Another novel which explores the fate of Blacks during the 1970s is Samuel Chimsoro's Nothing Is Impossible (Harlow, Longman, 1983). Unlike Rugare in The Southern Circle, who continually laments the fate allotted him in life, Simbai in Chimsoro's novel is depicted as a poverty-stricken character whose parents are hard-working destitutes. The story is about how Simbai struggles to escape from the subhuman situation which characterizes his life. Interesting to note is that Simbai's background is far more precarious than that of any characters in the novels dealt with so far. Rhodesia has turned his parents into landless farm-labourers who are brutally overworked and grossly underpaid by White farmers. Survival demands that Siinbai himself becomes a farm-labourer-cum-house-servant at an early age.
But what is surprising is the fact that the main focus of the story is not aimed at protesting against the colonial authorities who dehumanize Blacks. Instead, the main thrust of the novel is meant to capture how the hard-working and humble parents bequeath virtues such as determination, honesty and hard work to their son. Simbai has the added advantage that his grandmother, Mbuya Muhondo, provides a cultural context which rationalizes the suffering that he experiences together with others of his generation:
All that is expected from us is the vision of the seed, to accept to be buried and then germinate and then grow. You are a man. Manhood should be your ground. You are a man, so make mankind your ground.... I am saying this to all of you so that you can be people at whom other people can point without shame,just like when they point at Mount Wed. (49)
Mbuya Muhondo's thesis, which sounds similar to that of Booker T. Washington, is that hard work, diligence and patience will offer rewards to the suffering Black man. The harsh and unpalatable colonial environment should elicit a tough and resilient response from Blacks. The despair and pessimism which almost paralyse the characters of Mungoshi and Marechera are simply a luxury which Simbai cannot afford. He is wise enough to listen to the voice from the African past and, as a result, Simbai excels in his studies at Tegwani Secondary School and Bulawayo Polytechnic. At the end of his educational career Simbai is armed with a certificate in Hotel Management and Catering.
Simbai's relentless struggle for survival continues even after school. Rhodesia with its racial bigotry has no decent role to offer to such a young man raring to succeed. He finds that his dedication and competence are not only unappreciated but also unrewarded by White bosses who run the Jameson and Federal Hotels. In disgust but undaunted he opts to assist a Black businessman struggling to set up a business at Machipisa. The business prospers because of Simbai's resourcefulness. Ultimately Simbai's restlessness and insatiable appetite for work catapult him into the insurance business. And, as if to reward his indomitable will-power to succeed, Simbai becomes the owner of a kiosk, a butchery, a garage and a petrol service station. To crown it all he is also admitted as a member of the Million Dollar Round Table -- and all these successes are achieved during the colonial era!
Essential to observe is that Nothing Is Impossible is a novel whose vision stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the novels set in the period during the 1970s. The cultural malaise which is meticulously delineated in Mungoshi's works and ferociously insisted upon in Marechera's books as an overwhelming aspect of the human condition is deliberately played down in Chimsoro's novel. It is as if Chimsoro is saying that the dirge lamenting the death of African culture has gone on far too long; the time has come for Blacks to stress the vitality and versatilty which are needed for the Black man to survive. In brief, Chimsoro's vision is meant to shed some light on the struggle for survival which the majority of Africans undertook during the colonial era.
The limitation, however, which readers are bound to notice in Nothing Is Impossible is the singular narrowness of Simbai's outlook. He is so propelled by his ambition to overcome the material deprivation suffered by his family that he fails to attain a higher state of consciousness which can enable him to see his position in relation to the larger society. At no time does he pause to reflect on how the rampant racism and injustice he struggles against could be got rid of at a national level. His vision of individual material success is not the ultimate solution to the larger national problem. It is painfully obvious that not all Blacks can become members of the Million Dollar Round Table. At best the vision can only create a class-ridden society in which the gulf separating the haves from the have-nots will widen.
In terms of form, Chimsoro is content to render his vision through the conventional narrative. The story is chronologically told by the third person omniscient narrator and there is hardly a hint of the kind of experimentation with form and narrative technique that one finds in Marechera's work. Perhaps this can be partly explained by the fact that Nothing Is Impossile is his first novel in English, and, because of this, he is understandably cautious. His contribution to the growth of the Zimbabwean novel lies more in the fact that the content and focus of his work differ from other novels of the same period. And talking about some of these novels it is interesting to notice that Shimmer Chinodya's works as well as those of Ndhlala and Chimsoro, although published a few years after Independence, keep on going back to the issues which preoccupied Blacks before Independence, as if to say that the full story of that period has not yet been told. Part of the explanation could be that some of the issues pertaining to that period have continued to haunt the new Zimbabwe. And, of course, there is always the possibility that some of these works were conceived during the colonial era.
Also significant in all the four novels discussed so far is the fact that they portray characters who are preoccupied with their individual lives. For instance, the rural characters in Dew in the Morning are so caught up in the business of surviving in their rural world that they hardly have the opportunity to broaden their horizon to the extent of grasping how their local existence is influenced by external forces emanating from the White man's government in the city. Yet, ironically, these are the very peasants who were to be profoundly affected by the war of liberation as it gathered momentum during the late 1970s. In addition, the allegiance of these people was to be a decisive factor in favour of the Black man's struggle for freedom; see Ranger and Lan. As for Farai in Farai's Girls, he is so busy trying to relate to women and attaining an education that is reactionary in content that he fails to come to terms with the more serious struggle going on around him. One wonders how such a character will cope with the new woman who is going to emerge from the struggle and demand equal treatment in all spheres of life. The same applies to Rugare in The Southern Circle. The world created by the settler is so big and so complex that he can hardly address the root cause of the problems he faces as an individual. He is a man dominated by false consciousness and, as such, he is not positioned well enough to cope with the new Zimbabwe that is to emerge in 1980. As for Simbai in Nothing Is Impossible, survival during the Ian Smith era becomes a form of struggle that takes away all his energy from the larger, national concerns. In all these novels the guerrilla war is a mere reference point alluded to in passing. The war of liberation that is so crucial to Zimbabwe's history is consistently shown as a peripheral issue. One cannot help but conclude that all these characters will, one day, be caught up in a maelstrom which, for better or worse, will change their lives in a fundamental way.
Ranger, T. 0. Peasant Consciousness and Guerilla War in Zimbabwe: A Comparative Study. London, James Currey 1985.
Lan, D. Guns and Rain: Guerillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe. London, James Currey, 1985.
Last Modified: 21 March, 2002