Nervous Conditions is a novel by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, first published in the United Kingdom in 1988. The semi-autobiographical novel focuses on the story of a Rhodesian family in post-colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s. It attempts to illustrate the dynamic themes of race, class, gender, and cultural change during the post-colonial conditions of present-day Zimbabwe. The title is taken from the introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. Plot summary
Tambu is the main character of the novel. She is a young bright girl that is eager to go to school. The novel opens up with the news that Tambu’s older brother, Nhamo, had just died. Tambu is not upset about this because Nhamo studied at a missionary school away from his homestead with his uncle Babamukuru and his family. The only thing Tambu desires is to attend school, but her family is very poor and does not have enough money to pay for her school fees. Tambu’s uncle, Babamukuru and his family came to visit the homestead. Because of Babamakuru’s success, Babamukuru is worshipped whenever he comes to visit. During the visit, Babamukuru suggests that Tambu should take Nhamo's place and attend the missionary school by his house. Tambu is extremely excited to be going away to study at the missionary school. Upon arriving she soon becomes close to her cousin Nyasha and completely focuses in her studies. During her stay with Babamukuru, Tambu is exposed to a different lifestyle. She often questions Nyasha’s behavior. On one occasion, Nyasha and Babamukuru get into a serious argument after a school dance. The argument soon develops into a fight, where Nyasha punches Babamukuru and Babamukuru strikes her back. Tambu is completely shocked by these events. After the fight, Nyasha becomes distant and focuses on her studies and exams. During term break, everyone returns to visit the family back in the homestead. Tambu does not want to go back as she is much more comfortable living with Babamukuru. Babamukuru's wife, Maiguru also does not look forward going back, because there she is expected to do all the cooking and cleaning for all the members of the extended family. Upon arriving, family drama arises everywhere. Babamukuru concludes that the reason his family has so many problems is because Tambu’s parents are not legally married. He decides that they must marry as soon as possible. Tambu is punished by Babamukuru because she disagrees with the idea of her parents marrying and does not attend the wedding. Soon after, Maiguru decides to leave Babamukuru after an argument over how she is being treated. However, she later returns to live with him. Towards the end of the term, there is an exam administered at Tambu’s school. This exam is to test the students and offer them an opportunity to study at a well known missionary school. Tambu excels on the exam and is offered a scholarship to attend this well known school. Babamukuru is hesitant to let her go, but he then realizes that this is a great opportunity and allows her to attend. Since Tambu is leaving, Nyasha gets upset with her because she does not want her to leave. In the new school Tambu is introduced to many cultural changes; however, she remains resilient to the changes. As always she is fully focused on her studies. When Tambu returns home to Babamukuru, she discovers that Nyasha has changed. Nyasha is extremely thin due to the fact that she is suffering from a serious eating disorder. Babamukuru finally decides to take Nyasha to see a psychiatrist, which allows her to slowly recover. Maiguru is also very disappointed that Chido has decided to have a white girlfriend. Because of the unfortunate events that surround Tambu’s family, Tambu fears that she may become affected by them just like Nyasha. Consequently, Tambu remains cautious of her daily situations and nervous of the conditions that surround her. History and Culture
Nervous Conditions takes place during a time...
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