New Internationalist

A Fine Madness

Issue 436

By Mashingaidze Gomo

This is a book about war by one who knows. Mashingaidze Gomo was a helicopter technician and gunner in the Zimbabwean Defence Forces and served in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the catastrophic civil war that followed the downfall of the tyrant Mobutu – a conflict which drew in all the DRC’s neighbouring countries. It is difficult to categorize this work; technically a novel, it is a kaleidoscope of notes and fragmentary diary entries, poetry and prose, factual descriptions and phantasmagorical flights of fancy. Gomo uses his experiences of the horrors of war to reflect on the wider issues of colonial exploitation and the possibilities of a Pan-Africanist vision of the continent.

This is Mashingaidze Gomo’s first work of fiction but it is an astonishingly assured book, both in its dizzying mash-up of styles and techniques and in its clear-eyed assessment of Africa’s tragic past, despot-laden present and uncertain future. Gomo has, in common with the other authors reviewed here, a capacity to draw on tradition and oral history, while maintaining a willingness to experiment with the formal structures and conventions of fiction. Rarely does a first novel become a classic. A Fine Madness may well be set to join that select band.

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