THE STONE VIRGINS

Some books are poems printed in a prosaic way.

This book written by the Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera (1964 – 2005) is such a book. It is a long lasting poem. The war of independence and the war during independence are set in poetic ways, with poetic descriptions, so the characters and the events have to be tasted on your tongue, have to linger in your mind, with the hope that you will be able to follow the stream of stanzas.

Two sisters, Nonceba and Thenjiwe, live in small village at some distance from the southern town of Bulawayo (this is the birthplace of the writer). The local store is a focal point for the villagers, from near and afar. All the time you have to be a careful reader, with the additional need to be able to read between the lines.  The space between the words and sentences dragged me along, pushed me to the next sentence and the next paragraph and the next page. 

What happens to these young women? During the days that people fight for freedom? During the days that freedom is endangered by the civil war? Death and destruction enter the village and the store and the life of the sisters. Some are able to hide in the caves and rocks, near the stone virgins. But not everybody is able to hide and save his/her skin. Death is a knife that enters the tiniest spot.

A man from Bulawayo travels by bus to the small village, with the burnt down store. He meets Nonceba and he tells about the love relationship he had with Thenjiwe. He read about her death. Now he has come to save Nonceba, to give her a new lease of life. The attitude if this man Cephas Dube is almost shocking, shocking in the good sense, for he is so different from the men I read about in other books that I have read recently. 

Yvonne Vera has written a monument. A monument that will last like stone. A story that will defeat time. A story, a poem that will survive an onslaught. 

Yvonne Vera – The Stone Virgins – 2002

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