This Mournable Body: The horror of simply being alive

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel is a compelling, cruel and frank tale of ordinary struggle

Tsitsi Dangarembga:  novel’s use of  the second person is direct, distancing and unflinchingly frank. Photograph: Daniel Roland

Tsitsi Dangarembga: novel’s use of the second person is direct, distancing and unflinchingly frank. Photograph: Daniel Roland

In 2015 Teju Cole wrote an essay for the New Yorker titled Unmournable Bodies. The piece was written in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris in which 12 people were murdered at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication was targeted for its irreligious representations of the Prophet Muhammad.

Cole sees the overwhelming and unquestioning support for the victims of the attack as indicative of western society’s belief in radical Islamism as the one true enemy. Yet we fail to pay due attention to other significant acts of violence: “abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel . . . internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on.”

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