Without a Name
Author: Yvonne Vera
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994
Length: 103 pages
Availability: in Without a Name and Under the Tongue - US
Without a Name - UK
in Without a Name and Under the Tongue - Canada
Eine Frau ohne Namen - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B- : a wrenching tale, the writing straining too hard for stark lyricism

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Africa Today . Summer/2002 Shane Graham
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/3/2002 Hillary Frey
World Lit. Today . Summer/1996 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Vera's vague and ethereal prose style tends to cloud what occasionally shines through as a powerful narrative." - Hillary Frey, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Yvonne Vera's short novel, Without a Name, is set in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, as the country is in the midst of the struggle for independence.

It was 1977, freedom was skin deep but joyous and tantalizing. (...) Freedom was any kind of opening through which one could squeeze. People fought to achieve gaps in their reality. The people danced in an enviable kind of self-mutilation.
       Mazvita has fled her hometown, Mubaira. It is no longer a refuge, a retreat, a home. She hopes to begin anew elsewhere. Harari -- the big city -- is the obvious place. She recognizes it "as the limitless place in which to dream, and to escape." Unfortunately, she is not able to escape what happened to her.
       In the beginning Mazvita is waiting for a bus:
She stood still. She stood next to one of the poles, on the outside. She stood on the outside. She stood alone.
       She remains, ultimately, alone and an outsider, despite apparently adapting and seeming, at times, to fit in well. But events defeat her. Twice she finds men with whom she can share her life. There is Nyenyedzi -- but he wants to return with her to Mubaira, and she can't do that. And then, in Harari, there is Joel.
       But Mazvita is pregnant, part of the burden she brought with her from Mubaira. She has the child. It is, of course, not Joel's and he wants nothing to do with it. And it is ultimately all to much for Mazvita, who finally does the unthinkable.
       She came to the city with so much hope:
She trusted the future and her growth and desire. She had faith in untried realities because she trusted her own power for change, for adaptation.
       Her own power is not enough. Realities are harsher than she could have anticipated, and the world less adaptable. The city was a place of hope, but she also realizes: "She hated the city and its commitment to a wild and stultifying indifference."
       She is driven to a horrible deed. She drives herself to it. Seeing, under the circumstances, no alternative. It is a wrenching conclusion, heartbreaking and confusing. It is a terrible end Vera's characters come to. (It is also, in this case, perhaps too stark, an exaggerated manipulation, done for tear-jerking effect. Vera explains a lot, but even so the act does not fully convince.)
       The language of the novel veers towards the terse, elliptic, poetic. Fortunately, Vera can not sustain it throughout, and some sensible narrative shines through. It is an uneasy blend, but here, in what is essentially a long short story, she can get away with it.
       The characters are mainly simply sketched. The focus is so tightly on Mazvita that the baby, Joel, and even Nyenyedzi remain underdeveloped, shadowy background figures even when they are by Mazvita's side.
       There's something to the story. It is decently set up, and it certainly hits a nerve. Vera's flights of language waft too far, but there is some solidity here too. Hardly recommended, but possibly of some interest.

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Without a Name: Reviews: Yvonne Vera: Other books by Yvonne Vera under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of books from and relating to Africa

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About the Author:

       Yvonne Vera was born in 1964 in Bulawayo, in what is now Zimbabwe, and died in 2005. She studied at York University, Toronto, and is the author of several acclaimed novels.

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