Yvonne Vera

Yvonne Vera

In our continuing series Throwback Thursday, we cast a light on Zimbabwe author and Editor Yvonne Vera.

Yvonne Vera who was born on September 19, 1964 and passed on  April 7, 2005 was an award-winning author from Zimbabwe. Her novels are known for their poetic prose, difficult subject-matter, and their strong women characters, and are firmly rooted in Zimbabwe’s difficult past.  Her works have been published in Zimbabwe, Canada and several other countries, including translations into Spanish, Italian and Swedish.

Vera wrote obsessively, often for 10 hours a day, and described time when she was not writing as “a period of fasting.” Her work was passionate and lyrical. She took on themes such as rape, incest and infanticide, and gender inequality in Zimbabwe before and after the country’s war of independence with sensitivity and courage.

She said, “I would love to be remembered as a writer who had no fear for words and who had an intense love for her nation.”

So how did she get into writing game you ask? While at university, Vera submitted a story to a Toronto magazine: the publisher asked for more, so she sat down to write them. Her collection of short stories, Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals, was published in 1992. It was followed by five completed novels starting with Nehanda (1993) which was shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. In the following year came Without a Name (1994) and in that year she won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa. The book also won the Zimbabwe Publishers’ Literary Award which was like a thing in those days.

Fast forward to 1997 when her third full length novel Under the Tongue (1997) was published. This was followed by Butterfly Burning (2000) which was awarded LiBeraturpreis a German literary prize in 2002. Her final published novel was The Stone Virgins (2002) which was awarded Macmillan Writers’ Prize for Africa. At the time of her death she was working on a new novel with the working title, Obedience.

Vera also edited several anthologies by African women writers, including Opening Spaces: an Anthology of Contemporary African Women’s Writing (Heinemann African Writers Series, 1999).

In 2004 she was awarded the Swedish PEN Tucholsky Prize “for a corpus of works dealing with taboo subjects”.

Read an obituary from Helon Habila here.