Yvonne Vera on Authors who Influenced Her

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

When John Vekris interviewed Vera for the July 1997 Review shortly after Under the Tongue received the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, he asked her, "What might you regard as your influences from within Zimbabwean literature? I am particularly interested in who might have been such an influence before you published your first book." Vera responded:

My original influences were more Caribbean authors. Because I'd taken a course at university in Canada on Caribbean authors, George Lamming, V.S. Naipul, and Sam Selvon. Especially 'Miguel Street' by V.S. Naipul. I could never write a book with as much charm...Then I moved to reading people like Bessie Head... Very strong moral indignation, you know, that kind of a writer.

She also agreed with Vekris's assessment that she shares with the Zimbabwean writer Dambadzo Marechera a daring approach to subject, bold uses of language, a symbolic style, and willingness to use the surreal.

Certainly, the comparison has been made and it's a very welcome comparison. I think both of us, Marechera and myself, do have that realisation . . . there is a challenge there in words, in the alphabet, and what are you going to do, to mould it like clay? And remould it!. . . . I feel there is no subject I would not be able to do. Absolutely none. Why? I always feel everything depends on how you do it. How you execute it. I'm willing to consider absolutely anything.

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Last Modified: 21 March, 2002