Zimbabwe’s Robert Mukondiwa has never been the conventional writer never mind the typical journalist owing to his unmatched observation and descriptive language that has been missed in mainstream media for the past few years. A few years ago I had hit a brick wall trying to get an interview from him with regards his exit from H-Metro, something he had repeatedly not cared to comment on.
And so it is because of his intriguing new novel, The Judas Files, that I finally get an audience with him. He sits across the room looking rather nonchalant. I have promised not to dwell on his past in the tabloid media.
“I have my personal genius and you cannot impose perfection on any institution. I moved on and so too has the institution. I was meant to help create and build it and I did the best that I could do. I am not responsible for where the paper finds itself today. If it has gone up or down that is something I haven’t a clue about. I have not picked up a copy since I left and would be the last person to know anything about the current state of affairs,” he says rather rudely when I try to bring up the issue again on this occasion. He is a master at being rude when he chooses.
I should be forgiven for asking. After all he is undoubtedly the father of tabloid journalism having created the language that mesmerizes readers of H-Metro to this day albeit as it slowly starts to diminish in his rich language and style which he took with him.
Fortunately, the fiction novel The Judas Files, will no doubt excite those that had missed the writer and all his descriptive venom. This book is the type that will set an entire nation and readership on fire and will polarize people for its controversy and candid and often sensitively political themes amongst a host of other themes.
The novel would read like a political satire and makes fun of many things Zimbabwean in unique ways. He makes the reader laugh at the diseases suffered by Zimbabwean society. Corruption is made to look like the norm in the nation in several of the stories or ‘files’ as he puts it. The book has fifteen stories all of which he chooses to call files. All of them then make up the Judas Files as a collective.
He is also very brusque in some of the statements he pulls out, leaving one with no question with regards the way he feels for some of his characters. His opening line in the story ‘State Of The Nation’ is one such moment where he takes no prisoners. “If prostitution were a religion, Rejoice Chinharaunda would be the Pope,” he says emphatically. Is that candid pound for pound punching something he doesn’t find too confrontational? Too angry or too rude?
“No. I would think it would be too rude to be falsely polite. My character is angry with his employer and he has to express it without being pretentious and that is why the story opens like that,” he defends himself.
The book touches on paedophilia in the country and dwells on uneasy topics for example the rape of little boys by a pair of wealthy but evil half brothers in the story ‘Terry Masuku Is Dead?’ which will leave others cringing.
“It is happening in our nation. Whether we choose to hide our heads in the sand and not see it is our choice. I have just looked at society like a mirror being held up and the Judas Files are just an interpretation of what is happening in our country,” he says.
The vigilante justice against child abusers in the story is violent and reveals a dark crevice in the writer’s mind that is frightening but has lacked in Zimbabwean literature lately, if not since the days of Dambudzo Marechera.
Just looking at his choice of name for the book reveals a streak of anger and a major underlying theme of betrayal and deception. The title alone gets one interested in his stories effortlessly without preempting the essence of his stories.
Take ‘The Witch From Dotito’ for example. It is a rich though simple story set in rural Zimbabwe about power struggles at a school but will no doubt attract a lot of readers. ‘State of The Nation’ is another that will get people interested just at face value.
But The Parable Of The 7 Sowers is political satire, laughs and tragedy all rolled up in one and will no doubt move a lot of readers. Exploring political violence and intolerance as well as rape of the vulnerable, the story is heartrending and hauntingly real in its telling and description and would leave one disturbed. While there is a lot of humour in at least three other none tragic tales, the violence and anger in the stories is palpable and realistic and captures what Zimbabwean society has become lately.
While he may be touching on issues relevant in society today, the stories have a character that defies time and therefore will be relevant as great reading decades from now as it would today. At least 11 of the 15 ‘files’ are mild in tone and therefore readable although the adult themes make it a largely adult read.
“I was not intending to write the bible. This is a novel basing its tales on the warts of society and not the King James pages of the Good News. There has to be that distinction. Anybody hoping for something smooth and warm and optimistic should read the Bible. That is what I do every day when I seek positive inspiration,” he says.
Whatever one’s choice of political and social inclination, The Judas Files is a read for every Zimbabwean who is interested in the issues of the day and helps create a literary analysis of the challenges we find ourselves in today. This is most certainly a hit of a collection of stories.
But is the author angry with the current state of politics? “I’m not. Some of my characters are angry about the politics. I’m happy. Reasonably so anyway. That is why none of my personal experiences are in that book. It is not me speaking. It is them. My time to speak will come,” he concludes.
The book will be available on Amazon this coming December 2015, lets continue the conversation on #TheJudasFiles, Twitter @GilmoreTee HashTag #OTNGtee
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