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Nervous Conditions

(Nervous Conditions #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  11,395 ratings  ·  823 reviews
A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousn ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published November 29th 2004 by Seal Press (CA) (first published 1988)
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Last year I discovered the writing of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Writing contemporary accounts of Nigerians in both Africa and in the United States and England, Adichie has becoming a leading African feminist voice. Before Adichie, thirty years ago Tsitsi Dangarembga attempted to assert rights for African women in both her writing and film making. Needing an African classic for my classics bingo this year, I decided upon Dangarembga's debut autobiographical novel, Nervous Conditions, which is inf ...more
Sean Barrs
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Feminists
Identity is a powerful concept. But how does one establish such a thing? Conventionally it develops from childhood due to an association with home and place. But what happens if your home is changing? What happen if you’re taken away from that home? Indeed, if you are forced to accept another culture’s ways and customs, who is the “you” that is left? What nationality do you become?

These are the question Tambu has to ask herself. She’s a young black girl living in a small, rural, improvised vill
"Quietly, unobtrusively and extremely fitfully, something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things and refuse to be brainwashed, bringing me to this time when I can set down this story. It was a long process for me, that process of expansion."

Thus ends the novel which started with the narrator's confession that she was not sorry when her brother died. The painful process of expansion which made Tambu's story possible was blocked for many years - blocked by the patriarchal system wh
Sidharth Vardhan
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It uses the old method popular among novelists of highlighting the prevalent social injustice and conditions through a shocking event - you know how Medea's killing her children reflected on patriarchy of her time, when 'Beloved's heroine kills her child it reflected on slavery. Camus' Outsider's narrator failed to feel any grief for his mother's loss - reflecting the way how people are unable to feel a sense of belonging to our surroundings and so on, Before I had read Phaedra I thought her inc ...more
We first meet Tambudzai, or Tambu as she is more commonly called, as she talks about her brother.

I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor am I
apologising for my callousness, my lack of feeling.
For it is not that at all. I feel many things these days,
much more than I was able to feel in the days when I
was young and my brother died, and there are
reasons for this more than the mere consequences
of age.
(p 1)

From this opening, introducing us to thirteen year old Tambu, we enter the world of
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: The Roundtable
This is one of those books I went into reading not knowing anything about it, other than Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author. I've known about the book's existence for a while, have even picked it before; but I have to admit the title itself has always prevented me from reading it. There's not really a good reason for that. But you know how sometimes you're drawn to a certain shirt because the color appeals to your eyes? Or you're turned off by a certain song because there's a chord that really b ...more
This book takes its title and epigraph from an introduction to The Wretched of the Earth, which I've been reading slowly for several weeks. It was really wonderful to read this, partly as an illustration of some of Fanon's ideas, and more as a female perspective that answers and critiques Fanon's highly male-centric account of the colonised subject.

But forget every other book and every other author – from the incendiary opening sentence to the fraught and nervous close, this story held me heart
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alex by: Chinook
Shelves: 2016, africa
"This is the novel we have been waiting for," said Doris Lessing. "I am sure it will be a classic." And it is: it ranks on the ASC's Top 12 of 20th Century Africa. What Lessing was waiting for was feminism, and to call this Things Fall Apart for girls is a simplification but it'll do if you need to describe it in five words.

Like Achebe's classic, Nervous Conditions (1988, set in 1968) is about the conflux between African society and white interference. Its two main characters - narrator Tambu an
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001, africa
Holy fuck, this blew my mind.

I suppose what really got me was watching a young girl in an extremely male dominated world try to work her way through it to succeed in spite of a lot of adversity. And to watch each of the women around her try to do so too. What I really liked about the novel gets hit on in the author interview at the end, that there are no monsters in this book, each character does get to explain and be understood.

The author interview also mentions that Dangarembga finds race ha
Gumble's Yard
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
For though the event of my brother’s passing and the events of my story cannot be separated, my story is not after all about death, but about my escape and Lucia’s; about my mother’s and Maiguru’s entrapment; and about Nyasha’s rebellion - Nyasha, far-minded and isolated, my uncle’s daughter, whose rebellion may not in the end have been successful. I was thirteen years old when my brother died. It happened in 1968.

I read this book due to it being the first of a trilogy, the third of which “T
Absolutely brilliant, one of the most interesting characters I've come across in my cross cultural journey's, portrayed with such raw honesty, I'm in awe and immensely relieved there is another book to follow, because I'm not ready to leave it there.

It's a coming of age story of Tambu, a teenage girl, who in the beginning lives in a small village with her parents and siblings and their days are hard, especially the women, who work in the fields all day, do the laundry at the river, transport wat
Samir Rawas Sarayji
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some texts have been studied, reviewed, analyzed, and criticized so much that there is little left to say about them—Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga is such a text. All that is left for now is personal until some new form of critical or cultural theory descends upon us to offer an additional insightful interpretation.

It is a coming-of-age story mainly around two characters, Tambu and Nyasha. The story is narrated by Tambu, the focal character, who is sometimes the ‘I’ and sometimes the
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I wasn’t going to read this book, because I already had one for Zimbabwe and thought it was just another coming-of-age story. Then I read this critical essay, which made me sit up and pay attention. And so I wound up reading the book, which is good, but oh, so depressing.

I should say that the books I find depressing are somewhat idiosyncratic. A lot of people have trouble reading about war and related atrocities, but those books rarely affect me much; they’re just too far beyond my realm of expe
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I battled with this book. Until about 80% into it, I was not clear about its direction and had to re-read the reviews which hailed it as a literary germ.

Tsitsi is an excellent writer but I found her diction a bit elitist. I don't mind using the dictionary every now and then then the book becomes a bit of hard work. Unless you are reading for academic prowess, books should be a sort of escapism from the everyday stresses.

The storyline was very interesting and captivating. It is not everyday one r
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
What I loved most about this book was the underlying story of coming to self and not so much to age. In first person narrative, Tambu, a 14 year old Zimbabwean, speaks directly to the reader telling not only her story of growing up female in a patriarchal society, but also those of the women around her.

In the opening sentence, Tambu makes no apologies regarding her lack of emotion toward her brother's death. Because with no other male children in the family, she is now the one afforded the oppo
Apr 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
"The condition of natives is a nervous condition" - Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth , 1961 - This is the basis for the title of Nervous Conditions, an account of a young woman from rural Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) struggling to find herself amid influences from Western-educated relatives, missionary schools, and traditional family values. Africa is known by its cliches; it's easy to forget the faces behind them- this is a good account of the psychological hazards of colonialism and an impo ...more
Mar 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing African Feminist version of the classic "coming of age" novel. Think Great Expectations set in 1960's Zimbabwe and from the point of view of a girl caught between her native culture and that of British colonialism. I ordered a set of this book to teach College Prep Seniors but they're too dumb. I'm hoping to teach it to more academically-inclined seniors next year. (I might actually be teaching Honors Seniors next year!!!)
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zimbabwe
Gratitude. That's one of the clearest, and most double-edged, themes running through Tsitsi Dangarembga's 1988 debut, often voted one of the greatest African novels of the 20th century. And even if I don't completely agree that it is, I can see why others would think so.

Nervous Conditions is set in late-1960s and early-1970s Rhodesia, narrated by a woman named Tambudzai (though supposedly based on Dangarembga's own experiences) telling about her teenage years, starting with the day her brother d
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Black students in higher ed
An engaging (and fast) read. A must read for any one in the African diaspora experiencing some kind of change in social class (e.g. being first in the family to attend college or graduate school) or otherwise having suspicions about the sources of their feelings of alienation.

Nyasha's character resonated most with me, as I'm a first-generation African-American college student of working class origins who ended up pursuing a Ph.D.: I, too, feel frustrated by what seems to be an obvious oppressiv
Viv JM
Nervous Conditions is a really excellent coming-of-age story set in 1960s Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). It is narrated by 14 year old Tambu who struggles with the conflict between life on her family's homestead versus her longing for an education. The novel is full of strong characters - the women especially - and takes an unflinching look at themes of gender, race, class and colonialism, without positing any easy answers.

I read this book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task to "read a book
Missy J
Sadza (typical cornmeal staple food in Zimbabwe) served with vegetables and oxtail.

What a book!

"Nervous Conditions" is a semi-autobiographical work written by Tsitsi Dangarembga.
First of all I want to say that the prose was original and unlike anything I've read in the past few months! I love that! While reading this, I was continuously amazed at how Dangarembga managed to tap into the mind of a 7-8 year old Tambu, the narrator in this novel. The author doesn't just describe the situation to u
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, africa, fiction

But what I didn’t like was the way all conflicts came back to this question of femaleness. Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness.
robin friedman
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Rhodesian Coming Of Age Novel

Set in the late 1960's -- 1970's, Tsitsi Dangarembga's 1988 novel "Nervous Conditions" (1988) tells the story of an adolescent girl growing up in rural Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The author is a Zimbabwe native who earned a medical degree and lived in Germany and England before returning to her native country. She has become a full-time writer of novels, plays, and films. "Nervous Conditions" is the first book of a projected trilogy. The second book "The Book of Not" was
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Nervous Conditions is a story of African women in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the early 1970s. Tambudzai (Tambu), a young woman from a poor family, tells us the story of her ascension into the educated, "White" world after the death of her brother, at the same time telling the stories of the other women of her family. Each woman is different from the others, and deals with the oppression of white colonial power and patriarchy in different ways. Colonial power and patriarchy are inextrica ...more
Female, black, daughter, pubescent, friend, peasant, traditions, colonised, Rhodesia, 1960s. That defines Tambu a young girl living in a small village with limited options for the future. Her brother is given a chance by being sponsored by her uncle to attend a local missionary school but there is money for only one. When her brother dies, Tambu now 14 finds herself in a new world of opportunity and goes to live with her uncle to study.
Her cousin Nyasha, who lived in England while her parents st
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-lit
This novel illustrates the violence of poverty, racism and patriarchy in post-colonial Rhodesia. A provocative meditation on the ways in which these intersecting systems of power can rupture the psyche...much like Breath, Eyes, Memory, the depth of the trauma is not made explicit until the end. While this is not necessarily a sensual novel, the characters are comlex and compelling, forcing introspection through their dialogue. Very interesting relationships between issues of colonization and the ...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga is a coming of age story of Tambudzai, a young girl from a rural village in Zimbabwe. The narrative unfolds in her voice as she witnesses social injustices and the conflicts of living in a postcolonial environment.

Tambudzai (Tambu) is a precocious young girl who wants more from life than the one circumscribed for the women in her culture. She resents her brother’s entitlement to an education while hers is initially denied because she is female. With her
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At one point in the novel, the narrator's aunt decides she's had enough of her husband's bullying ways and runs off. Except that she has nowhere to go. She can go to her brother, stay for a few days. But she still has to return. She has a life with him and a family and she is already too entrenched. The same can be said for each of the women in this novel, some of them don't always realize that they should be emancipated. But they are all caught in a web of equally oppressive forces, ones of "En ...more
James K
As the novel warns ominously, the problem is 'Englishness.' Could there be any other problem which lies at the heart of Dangarembga's brilliant novel of post-colonial Rhodesia. Her writing is deceptively simplistic, and the narration ordinary - even a little old-fashioned - however underneath the surface, lies the struggles of Tambu, growing up in a patriarchal society where her desire to read, to become educated, [and eventually, to escape], is undermined by those around her, by the larger batt ...more
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-africa
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

After such a striking first paragraph, I had high hopes for Nervous Conditions and I wasn't disappointed. First published in the 1980s, I was interested - and somewhat disappointed - to realise that a lot of the issues Dangarembga's characters face are still being written about as present day problems in novels thirty years later. Young Tambudzai is a child at the beginning of our story. She doesn't understand her mother's warning advice abou
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Spent part of her childhood in England. She began her education there, but concluded her A-levels in a missionary school back home, in the town of Mutare. She later studied medicine at Cambridge University, but became homesick and returned home as Zimbabwe's black-majority rule began in 1980.

She took up psychology at the University of Zimbabwe, of whose drama group she was a member. She also held

Other books in the series

Nervous Conditions (3 books)
  • The Book of Not (Nervous Conditions, #2)
  • This Mournable Body

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